images augmented by imagination and quiet sounds

"There is a politics to exhaustion. Feeling depleted can be a measure of just what we are up against."
Sara Ahmed
— 3 weeks ago

The Murray River brings great joy & senseless despair.

Renmark SA / Murtho Forest SA
May 2014

— 1 month ago
my version of abstractivity

Breaking lines up
into false
poems;         forever banished
inside blogs which disappear
into the dark hole of

  I see
the wordsmiths above

— 1 month ago

Documenting shop façades in Adelaide, a series in the making. Inspired by my dear friend Lara Soulio, who took the first photograph.

(top: Cacas Night Chemist, Hindley Street)
(middle: Di Fabio Bros, Pulteney Street)
(bottom: Hong Kong Grocery, Grote Street)

Adelaide SA
Jul 2014

— 1 month ago with 3 notes
#adelaide  #façade  #typography  #art deco  #design  #shop design  #architecture  #australia  #photography 
Made some sambal from scratch lately, to pair with nasi lemak (also made from scratch). Instead of using a mortar & pestle to grind the ingredients into a paste, I very unorthodox-ly used a hand-blender. But hey.Richmond SA June 2013

Made some sambal from scratch lately, to pair with nasi lemak (also made from scratch). Instead of using a mortar & pestle to grind the ingredients into a paste, I very unorthodox-ly used a hand-blender. But hey.

Richmond SA
June 2013

— 1 month ago
Inhabit / Occupy

I first submitted this piece to the zine Motherlands & Hometowns, a themed zine series by the wonderful Disaffekted Ethnic Queer Youth (DEQY) collective in Sydney, who recently raised more than $700 for RISE, a refugee advocacy group at their pop-up cafe-cum-benefit gig, held in conjunction with the zine’s release.

This essay discusses my feelings surrounding home, belonging, and migration; on grounding and re-grounding and finding my roots and my place. It is a topic I am sure I will keep exploring for the years to come.


I am writing this from home, 6000kms away from home.

Almost 2 years ago, I moved from Singapore to Adelaide to be with my partner. It’s not as exciting as it sounds—I moved for love, and it’s wonderful, and “an incredibly brave thing,” but that’s not what I want to talk about. Migration is as migration does.

Most of us have done scores of migration over generations and centuries, over lands and times. I am a 3.5 generation Chinese/Singaporean, and also, to a certain extent, 1st generation Singaporean/Australian. I feel my identity stretching out across 3 different lands: one I’ve only very slightly visited, another I’ve spent most of my life in, the other I’ve only just lived in (and always remembering: it isn’t even mine in the first place).

They all coalesce to become something—Home, always shifting, in my body.

Feeling a close connection to the motherland (China), an acquaintance once told me, “you can’t feel emotional ties to something that’s broadly conceived.” And that may be half-right, considering how I’ve never even been to Shantou, and don’t know where my mother’s ancestors lived in Fujian province exactly. I’ve never even been. But I know the traditions, the sayings, the food, and I remember both my grandmothers fussing over me in a way I felt was specific to their respective cultures. My mother’s father was a Mao aficionado, despite living in Singapore all his life. The putonghua used to colonise an entire land filled with people belonging to various ethnicities and tribes is something I read, speak, and write with ease.

I think about Singapore, a place I grew to love as I was only just leaving. Growing up, I never saw Singapore as home; it was only a place of residence. In my adolescence and young adulthood I would imagine my home as being somewhere “out there,” waiting to be discovered. I travelled a lot during this time, trying to see if I would stumble upon a city where I could see myself moving to. Melbourne, Berlin, Bandung, Kuala Lumpur, Brussels, Hong Kong: these places seemed close, but not quite.

Where was home? Home is relative. Home is right here, in my mind and body, fluid and constantly in flux.

Like any other hometown, Singapore is associated with cultural cringe and ambivalent feelings. I think about the glitzy high-rises and clean streets juxtaposed with its atrocious human rights record; the ease of mobility I experience as a member of the dominant race; the drug laws and the capital punishment; the times I spent getting lost in far-flung suburbs (only 40mins from the city centre). William Gibson, it’s not just the “Disneyland With the Death Penalty” and you fucking know it. I spent my formative years there, owning my reality: my heart broken and restored, over and over.

