Colleague Shieko Reto has been making some awesome retro GIFs addressing aspects of trans life and everyday politics in Malaysia. Here’s a selection of some of my favorites along with Shieko’s descriptions!
Shieko: “This illustration shows 2 sexy transwomen chatting to each other about how hard it is to find a job (In Malaysia, transwomen usually have problems finding jobs because their names doesn’t match their legal documents or Identity Cards). Then the transwomen start carrying a tall mirror to reflect the people / public / society who keep staring at them. I made this because transwomen are often scrutinized in the public sphere for being themselves, especially in the increasingly conservative society of Malaysia.”
Shieko: “There’s a Malay proverb that says ‘Jangan jadi katak dibawah tempurung’ which literally means ‘don’t be like the frog under the coconut shell’. It means ‘don’t be a narrow minded person’. In current times Malaysia has been under spell of Arabization since the early 80s, and so ironically the result of that cultural fermentation has ripened and many hold a very conservative view of Islam, like Wahhabism from Arab countries. In the illustration it says ‘Jadilah seperti katak d.i.y tempurung/ Be like the frog in a d.i.y coconut shell. It’s just to show that there are some small segments of Malay society who are revolting quietly against the Arabization- some trying to disassociate from the majority by denouncing Islam, protesting by eating during the fasting month, touching dogs in public (In Malaysia, many Malays are taught that dogs are dirty and haram (forbidden), an attitude which has resulted in many cases where dogs are tortured and abused) and taking pictures and sharing them in social media and so on.”
Shieko: “This illustration shows a brain that knows only 2 steps in dancing. The line says ‘Seperti minda binari yang x (tak) pandai menari’, which literally means ‘Like the binary mind who knows only 2 steps.’ Like one and the zero. This is to reflect the change in the Malay mindset resulting from religious indoctrination. This comes from the religion itself, if you’ve been indoctrinated like myself since young (now I’m free), or like in conservative Kelantan state in Malaysia where the seats in the cinema are gender segregated, and where, in beauty salons, only cisgender females can work on another cisgender female and cisgender male on other cisgender males. It’s quite impossible to escape this binary thinking or to imagine taking off the religious lens of how you see the world.”
Shieko: “This GIF says ‘Maka itew proses arabisasi telah pun selesai’. In English: ‘The process of Arabization (in Malaysia) has already reached it’s final stage’. This is a commentary on the effect of Arabization since the early 80s, since the first fatwa and until now which seems to worsen and to be reaching an alarming or final stage where the religious bodies are taking over the country in many sectors like in health and in education. The government is purposely channeling the funding to these religious bodies and they have quota of how many houses they need to raid every month, on the premise of catching males and females within close proximity. By right the religious authorities don’t have the power to arrest people but now they are working with the police because the police can issue a warrant of arrests to whoever they want to conduct the raid and to fulfill their quota. Every week or month there are cases of raid by religious authorities against transwomen, especially the sex-workers because there are elements of syariah law that can be used to fine us up to 6,000 R and jail us for 6 months.”
Shieko: “The GIF shows what looks like Jabba the Hut but with the Kuala Lumpur Federal Territory minister’s face- he’s know as ‘Kunan’ (Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor) and always makes stupid remark. In this case he was backing up the local council for destroying a veteran artist sculpture (Datuk Syed Ahmad Jamal) in the heart of the city, saying it was an ‘eyesore’ to his eyes. Later many artists from different walks of life, different generations, class, gender, race etc got together to start a petition.
The incident actually is just one of many small cases in Malaysia where many other old historic sculptures, buildings, and the gentrification process in action has destroyed special areas, including some reserved forest and natural areas, without anyone taking full accountability. Bribery is also part of the norms.”
Shieko: “This GIF shows an infamous picture from the historical Independence day of Malaysia (31st August 1957) and the father of our Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman, is crying and the guy beside him is also shaking his head as if they know what’s happened to the country down the line in current times, like this year in 2016. Based on this photo.”
Here’s what Shieko says about her process: “I just rediscovered pixel art and am totally experimenting with them now, and I have so many ideas and visuals that I want to retranslate to pixel art- because of nostalgia, you know, growing up in the ’80s and playing Lucas Art, Full Throttle, Sam & Max- Pixel art brings back nostalgia, and I had the idea to animate some parts of it, like a GIF, like it belongs to Harry Potter’s newspaper where the images are on a loop, (so they must have used GIFs in their newspaper hehe)
The theme so far has been transwomen issues in malaysia, like toying with religious authorities, freedom, sex work, rigid mentality, arabization, being pluviophile- I did some visuals with just raining in them, appreciating beautiful moments, a little bit of scifi (i always wanted to do scifi stuff but from a Malaysia perspective, which isn’t very common), and the idea of a 4-frame comic compressed into 1 GIF is really cool.