The particular shared lives of Malaysia’s skinheads

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For her recent project Disciples , Jess Kohl travels to Kuala Lumpur, meeting the nation’s punk subculture

Once a year, Malaysia’s skinheads meet for dinner. MASKAD, the Malaysia Skinhead Annual Supper & Festival, unites the particular nation’s punk scene, getting various political ideologies and found families together under one roof. Across the world at occasions such as MASKAD, punk lives on. Jess Kohl’s latest project, Disciples , documents the lives of Kuala Lumpur’s skinheads, with just who she spent 10 days.  

“My work often looks at youth culture and identity, as I’m interested in those who are on a journey, coming to conditions with their identity in some way, ” Kohl explains. Her over projects have explored passing strange lives along the American Scriptures Belt, the Philippine punk scene, and Buttmitzvah, London’s queer Jewish club night.

From the series ‘Moda Moody’, © Jess Khol.

“I study an article about the skinhead scene in Malaysia, and it explained there were two opposing factions: a very kind of strong anti-fascist movement, and then, a neo-nazi movement, ” Kohl explains. ‘Skinhead’ —as a fashion, politic, and culture — can summon differing images for different people. The iconography finds its origins within the punk music scene from the 70s. The characteristic shaved head of skinheads has become a style adopted by each sides of the political compass. For Disciples , Kohl collaborated with the anti-fascist skinhead movement, a group she have been in contact with for many years prior.  

Kohl’s compassion and friendship with the group are crystal clear. The images depict the group as a family, united through shared beliefs and iconography. “Ultimately it is documentary, but I want my work to straddle the line between documentary and art, ” the lady explains. ” [The group’s] beliefs are very anti-fascist, and they spend time at this location 10 floors up within this unassuming building. You go in the lift and then down a corridor into this space, which has been turned into a DO-IT-YOURSELF gig space. There are signs everywhere that say ‘no homophobia, no racism. ”

From the series ‘Moda Moody’, © Jess Khol.

“I have individual experience in trying to find the place where parts of my identity can easily coexist with my andersrum (umgangssprachlich) identity. I’ve been drawn to documenting these kinds of experiences, ” Kohl continues. Malaysia is really a majority Muslim nation, and faith works in tandem with the groups punk politics. Contrasting stereotypical understandings associated with religion as conservative, conventional, and restrictive, Disciples   demonstrates the realities of contemporary religious life.  

At the centre of Disciples , Kohl proves that the spirit associated with punk — its picture, its music, and its beliefs — live on. Across the world, messages of unity, solidarity, along with a rejection of fascism are heard. The skinheads of Malaysia, and indeed skinheads around the world, exemplify the sub-culture’s relentless strive for self-expression, and the kinds of communities it can create.

From your series ‘Moda Moody’, © Jess Khol.

Isaac Huxtable

Isaac Huxtable joined the British Journal of Pictures in October 2020, in which he is currently the Editorial Helper. Prior to this, he examined a BA in History associated with Art at the Courtauld Instititue of Art, London.

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