Fruits of Labour, Personified

Forbidden Fruits first debuted in the Rainforest Fringe Festival before its current home at the George Town Festival.

It is common to see woven rattan baskets, functional and symbolic inventions passed on for generations, being sold by our indigenous people as souvenirs. However, how often have we seen rattan being used as the integral part of an art installation?

(L-R) Rosemarie Wong from The Ranee of Sarawak, Tina Lau of IDC Architects, and Jacqueline Fong of Tanoti.

Forbidden Fruits is a collaborative effort by various artists, indigenous weavers, and the person who conceptualised it, Joe Sidek. Meant to showcase the relationship between the weavers and their ancestral jungle, the artworks also explore the vast potential of the weaving women in the 21st century beyond their ancestral craft.

The use of fruits as the culmination of the weaver’s modern art, allows the artists to weave together a story as well, one of the cycle of life, from germination to death. Besides, fruits have always appeared as part of the human rhetoric, ranging from Judeo-Christian texts to local Iban myths and legends. This brings us to the bigger picture of the installation, which in the words of the organiser is: “the myriad connections humans have had with fruit, and how they still embody for us a sense of nourishment as well as danger.”

During the Rainforest Fringe Festival, UPPRE sat down with artists Rosemarie Wong from The Ranee of Sarawak and Jacqueline Fong of Tanoti, as well as the architect Tina Lau who collectively, together with others, brought Forbidden Fruits to life.

UPPRE: What were the difficulties you faced to execute the project?

Jacqueline: What was very important was the fact that we managed to successfully challenge the artisans into producing things that are alien to them. And because we are successful it is likely that they had already taken a quantum leap in their thought process, in their production. If you can do this likely you can do much more.

UPPRE: How would the exhibition help to expose the weavers to the many possibilities of their craft?

Tina: They could also develop techniques to make things that people may have never seen before rather than what they immediately think of Sarawak art and craft to be. In this way we could challenge them to do things that we could give commission to like the interior design of a hotel or chandeliers and things like that.

UPPRE: How has Forbidden Fruits been beneficial to the locals?

Rosemarie: For this exhibition, we have heard a lot of really good feedback from locals. It has opened the minds of locals as well. Because people walk in there, they go wow. Even for locals they’ve never seen enough art installations like that.

UPPRE: Would the weavers be appearing at the George Town Festival?

Rosemarie: For us, we’d like to expose them to as many things as possible but realistically it’s down to funding. We’re privately funded. We got to be able to afford it if we take them.

Interested in the art? Find out more about the 7 artistic cat statues scattered all over Kuching right here!

*The video erroneously states Ms Rosemarie Wong’s name as ‘Rosemary Wong’. We apologise for the mistake.

Vimal Palasekaran

Vimal Palasekaran

Loud laugher. TV buff. Hispanophone.
Vimal Palasekaran

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