When someone from Australia refers to Singapore as my ‘home’, despite all good intentions, I feel insulted. Singapore was my home, is my home still, but it is up to me to call it. Adelaide is my home now, too, and when you inquire about my trip ‘home’ (there), it feels as if you are invalidating my efforts at building a life (here). At the same time, is it really? I am a settler too; I stole the land I’m standing on, just like (most of ) you.

Where is home? I carry it within me.

I remember travelling elsewhere, people attempting to place me. “Where are you from?” they ask, and nothing I say feels like a truth. “I live in Australia,” I reply now. These attempts to delineate geographical lines are once again repeated, both in Singapore and Australia: in the former, it is received as a source of pride, a forced alienation resulting from a desire to disassociate; in the latter, it is alienating—implying a cultural failure on my part to assimilate. Underlying it all is this: the privilege to reject something vs. the lack of privilege to own something, to belong. I am trying to assimilate to a culture that once stole the land it stands on. Remember, I am complicit too.

Sometimes, I don’t know where home is. Home is where my affections are centered, and they can be many places at once, temporarily and permanently.

I carry it within me.

— 2 months ago
#migration  #belonging  #home  #motherlands  #hometowns  #grounding  #migrant  #occupy  #colonialism  #settlerhood  #settler  #culture 
"Creeping on Dogs" series
I’m not at all a dog person (reasons: they smell, and are overly needy and excitable) but I love my housemate’s dog Topper. I sometimes also call him (Lord) Toppington or Top Dog. He’s my special one.
Richmond SAJuly 2014

"Creeping on Dogs" series

I’m not at all a dog person (reasons: they smell, and are overly needy and excitable) but I love my housemate’s dog Topper. I sometimes also call him (Lord) Toppington or Top Dog. He’s my special one.

Richmond SA
July 2014

— 2 months ago
These unnamed egg-laying devices have escaped and are hanging out on a table in the backyard. The other two appear to suffer from Stockholm’s Syndrome and don’t escape as much. Wonderful moment caught on camera. I found 16 eggs hidden in the overgrowth the other day.
Richmond SAJune 2014

These unnamed egg-laying devices have escaped and are hanging out on a table in the backyard. The other two appear to suffer from Stockholm’s Syndrome and don’t escape as much. Wonderful moment caught on camera. I found 16 eggs hidden in the overgrowth the other day.

Richmond SA
June 2014

— 2 months ago
On the exceptionalism of “the good refugee”

My piece in Overland, on the exceptionalism accorded the “good refugee”—especially in the wake of their deaths—while hundreds of others remain willfully ignored. Exactly who deems some to be more worthy than others?

(first published in Overland Literary Journal, Winter 2014)


People are tired, very tired’ – Ahmad Al-Akabi’s friend, interviewed after his suicide in Villawood Detention Centre in 2010

Recently, 29-year-old Tamil asylum seeker Leo Seemanpillai set himself on fire and later died, with 90 per cent burns to his body. Leo was afraid of being sent back to Sri Lanka, where conflict between the Tamils and the Sinhalese is still rife, after a civil war that officially ended only five years ago.

Leo’s death follows the 2011 suicides of Josefa Rauluni, who jumped from a balcony railing at Villawood, and Mohammed Asif Atay, who hung himself at Curtin. Both men had been wrought with depression after being held in detention centres indefinitely, awaiting their asylum claims to be processed.

Many more asylum seekers have taken their lives after attempting to seek refuge in Australia, and mounting evidence has shown prolonged, indefinite waits severely influence mental and physical health. Such evidence is especially concerning because of Australia’s policy of mandatory detention, which, for the past twenty years, has had no time limitations. Asylum processing times now average as long as 305 days. Some asylum seekers, such as Jayasaker Jayrathana, who committed suicide by poison in 2011, had been waiting for two years.

