Artist: Roslisham Ismail
installation, object | Mixed media | 2020

In video, drawing, installation and participatory projects, Roslisham Ismail (aka Ise) employs expressions of popular vernacular with an eye toward unpacking the complex, and often alternative, cultural roots of a place. In chronoLOGICal (2019), Ise maps his cultural ancestry and offers a personal history of the Kingdom of Kelantan (descendants of Yemeni migration), located in the northeastern peninsula of Malaysia. The arrival of the Arab world in the Malay Archipelago—present-day Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia—began in the ninth century, when trading merchants crossed the Indian Ocean from Hadramaut in Yemen. This nomadic, sea-faring community also settled in East Africa and the Indian subcontinent, from Morocco to Mauritania, and even in Europe and China. Engaging in commerce, scholarship, diplomacy and eventually entering local politics, the community gained particular local influence through marriage, often using genealogical claims to gain benefits from local nobility. In his installation, the artist works with oral histories recorded in his local community with friends and family, rural teachers and village elders, imams and historians to create a hand-drawn composition of miniature souvenirs, animations of historical accounts and textual drama. These works illustrate and narrate the various conflicts and claims of this largely Islamic territory located between the ancient kingdoms of Siam (present-day Thailand) and the Malaccan Sultanate (present-day Malaysia). Grounded in personal recollection and embodied gestures, Ise reminds us that a mapping of time can never be logical, linear and certain; rather, such an endeavour supports the lore of the olden, mythical legends and childhood tales—histories determined by the voices that echo beyond the centralised tomes of doctrine and academia.


Journey Beyond the Arrow@Sharjah Biennial 14 - Leaving the Echo Chamber | 2019.03.07 - 2019.06.10 | Sharjah Art Foundation(Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)