Research Projects

Revisiting The Penunggu* at the Threshold (A Mythological Compedia of Pragmatic Prayers)

Zarina Muhammad
Fine Arts

*The Penunggu refers to the spirit that guards, supervises or protects a particular place, geographical region, nation, age group, country, culture or occupation. It is believed that they can be protective, benign or malevolent. Though not entirely synonymous with the dvarapala, Kala, naga or makara that guards the gateways of sacred architecture, the penunggu is understood as a guardian of spaces. The root word of ʻpenungguʼ is derived from the Malay word ʻtungguʼ, which means ʻto waitʼ. 

For the past decade, Zarina Muhammad has embarked on a multidisciplinary research that explores magico-religious belief systems, ritual practices, and sacred sites. The various embodiments of her work, which engage broader contexts of myth-making, ritual magic, gender-based archetypes, and spirits of resistance, the cultural biographies of objects and the region’s provisional relationship to mysticism and the immaterial against the dynamics of global modernity. Her research focus in 2019 is an extension of her work presented at the Presidents' Young Talents 2018 exhibition. It takes the trans-local figures of the penunggu (tutelary spirit) and the tuan/puan tanah (Lord of the Land) as points of departure to reconsider notions of territoriality and spectralities against the social production of rationality. In the various visual, performative and written outcomes of this research project, she will focus on mapping old and new ways to tell stories of unresolved memories, fragmented cosmologies, shapeshifting translations, and haunted historiographies.

Other Research Projects

Interdisciplinary Research
Interdisciplinary Research