trans-ancestral pilgrimages

Menelusuri Bissu - trans-ancestral pilgrimages

27 November, 2 pm CET (online)
a conversation between Sophia-Layla Afsar, Tamarra, Vicky Shahjahan and  Ferdiansyah Thajib.


The conversation is based on Tamarra’s film Menelusuri Bissu \ Pilgrimage to the Bissu Community (2019, 38 min) available for viewing online from 23 November – 10 December 2021

Online film screening: Menelusuri Bissu \ Pilgrimage to the Bissu Community

This event is a journey through dense and complex expressions below and beyond the language of ‘transgender’ that infuse past and present modes on gender nonconformity in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and beyond. The contrasts and commonalities between wandering terms of otherwise non-categorical genders in these regions are bridged through a documentary film , Pilgrimage to the Bissu Community  (dir: Tamarra, 2019) that will be made available online from 23 November through 10 December and a hybrid conversation between Tamarra, Vicky Shahjahan, Sophia-Layla Afsar, and Ferdiansyah Thajib on how each of them engages with memories of ancestral practices and politics of holding spaces of care through their specific practices

The conversation is part of trans-ancestral pilgrimages, a stream of House of Kal Berlin curated by Ferdiansyah Thajib with Sophia-Layla Afsar, Tamarra and Vicky Shahjahan. Both Vicky Shahjahan and Sophia-Layla Afsar are residents in the house of Kal in Colombo and Karachi, respectively.

Tamarra is a self-taught artist who is currently pursuing a BA at Sanata Dharma University, Yogyakarta, majoring in history. Tamarra moved to Yogyakarta in 2008 and worked as a busker and sex worker until 2013. From 2011 to 2013, Tamarra participated in an art project called Makcik Project and began her artistic career after its completion. Since 2015, Tamarra has been involved in art projects both in Indonesia and abroad. Tamarra’s work is heavily influenced by interests in gender and sexuality, the history of non-binaries, religion and humanity.

Vicky Shahjehan is a trans/non-binary and self taught artist from Colombo’s Slave Island neighborhood. She is known for her work with henna and uses this medium as a form of archiving stories as well focusing on issues around feminism, gender and freedom. Together with the artist Firi Rahman, she is co-running the community art project #wearefromhere in the diverse community of Slave Island, a movement of breaking the stigma and celebrating the people living there. She collaborated with The Many Headed Hydra for Colomboscope 2019, the exhibition Is It Possible to Live Outside of Language in Karachi and was a resident of the House of Kal Colombo in Summer 2021.

Sophia-Layla Afsar is a lawyer turned therapist and artist. Her art blends trans and neurodivergent activism, emotional care, and play. She uses playful props and opacity to create interactive situations that explore trans and neurodivergent perspectives. By simultaneously withholding information and providing care for more privileged visitors, her situations highlight how expectations of disclosure and emotional labour are means of exploitation of marginalized folks. She was a resident of House of Kal Karachi in summer 2021.

Ferdiansyah Thajib is a researcher whose lifework is situated at the intersections of theory and praxis, with specific interests in queer modes of endurance and forms of affective entanglements in everyday life. He is a member of KUNCI Study Forum & Collective, a transdisciplinary research collective in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, which since 1999 has been experimenting with modes of producing and sharing knowledge through studying together. He joined District* School without Center, Berlin in 2019, assisting the collective’s restructuring and commoning processes.