Forgotten in Thailand’s troubled Deep South, on the border of Malaysia, stands a dilapidated wooden palace once home to a Malay ruler, the last of his dynasty. Locals call it the ‘House of the Raja’, a place suffused with loss and solitude, laden with the region’s glorious past and tragic present. Intrigued by this little-known borderland, Xavier Comas chances upon this mysterious house, built in the Terengganu style. Crossing the doorway, he falls under its spell and feels compelled to delve into its past. The caretaker, Ayoh-ha, a Malay bomoh, or shaman, who holds rituals inside, invites the author to stay and initiates him into its hidden dimensions. Two Malay sisters and their children have also made their home amid the crumbling walls and falling roofs – Faridah serves as Ayoh-ha’s acolyte in his healing rituals, while Fatimah is convinced she is cursed. As Comas builds a bond of trust with the Muslim inhabitants of the house, the missing pieces of its history gently fall into place, revealing an ancient culture long hidden and the building’s ties to the centuries-old struggles in this contested region. Comas’ evocative travelogue take us into a realm of hauntings, mystic powers and buried histories.
About the author
Author and photographer Xavier Comas is a fine arts graduate of the University of Barcelona, whose work has been published and exhibited in Europe and Asia, as well as being featured by prominent magazines throughout the world. The Singapore Art Museum exhibited his installation Pasajero in 2009 and acquired his Jiutamai series as a permanent collection. In researching The House of the Raja, Comas immersed himself in the Deep South of Thailand for over a year and returns regularly.