Warna Kulitku – The Color of My Skin

“If your skin was as light as the palm of your hands, you would probably get a boyfriend” “Kalau you putih macam tapak tangan you, mesti you akan dapat boyfren”

Colorism persists in many ways all over the world, and this is the story of my experience through the life of a Malaysian girl. Growing up, I was told that I would have been prettier if I stayed as skinny and as fair as I was when I was younger. As I got older, I felt that the value of my worth and my beauty shifted as I changed from the looks of my youth.

These two works reflect the way I have seen myself for years, trapped by the words of others. The hands represent what I looked at every time they said that “I would be prettier with lighter skin.” I couldn’t see my own face, so the first thing I would compare are my hands.

My friends and I would compare skin tones with our arms. Hands caressed me as they tell me my worth, my value, is less than others due to my shade. I was told that I should bleach my skin, strip off the color.

So now, I retaliate. I share my story.

A snippet of my coded work.

My code.

The audio of this work combines natural sounds from my hometown Langkawi, Kedah, with crowds, and a little tune I made on the ukulele. The words are in Malay, specifically in the dialect of Kedah.

I neither loath nor harbor any hatred towards those who said these words to me, I only wish and hope to share my story so that we can break that cycle, and love our skin and body for what was, is, and will be. For those who stayed and read through everything, I thank you. I hope you touched my work, I hope it touched you.

And yes, I did crochet a QR code. 🙂

Artist Statement

The color of my skin and the volume of my flesh have affected the perception of myself. In Malaysia, where I grew up, a combination of British colonial rule and harmful beauty standards perpetuated through media has had an enormous effect on my self-perceptions and many others. One especially toxic standard, commonly called “colorism,” is a form of discrimination that devalues darker skin tones. The effect for me is that when I recall specific events in my life where I had been mistreated due to the shade of my skin, it comes in fragments. My spotty memory results from derealization, a symptom of my underlying mental health issues.

My work revolves around how I have navigated my life, particularly with beauty, self, and queerness. The pressure of outward perception, my struggle with sexuality, and my detachment from reality are driving forces behind my work. My media of choice revolve around integrating textiles, video, sound, and illustrations into my installation experiences, worn objects, screen-based interactive work, and narrative and non-narrative storytelling. For my work, I choose the media that interweaves the digital and physical space together and how it connects to my ideas of beauty and self.