This death toll does not include the numerous unnamed individuals, nearly 1000 at last count, who have died at sea.

We only seem to hear asylum seeker stories after lives have been abruptly halted. The varied and personal accounts – of family left behind, the reasons people fled from their home countries, interests and histories – are heard after these deaths hit the news. ‘He was a very good man’ and other such commendations seem to follow. But why are asylum seekers only given due recognition after they have suffered under the prison-industrial complex, one that they did not choose to have a part in and, most importantly, did not deserve?

Most asylum seeker deaths are barely recorded. It almost feels like a taunt: why did you even try coming here in the first place? Most people know the answer: because there was no other way. The myriad accounts from Iraqis, Syrians, Iranians, Sri Lankans and Hazara Afghans, among others, illustrate the complicated conundrums many whom choose to seek asylum face – a ‘fight or flight’ response aggravated by imminent danger of persecution. Indeed, fleeing is often the logical decision, albeit one fraught with fear and danger.

He was such a caring, gentle person’ – Cathie Bond, good friend and ‘mum’ to Leo Seemanpillai, interviewed after his self-immolation in Geelong in May 2014

It is worth noting the litany of ‘human interest’ narratives that appear in mainstream media following asylum-seeker suicides. Most trace a trajectory of the individual performing good deeds and being known as happy and generous, virtuous qualities given as proof of their humanity. Without a doubt, this recognition needs to be accorded; after all, they were people. Still, questions remain: whose gaze are these stories for, and who deems some to be more worthy than others?

We wouldn’t hear these stories if people – journalists or refugee advocates, for example – didn’t share them. If not for the ongoing work done by advocacy groups, some of these deaths wouldn’t even appear on the radar. Take the case of Fatima Erfani, an Afghani asylum seeker who, after being detained for two years at a detention centre on Christmas Island with her husband and two children, died of medical negligence in 2003. She had had high blood pressure, and was not given adequate medical attention. There was barely a mention of her death in mainstream media, apart from an article in The West Australian, which included the line, ‘People who know them describe the Rezas [sic] as an intelligent family with high standards who would have made good migrants.’

And therein lies my question: what determines a ‘good’ migrant, and why are they the only ones worthy of life and dignity and basic human rights in the eyes of Australian society? Surely, the thousands of asylum seekers who sought other lives in Australia would be able to contribute to the community in many and varied ways, and would have, if given the chance.

We will decide who comes to this country, and the circumstances in which they come’ – then-Prime Minister John Howard, during his campaign for re-election in 2001

The conferment of ‘human being’ only to migrants considered ‘deserving’ or ‘good’ is chilling. It plays into the spectacle of idealisation that determines a path towards creating the ‘authentic asylum seeker,’ one that fits the role(s) Australian society expects. To deviate from the narrative would be to err.

Do we require the construction of an ‘intimate distance’ in order to feel compassion and sympathy for people forced to flee their home countries? Is this the only way we are able to properly identify with an Other? This disparity calls for a critical examination of the particular exceptionalism attributed to ‘good’ refugees – because hundreds of others remain wilfully ignored and despairing, lost in the cycle of indefinite mandatory detention. Until we face that, there will be many more anonymous asylum seekers who become yet another newspaper story or a mere statistic: a person who died needlessly in the pursuit of freedom.

— 2 months ago with 4 notes
#exceptionalism  #refugees  #asylum seekers  #incarceration  #refugee rights  #migration  #polemic  #australia  #prison industrial complex  #asylum 
To "Well Meaning" Allies and Others →


Saidiya Hartman has a short message for you.

