IN SITU: ANAK-ANAK ABDULLAH | a project and performance by ila

Platform3 proudly presents a part of IN SITU Artist-In-Residence Program:


a project & performance by ila (Shahila Baharom)
5 – 13 September 2015

5 September 2015
18.30 – onwards



ila arrived in Bandung for the third time and realized that she is infatuated with the city. Throughout August, she eagerly woke up everyday, enjoying breezy air while riding ojek (bike taxi) and visited places to find the openness of the people. ila collected narratives organically through exchanging conversation with people in orphanages, non-profit organization basecamp, flea market, warung (small coffee shop) and elsewhere. Many times she met random people who would spill rather personal stories. It was probably benefitted from her state as a foreigner, as she purposely put herself into one.

ila’s ongoing research about fatherless Muslim children developed more insights as she encountered different kind of people and narratives. Her research connects the identity of children being born outside of wedlock to her own identity crisis. “Anak-Anak Abdullah” – as this exhibition is titled – is taken from the name “Abdullah” appropriated by fatherless children who are birthed outside of wedlock or adopted by single maternal figures in Singaporean Muslim communities. In a patriarchal society, Singapore encourages nuclear family structures; complete with a father and mother figure. On a personal level, she relates to the stigma attached to the name Abdullah as her mother was adopted and conceived out of wedlock, which led to her mother and consecutively herself having a missing ancestral line. Due to this, there is always a missing piece when she is explaining her origins and filling up the gaps of her identity.

Nevertheless, she is always concerned about the nature of narratives towards surrounding themes that are taboo. There is an awareness of the stigma, but nobody dares to acknowledge it, let alone discuss it publicly. Presented differently, the subject can easily be taken as an exploitative gesture. However, the way the narratives are delivered within the personal space she has created with the people she met becomes a starting point for her to consciously respond to. She found that the act of collecting narratives – specifically during her research in Bandung – was pretty much like exposing an object to a light source and witnessing the shadows it creates, just as she often does with her works. Whilst the explorations, experiences and emotional excavations was the light that she placed upon the thematic of being born out of wedlock, growing up not knowing the complete biological histories or without any maternal or paternal figures, she still couldn’t grasp the complexities. Although it was an abundance of conversations and intimate personal encounters, ila can only capture what becomes visible to her; impressions of the actual story. Along with found objects she acquired from flea market and surroundings, ila managed to build a narrative of how the unspoken reveals itself.


Languange is the exoskeleton of my interest in understanding my personal inadequacies in communicating myself, outside of my mind, to the rest of the world. With limitations of verbal expressions, I experience void at the start of my practice which I evade, by creating alternative modes of expressions that more visceral and performative in nature.

With Anak-Anak Abdullah, I confront these voids and trace the reason of their existence back to my historical lineage. What begin with a definite search for others like me, those with identity voids such as mine, became an accidental discovery of my own identity and explorations of how identities are not concrete lines but transitory manifestations of their fleeting surroundings.


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