Pangrok Sulap are a collective of artists, musicians and social activists dedicated to empowering rural communities through art in the East Malaysian state of Sabah, in northern Borneo. The title of their large-scale woodcut diptych ‘Sabah tanah air-ku’ 2017 translates to ‘Sabah, my homeland’, which is also the name of the state’s official anthem. Through complex composition and intricate carvings, the work details the enduring aspirations and traumatic realities of a region whose people and natural resources are subject to regular exploitation. One panel shows the dream of an autonomous state: bright and open, with figures appearing a landscape that features the iconic Mount Kinabalu, and the state anthem’s final line, ‘Sabah Negeri Merdeka’ (‘Sabah independent state’). The second panel is denser and thematically darker, representing disappointments with the treatment of the region by both national and international interests.
The work was created in a week-long, festival-style workshop in the group’s hometown of Ranau, held in an outdoor marquee as part of the town’s monthly, all-night markets. The woodblocks were cut, inked, and pressed onto block-out curtain fabric — the only available material of substantial width — by members of the local community, who were invited to walk and dance over the fabric in bare feet, accompanied by live music. Impressions of these footsteps are clearly visible in the final work, as an enduring trace of its joyful creation.
Exhibited in 'The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT9) | 24 Nov 2018 – 28 Apr 2019