In both Indonesia and Myanmar, cultural practices and phenomena have unique approaches to gender. In Indonesia, encroaching conservatism threatens their ancient tradition, while Myanmar has become a haven for marginalised genders.
In South Sulawesi, Indonesia, the Bissu are the ‘fifth gender’ within their society. Instead of identifying as cisgender men, women, trans-men or trans-women, they see themselves as gender-transcendent. For hundreds of years, they have occupied the traditional role of shaman or priest. Stemming from pre-Islamic times, the Bissu still play an essential part in rituals and ceremonies such as healing the sick, securing crop harvests and blessing pilgrimages to Mecca.
Nat Kadaw are spirit mediums in Myanmar. Stemming from pre-Buddhist times, they continue to be popular with the Buddhist population. Although traditionally a role carried on from mother to daughter, it is now also a respectable role in society for the gay and trans community.
Transcendent was reshown as part of Queertography – a Head On exhibition during Sydney Mardi Gras 2023 for World Pride.
Marc Aziz Ressang is a Dutch photographer and filmmaker based in Asia. His work deals with the fraught histories of places and the impact they have on their inhabitants. He explores the diverse human experience by observing the flux of culture and society.
By combining video and stills, his work is characterized by a thoughtful curiosity about people’s surroundings. He frames places and stories through interconnecting themes, questioning and re-framing popular cultural perceptions.
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