Zarina Muhammad


Zarina Muhammad

Lecturer, Fine Arts
  • MA (Art History), Open University
  • BA (Hons) Fine Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts
  • English Literature, University of Western Australia, Australia

Zarina is an independent researcher, curator, arts practitioner and educator based in Singapore. She lectures on art history and cultural/contextual studies at LASALLE College of the Arts.

Currently, Zarina is working on a multidisciplinary research project on cultural translations pertaining to ritual magic, Southeast Asian mythologies, animism and folk religion, sacred sites and the cross/intercultural interpretations of witchcraft.

She has presented her work in Indonesia, Cambodia, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. At present, one of her key projects is to develop a series of performative/collaborative work that aims to deconstruct and respond to the contested histories, texts and definitions pertaining to the intersections between witchcraft, magic, myth, ethno-medicine, monstrosity, the demonised/the demonic, gender-based archetypes and the broader contexts of myth-making.

She is particularly interested in the intergenerational and interregional translations, appropriations, adaptations and sometimes contradictory, anachronistic and multi-headed quality of these narratives.

Research and Practice

Conference papers

  • Can Ghosts Die?: Repositioning Magico-religious Belief Systems, Materiality and Modernity in Contemporary Southeast Asia. The Tenth International Convention of Asia Scholars (ICAS 10). Organised by The Regional Center for Social Change and Sustainable Development (RSCD), with support from the Faculty of Social Sciences of Chiang Mai University (CMU), July (2017)
  • Magic, Belief, Sacred Geographies and Visualising the Unseen in Singapore: Repositioning and Performing the Otherworldly in Southeast Asian Myths and Folklore. Visualising the City: International Visual Methods Conference. Organised by Singapore Institute of Technology, August (2017)
  • Sea Stories, Spirits, Charms and Ceremonies: Repositioning and Performing the Otherworldly in Southeast Asian Maritime Myths and Folklore. Conference on Mermaids, Maritime Folklore and Modernity. Organised by Island Dynamics Research Network, October (2017)
  • Dancing Horses, Possessing Spirits and Invisible Histories: Re-Imagining the Borders of Magic and Modernity in Contemporary Southeast Asia. Crossroads: The 11th International Conference Crossroads in Cultural Studies. Organised by the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, and the University of Sydney. December (2016)
  • Cultural Struggle and Praxis: Negotiating Power and the Everyday. The Sixth Asian Conference on Cultural Studies. Organised by IAFOR (The International Academic Forum). Held at the Kobe Art Centre, Japan. June (2016)
  • Magic, Belief, and Cultural Production in Singapore: Engaging with Southeast Asian Traditional Art Forms in the Island City. Island Cities and Urban Archipelagos. Organised by Island Dynamics Research Network & the University of Hong Kong. March (2016)
  • Who sees? Whose voice?: Possessing Spirits, Invisible Histories and the Artist as Ethnographer. Vitality and Viability: Arts Ecosystems in Asia. Organised by Asia Pacific Network for Cultural Education and Research and Cambodian Living Arts. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. January (2016)
  • Who sees? Whose voice?: Dancing Horses, Possessing Spirits and Invisible Histories. Undercurrents: Unearthing Hidden Social and Discursive Practices. Organised by the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society, University of Indonesia and Airlangga University. Surabaya, Indonesia. August (2015)

Lecture performance

  • Arational Taxonomies. In collaboration with Damaris Carlisle, Eric Lee, Irfan Kasban, Alysha Shah Rahmat, Masuri Mazlan, Isabella Andrews and Polina Korobova. Held at Institute of Contemporary Art, Singapore (2017)
  • Sea Charms and Ceremonies: Notes on Annotating Possessing Texts. In collaboration with Irfan Kasban, Umi Ismail & Wardah Mohamad. Closing event for Fantasy Islands, a visual arts exhibition that was part of ArtWeek Singapore 2017. Held at the Chapel Gallery, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore (2017)
  • The Chronicles of Che Siti 99. In collaboration with ila, Wardah Mohamad, Marla Bendini, Fariza S. and Sharmeen/Sifar. Part of Survey: Space, Sharing, Haunting curated by Post Museum. Held at Winstedt Campus, LASALLE College of the Arts (2016)
  • Ghost Stories Campfire Night – Session II and Girls and Ghosts in Trees: Beyond Fatimah Rocker. Part of Survey: Space, Sharing, Haunting curated by Post Museum. Held at The Substation, Singapore (2016)
  • Lessons on Magic, Metamorphosis, Murder, Medicine and the Monstrous Vermin. In collaboration with Atiq Lukman, Muslim Sahib, ila and Wardah Mohamad. Organised by The Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore. Held at LASALLE College of the Arts (2016)
Research Interests
  • Contemporary Art Practice, Historiography and Theory in Southeast Asia. Engaging with the challenges in negotiating categories, narratives and boundaries pertaining to Asian identity ¬– cultural, linguistic, historical, and its relationship with beliefs, traditions and practices
  • (Pre)Colonial, Postcolonial & Contemporary Understandings of Myth, Materiality, Ritual, Folk Religion, Mysticism and Magic. Exploring issues related to the cultural revisions and anxieties stemming from the shifting boundaries of belief systems and religious plurality within the contexts of regional contemporary cultural landscapes