Tanpa Sempadan (Without borders)
Abdul-Rahman Abdullah | 2023 | 35 x 270 x 115cm | carved wood, glass
As a kid my mum would tell me about the saltwater crocodiles who lived in the Sungai Linggi, the river that her kampung straddled in Malaysia. One of the last wild populations in the Malay peninsula, there seemed to be a casual brutality to their presence, swimming was fun, being dismembered by an apex predator was not. I imagined the vigilance it would take to enjoy the water and decided that I’d never test it.
Humanity concedes space to the crocodile in foundational mythologies from Egypt to the Pacific, following the coastlines, river systems and waters that connect us all. For over 200 million years they have occupied the top of the food chain with a territorial violence that parallels our own. We see the best and worst of ourselves in that intractable presence.
Glimpses of the buayah putih (white crocodile) populate those myths, occupying specific waters including Seri Pahang of Chini Lake (Malaysia), Bujang Senang of Batang Lupar (Sarawak) or the creatures of Lake Fundizi (South Africa), Setu Bababkan (Java) and Kallang River (Singapore). The white crocodile is endowed with a preternatural presence, a physical apparition that divides us from worlds beyond understanding. Tanpa Sempadan is my contribution to these mythic archives, a reminder that we’re not the only monsters in this house.