Nearly Mary Oliphant Prize.


Inez’s work interrogates the monstrous feminine within Malaysian folklore to challenge the oppressive patriarchal systems held together by tradition and culture. This rebellion against the systemic misogyny that plagues the Malayan society manifests as the home of a female monster—a collection of visceral assemblages of cultural objects and grotesque bodily sculptures (or what Inez refers to as ‘monsters’) incorporated into a walkthrough installation that resembles a traditional domestic household.

The installation, M(O)thered Meat (2023), pays homage to the Southeast Asian female monster, the Pontianak, a defiant figure within Malaysian culture that opposes the patriarchal paradigm of the ‘ideal woman’ in relation to the behavioural, physiological and aesthetic expectations of the female body. In this work, Inez disrupts this narrative by reframing the Pontianak as a symbol of feminist empowerment and rebellion against misogyny by harnessing the abject aesthetic and feminine monstrosity that exists within Malaysian folklore.

The artist seeks to evoke a physiological response within the viewer through the grotesque works (inciting feelings such as repulsion, aversion or empathy) to provoke a personal interrogation into the rationale behind such visceral reactions. This discomfort sets the stage to insight conversations surrounding the female experience, the expectations of the female body and foreign forms that rattle the social order. 

The Pontianak’s home incorporates traditional Malaysian household objects and deconstructed elements of her monstrosity. These found objects sit alongside visceral silicone ‘monsters’ which act as sites of trauma to construct politically charged assemblages that address issues surrounding the repressed corporeal female body and women’s rights in Malaysia.

These elements, which ordinarily power her monstrosity, are here unravelled and re-contextualised, allowing the viewer to perceive the Southeast Asian vampire through a familiar and empathetic lens, repositioning the horrific monster as a relatable Malaysian woman.

The boundaries that limit these repressed narratives to women’s private spheres are torn down, bringing much-needed conversations concerning the female body to the public realm. The viewer is invited to walk through the trauma and the absent narratives of Malaysian women that are embodied within the work, thus provoking a necessary feminist discourse into the systemic misogyny that plagues Malaysian society held in place by tradition and culture.


Kara Inez Saheran, ‘Bum Bug’, 2023
Kara Inez Saheran, ‘M(O)THERED MEAT’, 2023 [Installation view: solo exhibition – The Backroom Gallery, Kuala Lumpur]
Kara Inez Saheran, ‘M(O)THERED MEAT’, 2023 [Installation view: solo exhibition – The Backroom Gallery, Kuala Lumpur]
Kara Inez Saheran, ‘Naughty Nipple’, 2023.
Kara Inez Saheran, ‘Nipple Vessels’, 2023
Kara Inez Saheran, ‘Monster Walk’, 2023 [Performance documentation]                                   
Kara Inez Saheran, Work-in-progress documentation, 2023
Kara Inez Saheran, ‘Malaysian Vibes’, 2022Kara Inez Saheran, ‘Kueh Yaz’, 2023



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Kara Inez Saheran