A 17-metre long ship traverses the hall, suspended. As if emerging from the ocean floor, it unloads hundreds of books sealed in beeswax. This is the imagined vessel steered by Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa, the first Malay king of the 7th century Srivijayan Empire. Alongside, portraits of Mak Yong (ancient Malay opera) performers are featured as living witnesses to a history cast in darkness.
Zai Kuning’s synthesis of forgotten histories and disappearing traditions is “full of magic, mystery and beauty” (Karim Raslan, South China Morning Post). As the first contemporary visual artwork to ambitiously uncover and interpret ancient regional history, the vessel and its variations have been exhibited in Ota Fine Arts (Singapore, 2014), Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) (Singapore, 2014), Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay (Singapore, 2015), Art Basel Hong Kong (2015), Palais de Tokyo (Paris, 2015), and the 57th Venice Biennale (2017).
In the homecoming of this highly acclaimed work, audience members can expect to gain fuller insights into a 20-year long journey that has taken the artist to encounter the orang laut (sea people), Mak Yong performers, and the lost world of the Malay kingdom. A performance with musician Mike Cooper will breathe life to a new film, Chronicles of Amnesia, that captures Zai’s extraordinary sojourn. Archaeologist John N. Miksic and art historian T. K. Sabapathy will each give a lecture on the geographical, historical, cultural, and artistic symbols that exist in Dapunta Hyang’s world.
TheatreWorks is proud to present this exceptional work that communicates the urgent need to resurface questions on how knowledge has been transmitted, manipulated and directed across time and space to inform us of our present realities.