Violent Art in Thailand’s Deep South

Jehabdulloh Jehsorhoh is a slender guy with dark curly hair and a light walk. “I’m an Assistant Professor of Arts at the University in Pattani.” Jehabdulloh started the Patani Art Space in the “Deep South” of Thailand, where where bombs and guns have killed or injured over 18,000 people since 2004 (Deep South Incident Database August 2016).

But amid the violence, local artists can exhibit their work here at the gallery, like a work called “Symbol of the violence” by Suhaudee Sata. Jehabdulloh tells me that coconut husks catch fire very easily, so the artist translated this into a symbol of the violence in the “Deep South”.

“Balance of Mind” consists of eight square, black panels with lotus leaves from gold depicted in different forms of perfection. It’s a Buddhist-themed work by Picket Piaklin. Here the lotus leaves depict the process of enlightenment. With a peaceful mind, peace also to everything else in a person’s life, suggests Jehabdulloh.

On one wall a very large black and white painting sucks in my gaze. It’s a faceless bride, kneeling as if at her wedding. The white dress looks somber, ghostly even. Jehabdulloh says that in the “Deep South” a woman’s life is changed forever, when she wears that dress, so the painting depicts the worry the women feel about picking the right husband.

Life amid the violence isn’t easy and the local artists are sensitive to it’s impact on everyday life. The art at Patani Art Space is much more expressive and creative than works I’ve seen elsewhere in Thailand. Perhaps the greater creativity is partially a result from everyday tension, from the overwhelming need for a peaceful self-expression. I ask Jehabdulloh why the Art Space is so somber. Isn’t more fun needed – especially here? He says that they want to inspire visitors to want peace, so see that enough is enough.


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