Otherwise Inside by Samak Kosem

19 July – 16 August 2018
Opening Reception 19 July 2018, 7pm 

“Pondan under the Pondok’ is a photography series based on my anthropological field research trying to understand queerness in the Muslim society of Thailand’s Deep South, where LGBT issues are a very sensitive topic to discuss and gay people often cannot reveal their sexual identity. This series is mainly about the self and representation of being queer amidst Islamic fundamentalism. The photographs were taken during Samak’s field research in 2017. 

As he grew up and studied in an Islamic school (pondok), Samak was often bullied as a ‘pondan’ (in Melayu) or ‘kratoey’ (in Thai), which are more or less derogatory terms for gay or transsexual people. Samak had a close friend called Walad who suffered the same everyday abuse but was much braver in expressing his gay identity, sometimes cross-dressing when we went to bars. Yet his parents were very devout Muslims, and as long as Walad obeyed them in certain things he was free to be he wanted. He prayed five times a day, he wore Arabic dress to the mosque, and then he changed into his going-out clothes with high-heeled boots and a leopard-print miniskirt. 
People at school were forever telling them that because of their aberrations God would never accept their prayers. But they also came to their rooms for sex at night. This gave him the idea for a Muslim Prayer Book that took gay Muslims as the model for learning how to pray for other people to respect us as equals and leave the judging to God. 
This also formed the basis for his field research in the Deep South Thailand in early 2017 to develop my Ph.D. proposal on homosexuality in Islam. To do that, he taught myself photography, making a first series that tried to understand young gay students, gradually winning their trust so they would allow me to capture their real selves.
Samak’s photography also focuses on the practice of many male Muslim students of “len pheuan”, a term signifying same-sex sexual activities among their peers that they do not perceive as gay. In this way they create a sense of “brotherhood” without ostensibly violating religious precepts. Young Muslim men in his view interpret religious practices on bodily principles to make them feel less guilty about their sexual desire. The photos reflect this ambiguous definition of male same-sex relationships in the paradigm of Islamic schooling. 
This constructed “bromance” highlights the fluidity of sexuality and its diverse dynamics. This photograph employ a reflexive ethnographic approach, drawing on his own experience from when he was twelve years old to approach sensitive questions of Muslim homosexuality through the experiences of rebellion, atonement, hidden desire and losing the self in religious discourse and textual interpretation focused on concepts of the body and sexuality in the Qur’an and Islamic morality. The photos, therefore, aim to understand socio-cultural and sexual relations by opening a space for gay Muslim voices that have long been hidden and blanked out by Islamic fundamentalism in Thailand. 
Samak Kosem
Born 1984, Bangkok, Thailand
Samak Kosem works in the field of visual anthropology and his recent research in the Deep South focuses on Muslim culture and and nonhuman subjects. He uses photography and art ethnography as a methodology to reflect aspects of his studies. Samak is interested in queer studies, focusing on homosexuality in Islam to understand the limits of gender perspective in the region. He holds a BS and MA in cultural anthropology from Chiang Mai University. Most of his work has been published in books and academic journals. 
Queer Muslim will be Samak’s first solo photography exhibition. His other set or works are recently selected to participate in the first Bangkok Art Biennale 2018 in October 2018.
His latest interview (In Thai): https://prachatai.com/journal/2018/04/76449
Visitor information
WTF Café & Gallery 
7 Sukhumvit Soi 51, Wattana, Klongton-Nua, Bangkok 10110
BTS: Thonglor Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday, 4-10pm 
Free Admission
For further information please contact:
Somrak Sila, Christopher Wise
Tel: +66 (0)2 662 6246, +66 (0)89 926 5474, +66 (0)89 926 5159


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