At the Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile in Tsuen Wan, Hong Kong, visitors are treated to the mesmerizing works of Jakkai Siributr, a Thai textile artist known for his profound engagement with pressing social issues. His retrospective exhibition, “Everybody Wanna Be Happy,” spans two decades of his career, showcasing how Jakkai has evolved both as an artist and a commentator on Thai society.
Jakkai’s artistic awakening in 2006 coincided with a political upheaval in Thailand, as a military junta overthrew the elected government. This event prompted him to delve into the country’s growing societal divides. His works, characterized by vibrant colors and accessibility, often mask deeper, weightier themes. Jakkai creates embroidered military jackets and other wearables infused with political messages, cleverly using traditional textile techniques to offer fresh perspectives on gender, identity, and equality.
His craftsmanship invites closer inspection – delicate glass beads or metallic fabric pieces reveal narratives of violence and loss upon closer examination. A striking example is the series “There’s No Place,” which welcomes visitors at Chat. It comprises large embroidered panels and patchworks by displaced communities, poignantly capturing their pain and loss.
Jakkai’s engagement with the Shan refugee camp on the Thai-Myanmar border led to a series of workshops where art became a medium for expression, especially for children affected by trauma. The Covid-19 pandemic shifted his focus to Shan educational organizations in Chiang Mai, where he organized workshops that bridged the gap between privileged and stateless communities through collaborative embroidery projects.
The exhibition also includes his reflections on corruption within Buddhist institutions. Works like “Lucky Ware” juxtapose traditional Buddhist iconography with modern indulgences, highlighting the dichotomy between religious principles and contemporary practices. “Changing Closet” and “Phayao-a-Porter” are interactive installations that encourage audience participation while conveying strong social messages.
Jakkai’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic is poignantly portrayed in his “Outworn” series. These works, comprising reassembled work uniforms transformed into wall hangings and adorned with Buddhist amulets and pandemic-related symbols, capture the fear and uncertainty of the era.
Jakkai Siributr’s exhibition at the Centre for Heritage Arts & Textile is more than just an art show; it’s a journey through the fabric of Thai society, narrated through the lens of a master textile artist. His works challenge viewers to look beyond the surface and engage with the deeper social and political narratives woven into each piece.