Mon, May 14, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Transcending borders

A Malaysian artist’s quest for identity leads him to Taiwan to explore the Austronesian links between the two countries

By Siok Hui Leong  /  Contributing reporter

The pinhole camera uses no film but can capture and develop images.

“It’s basically light through a pinhole falling onto paper coated with silver,” Lim says. “My love for image-making and darkroom printing are found all rolled into one using a box camera.”

After receiving a seed funding grant from Kuala Lumpur-based Five Arts Centre in 2013, Lim fashioned several iterations of the box camera from recycled steel sheet tins used for storing cooking oil or biscuits, repurposed wood, glass offcuts and old bicycle tubes.


The first time Yeh saw Lim’s portraits in November, she recalled getting goosebumps.

“I don’t know these people’s backgrounds, ethnicities or family history. But I see them as human beings,” Yeh says. “We don’t have to fit into a box. And perhaps Kanta project and this exhibition can inspire us to ‘unbox’ ourselves,” she says.

Thermos is sponsoring Lim’s research into Taiwan’s interiors.

During his Studio 94 residency, Lim will collaborate with Taiwanese artist Luc Chen (陳姿華), and journey to her Rukai ancestral village in Wutai Township (霧台), Pingtung County. Taipei-based Chen uses a homemade box camera as well, and wants to explore family ties, social structures and links to her own identity, through photography.

In his research, Lim learned about the many links between Taiwan and Malaysia.

Lim says there are two main language groups in Malaysia: The Austroasiatic, or West Malaysia, and Austronesian, West and East Malaysia. Many scholars have cited Taiwan as a starting point for the Austronesian language group.

“The Rukai community forms one of the original Austronesian language groups and has a close link to the Asia Pacific region,” he says.

After Pingtung, Lim plans to travel to Orchid Island (蘭嶼) to photograph and document the Tao (達悟族) people (known also as the Yami, 雅美族). Tao Aborigines originated from the Western Malayo-Polynesian (Austronesian) linguistic group. Their seafaring culture is synonymous with the seafaring cultures of Southeast Asia.

During his residency, Lim will document the social circumstances between rural and urban societies and to understand cultural identities — how people live, their spirituality and social environment, in contrast to how the country projects their identities. The artists will later present a series of photographic prints for display with stories and images also in audio or video formats.


As Lim’s quest for identity continues, what has he uncovered so far?

“I realized this search for identity has evolved, from self definition, to the understanding that culture always reinvents itself and can never be defined or identified,” Lim says.

“Being conscious of the construct, the fragility and predicament of our times, and the reflection of human condition, perhaps it has become a pursuit to find a future beyond borders.”

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