〈Sulu Stories〉, 2005, digital C-type print. Dimensions Variable, Courtesy of the artist and Silverlens Galleries
Yee I-Lann’s first memory related to Sulu was the story about the dragon that lived on Mount Kinabalu in Sabah. Its favourite was a giant pearl. An oyster had swallowed a tear from the moon, thus producing a pearl of extraordinary size and beauty. Yee I-Lann would journey to the mountain, and photograph the physical vistas, the sea, the sky, the islands. It is a haunted sea, barred to the world for over thirty years by the currents of politics and prejudice and guarded by the ancient Tausug People of the Current and Bajau Sea People that turn to pray to the horizon of Mecca. The sea is their life, the land a graveyard. The sea for a millennia brought with it empires, traders from every corner of the world, and yet the peoples of Sulu ride the currents and hold their frontiers.
About the Artist
Born in Kota Kinabalu in 1971. Currently she lives and works in Kota Kinabalu in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah. Her primarily photomedia-based practice engages with archipelagic Southeast Asia’s turbulent history with works addressing issues of colonialism and neo-colonialism, power, and the impact of historical memory in social experience, often with particular focus on counter-narrative “histories from below”. She employs a complex, multi-layered visual vocabulary drawn from historical references, popular culture, archives, and everyday objects. She has in recent years started working collaboratively with sea-based and land-based communities and indigenous mediums in Sabah. She is a co-founding associate of The Ricecooker Archives: Southeast Asian Rock ’n’ Roll Treasury with her partner Joe Kidd and has worked as a production designer in the Malaysian film industry.
Most recently in 2019, her work has been shown at Rockbund Art Museum; Para Site; A+ Works of Art; Koahsiung Museum of Fine Arts; Tun Sakaran Museum and The Lepa Regatta; Asian Film Archive; and NorthPark Center. She has participated in Yinchuan Biennale (2016); Jakarta Biennale (2015); Daegu Photo Biennale (2014 and 2010); Asian Art Biennial (2011); Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale (2009); Dojima River Biennale (2009); Singapore Biennale (2006); The Third Asia-Pacific Arts Triennial (1999).