When Ruby from the Netflix TV Series, “Anne With An E” said, “How I love being a woman” after spending her night dancing under the moonlight around a bonfire, we personally felt that too. A sisterhood of young girls coming together to celebrate their womanhood and togetherness? Honestly, what’s not to love there?
If you’re wondering what we’re talking about, it’s this one:
TragikKomedi MULA (1)
What ties this video to what we’re talking about, you might be wondering? Well, here’s where four S’s surrounding the ideations of feminism, community and what it means to be an empowered woman in today’s ever-polarizing landscape comes in. Realized under Monki, whose existence has been centred around empowering young women across the globe, “Seven Sisters Salute Sisterhood” combines the facets of art and feminism as a finished body of work to live on and persevere at Monki’s Pavilion KL store.
Having commissioned seven local female creatives to mold works of art that revolve around what “Salute Sisterhood”, means to each of them, the creators have birthed resounding bodies of work that invoke their understanding of the theme whilst interweaving their personal styles of art into the seams of their creations. Varying in art forms, the seven bodies of work represent the artists themselves – creators known for their illustrations, murals, and conceptual visual artworks.
To shed some light on the “Seven Sisters Salute Sisterhood”, MulaZine writer Amelia Natasha took on a chance to interview Shari Jaffri, who frequently goes by Tragikomedi on Instagram. In this short but very concise interview, Amelia discusses topics on feminism, the modern culture of art and its consumption of it, and what it means to be a creator in this very digital world that we live in today.
Link to the video is on our instagram.
Amelia: Hi Shari! Thank you for taking the time out of your day to have this interview with Mula. Before we start, I think the question that we all want to know is this – Who is Tragikomedi?
Tragikomedi: Hi Amelia. Thank you for your question. I think to start off as simply as possible, Tragikomedi is me and I am her. Tragikomedi is a persona that I, Sheri Jaffri, created. I birthed her as a way for me to have a discussion on the highs and lows of life. The persona of Tragikomedi is in itself a juxtaposition as I believe that is what life is – both tragic and comedic.
A: Thank you so much for that! I love your work and how relatable it is. How did you come about creating the name “Tradikomedi”?
TK: The name is actually a word in the English language. When I was searching for names, I was looking for a way to show how two things can live together in a single entity – and these were the two literary devices I found most of my comfort in. Tragicomedy, from what I have come to learn is a literary genre that has been used time and time again in fictional tales in movies and books. I decided on using this as a starting point for creating my artist persona. Being Malaysian, where language and culture are both colloquial and a mix of everything, I decided on naming my alter ego in Malay and I decided on going with that.
A: That is really nice. It really encapsulates your identity as a creator and represents the work you do really well. In line with your identity, do you think your upbringing influenced your artistic practice or do you spend time researching before realizing your works of art?
TK: A lot of my work, is actually centred around my upbringing. As a child, I was introverted and a lot of that is highlighted in my works as well. Growing up, I felt like I was always in the back seat and paying attention to what people talked and laughed about. I was raised in Petaling Jaya and there are nuances to certain neighbourhoods and even inside jokes shared between neighbours in my art pieces that I reminisce about even today. I do believe that my upbringing plays a pivotal role in the art that I create. As for research, what I can say about it is that when I am in the creative process, a lot of the time things take place organically. The art that I create is based on my immediate surroundings. It’s a slice of life, viewed through my focal understanding. The work that I make is an outlet almost for me to reflect and meditate on what goes around me.
A: So, would you say that a lot of your art acts as an outlet to process what you’re going through at a specific moment in time?
TK: Definitely! A great example of that would be when I was going through a breakup during the pandemic. I was cycling through my anxieties about COVID and oddly enough, when all of these life-changing moments were taking place, I was actively avoiding Taman Tun. It was the place where my ex and I used to meet. I then created a Tragikomedi post about the situation and many people could relate to that. That’s how some of my works come to life; my working process one could say.
A: That’s a very relatable thing to do – avoiding places and doing things when it reminds you of the person you have detached yourself from. Thank you for sharing that.
TK: I agree, and you’re welcome!
A: Moving on, do you mind sharing some of the hardest things that come with success and making it here in Malaysia?
TK: The conversations around the success of an artist in Malaysia are heavily tied to conventional stereotypes. Sometimes they’re really superficial, where the questions revolve around the topics of how many followers one has, how much money one makes and who are the insiders that you know in the industry. It’s jarring to see these questions come up sometimes. When I started Tragikomedi, these were not questions I even thought about as I was using my platform as an outlet for self-expression. But as Tragikomedi grew, it became challenging to try to not pay attention to these topics. It’s been a journey to learn and unlearn how I navigate social media. The comments that I receive sometimes can be nasty and what I’ve learnt from this is to simply have thicker skin and not rely on the varied ideas of success that people have.
A: I really love and admire this. Thank you for sharing that. As for your work, a lot of it recently has revolved around the themes of community. How do you balance the needs of your community and your own personal and creative needs?
TK: When I create something, I try to put myself in the shoes of the people in my community. We go through somewhat similar experiences, but we don’t really talk about it or have ways to express it. This is how I find a balance between the needs of my community and myself. The artworks that I create are drawn from these pillars. It can be a challenge in terms of drawing boundaries when I personally am left wondering if my art is too private to be shared with the world or if it’s too dark and explores themes that are not typically discussed. The key takeaway that I personally have learnt as a creator is that I’m still learning – learning what to keep and what to share.
A: I agree. As for your comedy pieces, is there a reason why you approach these pieces in Manglish as opposed to using either Malay or English?
TK: I chose to express my art in this way as it’s more conversational. The lingo and the proximity in conveying these pieces in Manglish allows me to connect with my audience members in a more human way – a Malaysian way even. There are some pieces that I create that are accompanied entirely in English that can be understood by foreign audiences. But maintaining a Malaysian touch in my art is important to my viewers and myself.
A: That’s amazing. I love how you’re creating pieces that can cater to all genres of audiences.
TK: It’s crazy because some of my followers live in the countries surrounding Malaysia and I receive messages and comments from them, from time to time on how they too can relate to my works when I create works that are fully in the Malay language. I didn’t realize this but inhabitants from Nusantara countries really resonate with my work as well.
A: Thank you for sharing that! Let’s talk about your recent work in conjunction with Monki’s Seven Sisters Salute Sisterhood campaign for their Pavilion store opening. What was your experience like and what about sisterhood did you learn from this experience?
TK: The opportunity was an amazing one, to say the least. I’ve always loved Monkiand it was amazing for them to reach out to me for this initiative. My work, a lot of it has been molded by other women creators and artists before me. They have uplifted me and supported me with my work. Being a creative can be a very lonely and isolating experience sometimes. Having a community is very necessary to me. It helps you feel connected and close to “hold your hand” through this journey. I was just telling a peer earlier that the Salute Sisterhood campaign has been so fruitful. Some of the artists in the lineup are people that I know personally and that makes me feel very proud and honoured to know that they are also receiving the necessary platform to uplift their artist journey. I find it marvellous to see Monki championing, not only those from the local art scene but specifically women creators in the local art scene.
The new concept store, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, will welcome customers on the 3rd of December from 11 AM in Pavillion Kuala Lumpur, with the festivities going on until 10 PM. Presenting the seven sisters saluting sisterhood Dianne Tahir, Florence Khoo, Nurul Atika, Sarah Reza, Shari Jaffri, Sharina Shahrin and Shobhana Nair. Read more about the artists and the Seven Sisters Salute Sisterhood campaign on Monki.