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Mona's Musings : What do you recognise in Thai protest art?

【明報專訊】In the heat of Hong Kong's anti-extradition law movement last year, the city's protest art blossomed. Lennon walls planted themselves in every district, serving as public discussion forums on critical issues. After the police arrested a student for possessing laser pointers, protestors staged a laser show at the dome-shaped Space Museum. All in all, protest art and other creative strategies won Hong Kong protestors the Golden Nica awards from Ars Electronica, often known as the Oscars in digital media.

While many people draw parallels between the protests of Hong Kong and Thailand, the latter's creative strategies have not garnered much international attention. In the face of a harsh lese-majeste law and various censorship mechanisms, Thai artists have a tricky terrain to navigate. Also, as art critic Thanom Chapakdee pointed out, the Thai Buddhist culture discourages any form of antagonism. As such, Thai protest art has generally adopted a strategy to unite the people, rather than antagonise the enemies. As anger mounted against prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, he was surprisingly spared from being demonised in protest art — a privilege very rare for leaders in democratic countries.

Noticeably, Thai protest art takes ample reference from pop culture. In August, a Harry Potter themed protest where participants were dressed as fictional witches and wizards as portrayed in the novel was held. When interviewed, some participants said they were "casting the Patronus Charm to Protect Democracy". They also dressed a straw man as Voldemort, satirising the Thai authorities. On another occasion, protestors adapted the opening theme song of popular Japanese anime Hamtaro (《哈姆太郎》), gently reminding Thai people not to live their lives like docile hamsters, but to stand up for their rights. As the song gained popularity on the internet, themed protests were also held. These attempts turned solemn political demands into moments of collective creative acts, maintaining the momentum of the movement. The international popularity of these cultural icons has also enabled the protest demands to spread beyond national boundaries.

On the eve of October 6 this year, Thai art platform Free Arts hosted a poster design competition to commemorate the unresolved 6th October massacre (For details, please refer to last week's article). Many entries drew on pop icons as well. My personal favourite? A design with detective Conan joining the protest. His motto — there is only one truth. I do not read Thai, but it instantly struck a chord.

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Mona C. has a strong appetite for stories. Feed her enough.

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