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SC Shekar: Sacred Currents

The Kinabatangan River, Sabah © 2015 SC ShekarThe Kinabatangan River, Sabah (2015)
Central Forest SpineThe Central Forest Spine, Pahang (2016)
Sacred Currents - Pulau Tuba, LangkawiPulau Tuba, Langkawi (2016)
Sacred Currents - Perlis State ParkPerlis State Park (2018)
Sacred Currents - Straits of JohorStraits of Johor (2017)
Sacred Currents - Temurun WaterfallsTemurun Waterfalls, Langkawi (2021)
Sacred Currents - The Secret Sanctuary LangkawiThe Secret Sanctuary, Langkawi (2022)
Sacred Currents - The Perfect MangroveThe Perfect Mangrove, Langkawi (2016)

Artemis Art is pleased to be the collaboration partner of HARTA Space in presenting Sacred Currents, a solo photography exhibition by renowned Malaysian documentary photographer SC Shekar. More than simply a photography exhibition, Sacred Currents is a pictorial homage to Malaysia’s many riverine ecologies. While it is acknowledged that our rivers are important resources, they are also parts of Malaysia that many take for granted. Not only are our rivers important sources of sustenance, they are also home to a rich array of flora, fauna, and communities.

The main exhibition features some thirty stunning black & white landscape photographs, many of which are aerial views captured during Shekar’s many trips around the country. In addition, Sacred Currents also features several poignant images of the indigenous communities for whom our rivers play a pivotal role in their daily lives.

The Sacred Currents exhibition also serves as a prelude to the publication of Sekhar’s new book of the same name, which is expected to be r by the end of 2024. 

The exhibition began with a preview day on 18 May 2023 and continues until 2 June, 2024 at HARTA Space in the Ampang Point area. All the exhibited photography works are for purchase, each available in editions of 10.

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Preview & Official Opening

The Sacred Currents exhibition began with a preview day on 18 May 2024, and was officially opened on Monday, 20 May 2024. Click on the left/right arrows to navigate through the collection of images from the exhibition preview and opening. For more coverage shots, visit our Facebook and Instagram pages, plus HARTA Space’s feature page for the exhibition.

One for the album...

Image 15 of 15

SC Shekar, the man of the hour (left), with His Highness Tunku Ali and Habib Jewels Managing Director Dato' Sri Meer Habib (second from right and right, respectively), at the end of the official opening

Why Sacred Currents

When the entire world was besieged by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and Kuala Lumpur was under lockdown, I, like many Malaysians, witnessed something extraordinary.

Peering out of my window, I beheld clear, blue skies and a river flowing past my home that was suddenly teeming with life. Fish darting in its crystal-clear waters, unfamiliar birds gracing its banks, and wildlife thriving in the neighbourhood. It was a revelation. The absence of human activity seemed to breathe life back into the environment, revealing the profound impact our actions have on nature.

The virus, in its own way, conveyed a message – a message of hope amidst despair. It showed us that reversing decades of ecological damage is possible if we prioritise environmental stewardship. Inspired by this revelation, I embarked on a personal journey to honour Malaysia’s lifegiving rivers through the project “Sacred Currents – An Homage to Malaysia’s Living, Life-Giving Rivers.

My motivation stemmed from witnessing firsthand the transformative power of nature when left undisturbed. It became clear that protecting our water sources is not just a responsibility but a sacred duty. I couldn’t ignore the plight of the Orang Asli communities, deprived of clean drinking water due to human greed and negligence. Their struggle highlighted the interconnectedness between our actions and the well-being of marginalised communities and ecosystems.

The River of Life project, spearheaded by Khazanah’s Think City, served as an inspiration of sorts. Witnessing the transformation of the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers in the heart of Kuala Lumpur was a testament to what concerted efforts can achieve. However, it left me yearning for more—a nationwide extension of such initiatives beyond mere picturesque Instagram-worthy spots.

Imagine if every village and every villager upstream took personal responsibility for cleaning up their local river, and were incentivised to do so. If every school incorporated environmental studies into its curriculum, teaching children not only about the importance of conservation but also instilling in them a deep respect for nature and a commitment to giving back what we take.

Our treatment of rivers reflects our relationship with nature as a whole. We build structures that turn away from rivers, disregarding their significance, and allow industrial pollutants to contaminate their sacred currents. Yet, every river holds stories of generations that relied on it for sustenance and biodiversity that flourished along its banks.

Today, Malaysia stands at a critical crossroads. Deforestation threatens to strip our rivers of their protective buffers, leading to soil erosion and water pollution. Industries like rare earth mining promise progress but come at the cost of poisoning our water sources. Indigenous communities, guardians of ancient wisdom, face extinction as their homes, cultural practices and knowledge vanish with the forests.

The consequences extend beyond human communities. Endangered wildlife, such as the majestic Malayan Tiger, faces extinction as their habitats are encroached upon. We are disrupting the delicate balance of nature, endangering our own existence in the process. The responsibility to act lies not solely with the government but with each of us.

