YEE I-LANN & COLLABORATORS: BORNEO HEART art exhibition was officially launched on 1st May 2021, held at Sabah International Convention Centre.
Borneo Heart presents the work of Kota Kinabalu-born and based artist Yee I-Lann, made in collaboration with weavers, film-makers, dancers, other fellow creative producers and friends. The exhibition showcased a curated collection of beautiful local handwoven mats or tikar.
Yee I-Lann is one of Southeast Asia’s leading figures in the visual arts and since in the 1990’s and she has been participating in major international exhibitions which showcases her talent of art works.
This is the first major presentation of Yee I-Lann’s work in her hometown, and the first in Malaysia since 2010. Borneo Heart is planned to travel to Kuala Lumpur in December 2021/January 2022.
The official launching ceremony started off with the traditional blessings of two Bobohizans, Melvin and Adam. While being accompanied by the rhythm of traditional gongs played by the local musicians.
As part of the ceremony, Yee I-Lann together with VIPs and guests carried the 63m long weaved Tikar Reben from Annex A building to Annex B building. Where it showcases its impressive length.
After the ceremony, Yee I-Lann gave a tour of the Borneo Heart exhibition as she furtherly explained her work and the process of making her art.
The exhibition is divided into two concepts:
It is divided into two concepts which are The Tikar and The Tamu. The tikar, better yet known as the woven mat, is a collective platform for the community, storytelling and ritual. As for the Tamu known as the weekly market, simultaneously used for being a meeting place where the exchange of goods, stories and ideas takes place.
“The tikar invites people to come and sit. It is a democratic, egalitarian, communal and as well as personal space.
The tamu, our traditional weekly market in Sabah, is where the people of the hills, plains, rivers and the sea meet to exchange rice for salt, woven cloth for woven rattan. It forms the foundation of our socio-political landscape. It is a celebration of the other, and diversity.” – Yee I-Lann
Since 2018, Yee I-Lann has been collaborating with the DusunMurut weavers from the Keningau interior alongwith the Bajau Sama Dilaut weavers from Pulau Omadal, Semporna to make tikar.
In the process, a craft community has found important opportunities for innovation. As the village of communities has turned from fishing to weaving, thus reducing the strain on the Coral Triangle.
Borneo Heart showcases these tikar, particularly:
TIKAR/MEJA (a 60-tikar installation), Tikar Reben (a 63m tikar created to stretch from the water village of the stateless weavers to the adjacent Malaysian village on Pulau Omadal), “karaoke mats” woven with song lyrics in English and KadazanDusun, a giant emoji mat among others, and also a seven-headed Lalandau headdress. Finally, Yee’s works involving performance, video and photomedia.
Furthermore, the exhibition also marks the first full presentation of Rasa Sayang. It is in fact a 488-piece photomedia “essay” about love and country begun by Yee in 2012. The alphabets are created from images of human hugs.
Borneo Heart offers a shared platform as well as a site of exchange for the peoples of tanah (land) and air (water/sea). Subsequently it is also used for traditional and contemporary art practices, where it prompt us to reflect on home and distance, power and representation, love and community.
In addition to the exhibition, Kerbauworks exhibition shop will sell tikar woven by the artist’s collaborators as well as merchandise designed by Yee I-Lann and friends in addition to the exhibition. Workshops, discussions, and performances are also planned as part of the exhibition schedule.
“The energy and criticality of Sabah’s creative community is on the cusp of an explosion. Furthermore, I hope this exhibition shows that when we come together, we can make amazing things.”
Borneo Heart is held across three spaces at Annexe A & B, Jesselton Plaza, Sabah International Convention Centre. It is open to the public daily from 2 to 31 May 2021 from 11:00pm to 5:30pm.