"Can the [non-black] witness of the spectacle of black suffering affirm the materiality of black sentience only by feeling for himself? Does this not only exacerbate the idea that black sentience is inconceivable and unimaginable but, in the very ease of possessing the abased and enslaved body, ultimately elide an understanding and acknowledgment of the slave’s (read: the black’s) pain? … Put differently, the effort to counteract the commonplace callousness to black suffering requires that the [non-black] body be positioned in the place of the black body in order to make this suffering visible and intelligible. Yet if this violence can become palpable and indignation can be fully aroused only through the masochistic fantasy, then it becomes clear that empathy is double-edged, for in making the other’s suffering one’s own, this suffering is occluded by the other’s obliteration … This anxiety is historically determined by the denial of black sentience, the slave’s status as object of property, the predicament of witnessing given the legal status of blacks, and the repression of counterdiscourses on the "peculiar institution." Therefore [non-blacks] must supplant the black captive in order to give expression to black suffering, and as a consequence, the dilemma—the denial of black sentience and the obscurity of suffering—is not ameliorated but substantiated."

— 2 months ago with 26 notes
This totally came from a packet. Add coriander, lime leaves, laksa leaves and shallots for added effect.
Richmond SAJune 2014

This totally came from a packet. Add coriander, lime leaves, laksa leaves and shallots for added effect.

Richmond SA
June 2014

— 2 months ago
#weareallrapists: Dissecting the pervasive effects of rape culture

Earlier this week, I came to know that a person I was briefly acquainted with was convicted of rape. Reading the details of it was gnarly—rape is a terrible thing, but when the abuser is someone you know, it makes it worse still. Worse not because there is sympathy, or disbelief; rather, it further reinforces the notion that a rapist is always, always in our midst.

Society has a way of painting the abuser as the shadow in the night, a stranger lurking in the alleyway as you walk home alone at 2 in the morning. Our parents and teachers warn us against the “bad guy,” like that is somehow a pre-coded signal written on their faces and their bodies. Scenes on television and film depict deranged individuals on the loose, usually with a weapon, looking for unsuspecting women to rape. All of this is part and parcel of rape culture—we choose to believe that the abuser is an unknown evil in order to feel as far removed from it as possible. Which is much more comfortable than the darker truth of sexual violence: that the people who are raping our friends and abusing our children are the people we know. How can it be that a rapist could be our father, our partner, our dearest friend and trusted mentor? It is always the stranger in the shadows.

The popular narrative suggests that rapists are monsters. By constructing a reality that abusers belong to a category that is different and separate from mainstream society, we coerce a sense of distance that places the perpetrator as “Other.” Not only does this feed our racialised and ablelised prejudices about who a potential abuser can be, it blinds us towards the ‘good’ people amongst us. Within the binary of good vs. evil that is so often regurgitated in popular culture and the fabric of society, there is an archetypal villain and an ideal victim.

Most of the time, we don’t understand when a rapist turns out to be a well-known or admired person in the community. Surely they couldn’t? They were nice and intelligent; they didn’t seem like a creep. However, the reality of rape culture is that we can’t ever know what an abuser looks like.

As evidenced, rape is not necessarily a crime of lust but of violence and power. Decades of Catholic Church sexual abuse tragedies, child sexual abuse, rape in correctional facilities, sexual assault in the military, rape in war, rape in hospitals and mental institutions are all indicative of the entitlement associated with sexual violence. The fact that a person can possess plenty of social capital and then be exposed as a rapist is testimony of that power. And this power can be used to silence their victims, which results in many unreported rapes.

While there is a strong understanding that rape is wrong, there still aren’t very overt distinctions between rape and not-rape. Instead, rape exists as a continuum of sexual intrusion, involving varying levels of control and coercion. When we use a conservative interpretation of rape—namely, “forcible penetration”—about which there can be no argument, we are trivialising the numerous accounts of rape which don’t fit comfortably into the prevailing narrative.

Which leads me to this: we’re all potential rapists. This is not a sweeping statement but a fact. The fact that rape culture exists, but too often goes unquestioned and normalised; the fact that we have still yet to establish clear codes of consent; the fact that we have yet to develop honest conversations around power—these are overarching status quos that need to be interrogated. We’re all capable of rape until our individual complicity in the social framework of power is confronted, and the image of the rapist as ‘outsider’ demythicised.

One of my recent #shortreads, on Medium, first published on:

— 2 months ago with 1 note
#rape culture  #feminism  #shortread  #rape tw