Bodies of Occupation: Conversation with Shaq Koyok
This conversation with artist/activist Shaq Koyok will cover art and the issues faced today by Indigenous communities in Malaysia (including land rights, deforestation, poverty, racial discrimination and religious conversion).
Gaik Cheng Khoo obtained her BA (English) from The University of Texas (Austin), then she moved to Canada for her MA (English) and PhD (Interdisciplinary Studies) at the University of British Columbia. She spent two years as a postdoctoral fellow at the Asia Research Institute (ARI-NUS) in Singapore in 2004-05, where she built up invaluable networks in the region before becoming a lecturer at the Australian National University, where she taught gender, cultural studies and Southeast Asian cinema (2005-2012). She is currently the Director of the University of Nottingham Asia Research Institute, Malaysia. Gaik’s work focuses on cinema and independent filmmaking in Malaysia; cosmopolitan spaces including public eating places like kopitiam and mamak stalls; race, religion and the politics of identity; multiculturalism and food. She is focusing on Korean migrants in Malaysia as exemplary of generational and attitudinal changes among South Koreans. As transnational migrants on the move for studies, work, play, or retirement, they register in complex, layered and sometimes contradictory ways, a kind of resistance to traditional stereotypes of South Korean middle class aspirations and status. Gaik is interested in how temporality, modernity and happiness figure in their migration and settlement. Her most recent research is on a political economy of the Malaysian durian, focusing on the supply chain.
Shaq Koyok (b. 1985 Kampung Pulau Kempas in Banting, Selangor, Malaysia) is a contemporary artist from the Indigenous Temuan tribe of Selangor. He started painting with oil pastels at five years of age to express his feelings. He went on to pursue Fine Art at Universiti Teknologi MARA. In was the trauma of watching land developers encroaching onto the jungle around his village and plundering the forest in the 1990s and early 2000s that fueled his passion for art and activism. Shaq produces works that reflect his growing concern about the world, environmental degradation and the fate of the Orang Asli people (which translates as “Original People”) in Malaysia. Specialising in portraits, his work has been shown in Britain, Australia and the United States, as well as Malaysia. In 2017, Shaq won the Merdeka Award for International Attachment.
Simon Soon is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. He researches across of a range of interests in modern and contemporary art and architecture in Southeast Asia, further to completing a PhD at the University of Sydney, which examined left-leaning political art movements in the region from the 1950s to the 1970s. He was a participant in “Ambitious Alignments: New Southeast Asian Art Histories”, funded by the Getty Foundation’s Connecting Art Histories initiative and is currently a co-investigator for the project “Decolonial Art Histories of Southeast Asia” funded by a British Academy Newton Mobility Grant. Simon is co-editor of Narratives in Malaysian Art Vol. 4 and a member of the editorial collective of the journal Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia.