Chamber of Public Secrets

Projek Rabak

Since the beginning of Projek Rabak in 2011, community has always been a constant. Though the landscape of art is ever-changing, the communal ethos stays forever collective. Our art process is like one big kenduri, a communal feast with people from all walks of life conjoined by the joy of creating, making noise, experimenting and playing together.

Apart from being an artist collective, we celebrate the spirit of camaraderie and friendship. In this exhibition and art project, we want to showcase our outsider’s perspective on the creative process and craft, whilst highlighting the lives, heritage, and culture of our Semai (an indigenous tribe in Peninsular Malaysia) friends as collaborators and fellow artists/exhibitors.

Deeply inspired by the absurdity, playfulness and openness of pop art; the collaborative nature of Southeast Asian practices like gotong royong, which is better known as ‘joint bearing of burdens’ or ‘mutual assistance’, we want to combine our creative philosophy and aesthetics while celebrating Semai culture. 

Our exhibits invite visitors in the Biennale to explore, participate and immerse themselves in the Semai culture by interacting with the exhibit. Through the interaction, the world can embody Semai values and holistic approach towards life.

Our interactive piece symbolizes our reimagined narrative whereby Semai culture is at the global forefront, as well as the Semai spirit of co-existence and genuine closeness to bonding with all who cross their path, in this case, the world. Reimagining indigenous people as being central in the environment and the world, the ‘fabric’ of the traditional attire represents Semai’s fabric of life. Through interactive art, a meaningful connection to coexist and its sentimental value can be instilled between the Semai people and global citizens. 

There is also an added emphasis on how indigenous tribes teach us about sustainable preservation of values, and such a topic is increasingly relevant considering the zeitgeist and conversations around our planet’s current climate and way of life.

January 26th, 2011 marks the date where Projek Rabak was formed in Ipoh, Perak D.R, northwest of Malaysia. Since its first initiation, the artist collective founded by six youth of Ipoh have a goal—to celebrate arts, culture and friendship. The collective quickly set up their first event, ‘Wayang Rabak’ (a film screening) and from the sandwich’s sale, they managed to collect their first income to be utilized in the next event. The rest is history.

Over the next few years, Projek Rabak managed to open multiple projects: the book publishing house, Rabak-Lit (2012), their first art space; Khizanat (2013), and the week-long arts festival ‘Ipoh Kreative’ (2015). Project Rabak focuses on nurturing new young artists across a wide spectrum of the arts, especially in contemporary art, literature, performance art, film, music, video and so on. Recent initiatives include: ‘Ipoh: City of Love’ (2018), campaign that celebrates the local nuances of Ipoh in the form of pop culture and merchandising; and ‘Kedutaan Ipoh’ (2019), a networking space in Gudskul, Jakarta Selatan, Indonesia and Hiroshima, Japan.