• Thu. Dec 7th, 2023

Malaysian artist Red Hong Yi tackles racism through art.

Jun 24, 2021

The spate of anti-Asian sentiment and racist attacks stemming from ignorance about coronavirus have been making the news the world over – from a Singaporean student who was punched in London, a two-year-old Asian-American and her family in Texas, United States, who were stabbed, and another Singaporean student and friend hurt in a racist attack in Melbourne.

Such assaults against Asians are becoming frighteningly regular and there is also a long list surrounding racial intimidation and blatant, or casual xenophobia.

This has led to Malaysian artist Red Hong Yi, who goes by the moniker Red, speaking up through a new series of portraits titled I Am Not A Virus.

Red will be speaking on the subject of racism on the REALINK 2021 program, organised by the Lutheran Community Care Services and will be on ‘live’ on their Facebook and Youtube channels on 25 June at 7.30pm.

“It is from a hashtag on Twitter that started in France, #Jenesuispasunvirus, to push back against racist incidents related to coronavirus,” she explained to The Star.

“Asians have been punched in the face, spat on, yelled at and turned away just based on their ethnicities. In my series, I highlight the stories of these people.”

Red describes such incidents as worrying and sad, pointing out that it has certainly not helped when world leaders used racial slurs against a certain group of people when the world is panicking and scared about the virus situation.

“That just divides and creates even more fear. 

“I want to believe that most people are kind and understanding, and that racism exists in the minority. I have an international following and thought I could use my platform to speak out against this,” says the artist, who hails from Kota Kinabalu.

Racism exists everywhere, in every skin colour, every country, every culture, she adds and she wants people to be aware of that and “make the conscious decision to stop it and to speak up against it.”

“Even if the virus started with the handful of Chinese people, even if 9-11 was caused by a handful of religious extremists, and even if the landlords of an apartment here had some bad experiences with African tenants – it does not justify taking it out on the rest of the people who are just trying to live their lives, just because they are of the same ethnicity. 

“We need to learn to respect, understand, love and care for each other moving forward,” she said.

Red, a trained architect, first shot to fame for her large-scale portrait of basketball player Yao Ming which she painted using a basketball dipped in red paint in 2012.

Known for her use of unusual media, the ongoing I Am Not A Virus is created in the same spirit, with pieces made from items you can find in your pantry.

Check out her I Am Not A Virus series on her website.

Photos: Red Hong Yi