Rattan baskets were never regarded by the indigenous peoples who made them as purely functional objects devoid of meaning – they often took up spiritual significance as part of rituals, especially in regard to farming ceremonies. Forbidden Fruits seeks to investigate the possibilities of expression through traditional rattan weaving, in order to restore that sense of meaningfulness in the modern context.
Fruits have played a central role in the human imagination since the dawn of time, from the familiar judeo-christian account of “original sin” to Iban myths and legends. Few symbols have such universal presence amongst the various cultures of the world. Early peoples saw in fruit metaphors for life and death, fertility and sterility, growth and decay, seduction and corruption.
This project also sets out to navigate the boundaries of social acceptability and taboos. Fruit, when ripe, is suitable for consumption; at almost all other stages, it’s forbidden. For all the apparent permissiveness of modern culture, issues of sex and procreation are still uncomfortable conversations to be had in public. Why is sensual pleasure still viewed with a transgressive taint? Who set the rules, when it’s evident that earlier societies had few such scruples about a central part of the human experience?
In a series of large-scale vignettes, Forbidden Fruits presents a narrative of the life-cycle of fruits, from seed and germination, to propagation and decay, culminating in an inhabitable “still life”. Ultimately, it also explores the myriad connections humans have had with fruit, and how they still embody for us a sense of nourishment as well as danger.
A collaboration between The Ranee of Sarawak, Tanoti and Edric Ong.