Our rivers reflect our collective consciousness. We must demand change, advocate for stringent measures against deforestation and pollution, and support sustainable practices that prioritise harmony with nature. It’s a call to action, a plea for a paradigm shift towards values that honour and preserve the sanctity of our natural world.

SC Shekar Signature

SC Shekar
May 2024

SC Shekar Profile Pix
I think photography always has to have a purpose. It must mean something. At some point, it must help with a vision. You have to tell a story with it, it must weave a narrative, evoke emotion, and propel a vision forward. Without this essence, a photograph risks becoming a hollow shell, devoid of substance. I believe that when a photograph manages to touch another soul, to evoke a response or provoke thought, it fulfils its true potential.

SC Shekar

Educated in Malaysia and Australia, renowned award-winning photojournalist with over 35 years experience, SC Shekar began his career at a major Malaysian newspaper in the early 80s, and then went abroad to work for several international news agencies. Shekar’s passion for documenting rich and diverse cultures has taken him throughout Asia and around the world – and always back home to Malaysia, the heart of it all.

For the last 5 years, Shekar has been working very closely with a few indigenous communities and providing them with high-protein milk formula for infants & toddlers who are severely malnourished due to lack of proper nutrition and medical aid. The funds from the sales of his exhibition prints and publications helps fund this endeavour.

Shekar’s body of work includes over 32 books, amongst them: “Our Land Within – Passages through Southeast Asian Communities”, “Raising Land – The Way of Land and Life in Sarawak”, “Daughters of Asia”, “Thailand – 9 Days in the Kingdom” and “7 Days in Myanmar”. His most recent major project is “Grit & Grace: The Grandeur of Monochrome Malaysia“, a stunning collection of photos of Malaysia’s topography and communities, making extensive use of helicopters in his aerial photography. The images were published in a large-format handmade book of the same name. Many of Shekar’s works are in the collection of museums, corporations and private collectors.

Shekar describes his work as a combination of documentary photography and ethnographic portraiture which is rooted in the fields of anthropology and sociology. It is a study of mankind, ways of life, customs, beliefs and behaviours. Shekar’s publishing house, Beagle Books, specialises in large format photo-documentary projects.

Shekar is currently working on a book project documenting the rivers of Malaysia titled “Sacred Currents – An Homage to Malaysia’s Living, Life-giving Rivers“.

Catalog of Exhibited Works

 

Browse the catalog below or download via this link
(if catalog does not load, click Full Screen View or Page Thumbnail button)

Media Reports

Both mainstream and independent media (including social media) have given Sacred Currents fairly broad coverage. The listing below is current as of 18 June 2024 and is presented in chronological order of publication:

Azman Karib Ibrahim (photographer)

19 May 2024

X/Twitter posting of his visit to Sacred Currents during the Preview Day on 18 May 2024

Abe Lim (via Instagram)

21 May 2024

Instagram posting by Abe Lim of her visit to Sacred Currents during the Preview Day on 18 May 2024

Galaksi Media: HARTA Pays Homage to Malaysia’s Living, Life-Giving Rivers with ‘Sacred Currents’ by SC Shekar

21 May 2024

Facebook posting by Galaksi Media of their coverage for Sacred Currents on 20 May 2024, during the exhibition’s official opening

The Exchange Asia: HARTA Pays Homage To Malaysia’s Living, Life-Giving Rivers With ‘Sacred Currents’ By SC Shekar

21 May 2024

The Exchange Asia‘s coverage of Sacred Currents during the exhibition’s official launch on 20 May 2024

Buzzing Malaysia: HARTA Anjur Pameran Fotografi ‘Sacred Currents’ Karya SC Shekar

23 May 2024

Buzzing Malaysia‘s coverage of Sacred Currents during the exhibition’s official launch on 20 May 2024 (in Bahasa Malaysia)

The Stoly: HARTA Pays Homage To Malaysia’s Living, Life-Giving Rivers With ‘Sacred Currents’ By SC Shekar

23 May 2024

Coverage of Sacred Currents by The Stoly

Dawn Tan (via Instagram)

24 May 2024

This is an Instagram posting by Dawn Tan, an award-winning journalist for Channel News Asia, documenting her visit to Sacred Currents

China Press: Black and white aerial photography to praise Malaysia’s sacred rivers
(艺文导报|黑白摄影空拍视角 赞美大马神圣河流)

24 May 2024

This China Press article covering the Sacred Currents exhibition was originally published in Chinese. It is accessible in other languages using browser extension plugins (such as Google Translate with Chrome

KL.Hype: HARTA Pays Homage to Malaysia’s Living, Life-Giving Rivers with ‘Sacred Currents’ by SC Shekar

26 May 2024

KL.Hype, a news portal which covers all sorts of happenings and news related to Kuala Lumpur, published its coverage of the Sacred Currents exhibition, written by journalist Isz Yusliza.

Malaysiakini: REVIEW | Natural resource: Shekar advocates action before it’s too late

28 May 2024

Cyril Pereira, former publisher of Asia Magazine (among other things), pens this superbly written review of SC Shekar’s Sacred Currents.

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