Pattani

I followed a journalist who I greatly admire to the southernmost provinces of Thailand to document something that I had very little understanding of, in a region considered dangerously far removed from the rest of the country despite residing within its borders. We were eventually connected with a local woman in Pattani who agreed to help us find what we were looking for. 

She was an excellent fixer and interpreter throughout - despite the sensitive nature of the story being reported, and all whilst juggling a busy family life with three young children. We passed the time in between pertinent business browsing local bookshops, sipping Thai Style™ sugary coffee and me tagging along whilst she did all the things a young mother needs to do during the day; more than once I found myself wondering how on earth she manages to do it all. 

In the days that followed, we got to know each other well. We don’t share a religion, education or lifestyle but the conversations were honest and familiar. We are raised by our own people to fear each other but we laughed at the absurdity of it. It seems like Thainess is all we have in common on paper, yet we both expressed a pointed distaste for nationalism. Neither of us like sugary coffee, Thai Style™ anyway… 

It was a sticky evening outside of Pattani Central Mosque when she asked me why I do what I do. Was it a childhood dream? Did I learn photography at school? I told her I actually grew up wanting to be a Picasso, studied fine art at university and how I used to paint, draw and sew shit together as part of my daily ritual. She chimed how she thought most artists always seem to be in their own worlds. 

I agreed with her, recounting how when I was an art student, I was constantly in my own world - in the studio, in my bedroom, in my head trying to construct tangible associations between art theory, some sense of third culture millennial kid experience and whatever I had in my hands…but I eventually grew discontent with composing work derived from a singular mind that had seen so little. I unwittingly concluded that I was probably drawn to photography because it made me see the world of Other people. 

She smiled, exclaimed, “I like that!” and led me inside for evening prayer.



Faster.


Thailand’s roads are considered the 2nd most dangerous in the world, with 44 road deaths per 100,000 people according to a study conducted by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute, more than double the global average of 18. Motorbike accidents are the top cause of death amongst road fatalities in Thailand as stated in a Guardian report published in 2012, with more than 11,000 people dying annually.

I’ve been unfortunate enough to witness the aftermath a few of those appallingly frequent accidents here in Bangkok, and sad to recall the deaths of sorely missed friends as a consequence of their own bad decisions and those of others; as a result I have until recent years been reluctant to get back on a bike as a passenger, and this year as a driver…

Regardless, I was still pretty excited to witness some motorcycle drag racing events hosted by NGO Racing, a Thai organisation sponsored by RAC Oil which aims to encourage Thai youths to stop racing on public roads. The NGO program trains local youths in proper vehicle maintenance and assists the fledging careers of their most promising prospects by sending them to race in drag events around South East Asia.

It’s a good start, though clearly some of the local participants at these races could do with more helmets…


Wa Nu Bo

Dear Wa Nu Bo, tiny Yi ethnic village in the mountains that I can’t point out on a map because I had no 3G reception to Google pin your location with by the time we veered off the road down the dirt track into the valley where you are nestled so unassumingly,

Thank you for having me. Even if it was only for a short time. I was blown away by your hospitality, kindness and firewater. Thank you for showing me a part of your spiritual world that is both deeply personal and rooted in your people’s collective identity. Thank you for reminding me that my personal beliefs and ethical hangups must always be tempered with empathy and understanding for “the Other”. Your history and culture will remain a mystery to me; clumsy search-engine attempts at further “research” are only filling me with more questions than answers - and so I hope to find you again someday. And I promise this time I’ll refrain from naming your livestock “Fred, Georgie and Will”.
This is for you: http://flintmag.com/lunanewyear/
Happy Chinese New Year.

Love,
Lily

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