In these works, Rahic creates indexical relationships with malikoda and not iconic ones. Thus, it is less readily absorbed into a system of circulating images of indigeneity.
One might contrast these works with those of another contemporary Pangcah artist whose colorful, figurative works have often been plagiarized for projects of representing indigeneity. This artist has initiated legal action against these copyright offenders. It is not my desire here to criticize this artist or those who have duplicated his work. I would rather like to observe how his images of Pangcah women in regalia, which he has licensed for reproduction on a variety of products (postcards, t shirts, mugs) circulate within a system of consuming images of Indigenous people, a system with its roots in Japanese colonial and—even earlier—Qing period Sinophone fascination with dancing Indigenous bodies.
No doubt this artist’s own engagement with this system is playful and critical as well as litigious. Still, I’m not going to mention his name here. I’d rather not be a participant in his ongoing artistic work.
Perhaps his work is an analogue within the visual art world to the Enigma – Kuo Ying-nan scandal.
In contrast, Rahic’s canvases, covered with the imprint of dancing feet, engage in a very different strategy. These works remain largely illegible to settler audiences.
Although the paintings index Rahic’s dancing body, they frustrate attempts to place them within categories of images of indigeneity. The works require a period of reflection and dialogue to uncover the relationships among Rahic’s media (tapa cloth, acrylic paint, and dance) and to interpret these relationships into a narrative. In other words, Rahic’s refusal to resemble requires the audience, if they are to engage with the work, to change their relationships with Indigenous people—or at least with what they think they know about Indigenous people.
Like participation in malikoda itself, it offers no easy answers.
In this description of Rahic’s recent experimental work, I have chosen to center on indices of malikoda in Rahic’s art practice rather than a representation of malikoda in music theoretical or other modalities. At first, this might feel like a lack; however, as I argue this kind of refusal (which I will call mimetic refusal) configures Rahic’s work, which does not allow malikoda to be absorbed within depictions of malikoda that center settler nationalism.
In other words, by refusing to show or resemble malikoda—mimetic refusal—Rahic maintains a position outside of dominant depictions of Indigenous people. In his work only traces of malikoda appear. These traces, which are indices of his embodied practice, never resemble dominant depictions of indigeneity and thus pose questions of agency as well as aesthetics.