TIKAR/MEJA is a signifier of administrative power – colonial, patriarchal, federal.
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by Yee l-Lann
In 2018, Yee started working with weavers from Keningau in the Borneo interior and Pulau Omadal, Semporna, in the Sulu Sea. For Yee, the mat is an object with many names: tikar in Malay, tikam in Kadazan, tepo in Sama DiLaut/Bajau Laut or banig in Tagalog. It is a shared everyday object, nearly always communally made, sold, and used primarily by women. It demarcates space, is a site of gathering and conversation, work, performance, and dreaming. They become heirlooms, the patterns of their weave handed down through generations as a form of local knowledge. They can be assigned meaning through ritual; they map and tell stories of place, history, culture, environment, change, and exchange.
Laid down, they are activated for use; hung, they become symbolic objects. Bringing her practice from the world of “contemporary art” into dialogue with the traditional craft practices and aesthetics of two specific communities, Yee pulls together different languages of art and plays on what is lost, or discovered, in translation.
The table patterns that appear in the fifty pieces of TIKAR/MEJA is a signifiers of administrative power – colonial, patriarchal, and federal. The mats are woven using pandanus dyed in bold colors by the indigenous, semi-nomadic, and stateless Bajau Sama DiLaut women of Pulau Omadal, through which they speak (back) of a different kind of power. Dusun Murut weavers in Keningau, using natural and blackened split bamboo pus weave, worked with Yee to develop a pattern translating digital pixels into woven pixels, a language for the modern, connected world.
Yee I-Lann (b. 197 1, Kota Kinabalu)
Yee I-Lann currently lives and works in Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah. Her primarily photo media- based practice engages with archipelagic.
Southeast Asia’s turbulent history with works addressing issues of colonialism and neo-colonialism, power, and the impact of historical memory in social experience, often focusing on counter-narrative “histories from below.”
She employs a complex, multi-layered visual vocabulary drawn from historical references, popular culture, archives, and everyday objects.
She has, in recent years, started working collaboratively with sea-based and land-based communities and indigenous mediums in Sabah.
She is a co-founding associate of The Ricecooker Archives: Southeast Asian Rock ‘n’ Roll Treasury with her partner Joe Kidd and has worked as a production designer in the Malaysian film industry.
She is currently a Board member for Forever Sabah and Tamparuli Living Arts Center (TaLAC), both based in Sabah.