A Nail To The Neck, by Aisyah
Growing up in Malaysia, I was always scared of ghosts, particularly the Pontianak. Pontianak is a vengeful female spirit who seeks revenge after dying from male-inflicted violence. Usually portrayed with long unkempt hair, long sharp nails and a loose white dress, a Pontianak can also disguise herself as a beautiful woman to lure her prey. A Pontianak devours its victims by clawing into the body and eating the organs. It is said that a Pontianak can be fought off by driving a nail into the hole on the nape of her neck, causing her to turn into a beautiful woman and a good wife until the nail is removed.
However, it is different now that I am a young woman. Instead of fear, I genuinely sympathise with this spirit. I feel their pain and understand what causes them to behave so violently. In this artwork I depict myself as the Pontianak – relating myself to the misunderstood spirit. My bloodied eyes and mouth indicate that I am appearing to be “vengeful”, for speaking up whenever I am wronged. The nail stuck into my neck however, represents the social and gender norms where I am expected to keep quiet, behave appropriately and just live with it. In cases where I do speak up, I am often labeled as psychotic and immoral.