Mahen Bala is a visual artist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is primarily interested in documenting marginal voices as a method in exploring new narratives in Southeast Asia’s fluid osmosis of history and identity. In 2017, he represented Malaysia on an expedition to Antarctica, and produced an exhibition exploring the impact of human activity on the continent. In 2018, he published ‘Postcards from the South’, a documentation of memory and history of the Malaysian railways.
His 2019 work cēb bah hēp documenting the relationship between the Batek indigenous people and the rainforest in Malaysia is currently on display at the Botanic Gardens in Singapore. He recently completed a Fellowship with the Japan Foundation Asia Center, and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Malaya in Malaysia.
The Sea Within is an ongoing photography project examining the relationship between coastal communities and the sea in East and Southeast Asia. The current set of ten photographs features costal cities in Indonesia, and Japan. Indonesia has embarked on an ambitious wall-building project to protect its capital city Jakarta from the rising sea. Locals who have lost their connection to the open sea, and with it their livelihood and identity, now walk along top of this concrete wall in an act of defiance.
Japan is also building a sea-wall but for a different purpose. In 2011, the coast of Iwate Prefecture was heavily damaged by a tsunami. Knowing that the next tsunami cannot be stopped, Japan is building a wall to slow it down enough so residents can evacuate. The Sea Within is primarily interested in how different communities think about the sea and adapt to changes differently. These seascapes are reminiscence of vertical scrolls of Zen ink paintings, an invitation to the viewer to look within and beyond the sea through the different lenses.