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Pattani Artists Strive to Alter its Violent Image




The beaches of Pattani, located in the heart of Thailand’s Deep South, are pristine but largely uninhabited, void of tourists due to years of political unrest and strife.

Outsiders rarely visit this province because the predominantly Muslim and Malay-speaking border region is synonymous with a decades-long separatist armed insurgency.

But artists and residents of Pattani, a longtime centre of the salt trade in Thailand’s far south, are working to change this negative perception by showcasing the region’s unique artistic and cultural heritage.

Hadee Hamidong, an organizer of Pattani Decoded, a creative and design art exhibition that began in 2019 but was postponed for 2 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, stated, “We want to tell a different story.”

“We wish to alter the violent image and reveal a second layer. There is much more to this than just those events. There are individuals and various aspects of life. He told BenarNews that history and heritage date back centuries.

This year’s art exhibition was themed “Deep Salt.” According to Hadee, the exhibition, which was held in Pattani town and other locations at the beginning of September, drew an estimated 30,000 visitors.

One of the venues was a nearby salt farm where an artist had installed a work.

Patani Artspace, comprised of ten art galleries, was organizing a parallel local arts festival scheduled to run until late November in towns in Pattani and other provinces in the Deep South.

Pattani in southern Thailand has long been a centre for harvesting sea salt and a trading hub for exporting salt to China and other international markets. This variety is referred to as “sweet salt” due to its mild flavour.

sea salt thailand

However, salt farming has declined significantly in recent years due to climate change, unpredictable seasons, and untimely rainfall.

Abdul Ka-bu, a local salt farmer, says, “It is difficult to work that requires soil, water, and sunlight.” We can no longer rely on them as we did in the past.

A veteran salt farmer lamented in a video displayed at the exhibit that he sold only ten sacks of salt in 2021, compared to 500 to 600 sacks a few years earlier.

The Deep South is one of the nation’s poorest regions. According to a World Bank report, the poverty rate in Pattani province is 34.2%, compared to the national rate of 6%.

The exhibit organized by Hadee also included art and design displays, handicrafts and calligraphy, musical performances, workshops on block-making, boat painting, batik-fabric painting, and cooking demonstrations.

Hadee, a member of Melayu Living, an artists’ cooperative based in Pattani, stated, “We want to promote our local identity, local culture, local heritage, local costume, and local knowledge.”


“Field Work,” an installation by Thai artist Savinee Buranasilapin, is seen in the middle of a salt farm near Pattani town, in Thailand’s Deep South, as part of an art exhibit

“Field Work” by architect-artist Savinee Buranasilapin consisted of 600 small circular mirrors mounted on steel rods and planted in the middle of salt flats at Na Kluea Laem Nok, just outside the city.

It was designed to reflect Pattani’s salt trade history when merchant ships docked near the city’s glittering lights.

For his exhibition, 40-year-old artist and fabric designer Nattapon Pichairat drew plants found near salt fields on paper and digitally printed them on fabric.


Artist Emsophian Benjametha poses behind his artwork, “the Salt of Life,” during an exhibition in Pattani city, Thailand.

“I chose to draw plants because they are these beautiful little objects that bring immense happiness and a sense of tranquilly… He stated that he desired to “reimagine the city as a cultural hub” and to “tell others about Pattani’s beauty and nature and the surrounding areas.”

In “Le Sel de La Vie [the Salt of Life],” Emsophian Benjametha displayed handcrafted ceramic items inspired by Pattani’s “sweet salt” from production to destination.

“Without salt, life cannot exist. Without life, art cannot exist. “There is no civilization without art,” he stated.

“All are welcome in Pattani, a small city with a big heart and a long and illustrious history. It is not bombs and peril.

Emsophian, a 43-year-old French-trained designer and artist, says, “There are many good things here: craft, design, food, and old houses.”


Thailand to Ramp Up Sea Salt Production in 2023

The region that now comprises the Deep South was formerly the centre of a Muslim principality encompassing many adjacent provinces. The British gave it to Thailand, which in 1909 annexed the territory.

Since the 1960s, secessionist groups have been engaged in a rebellion.

Rueanglada Punyalikhit, a professor at Silpakorn University, stated that events such as “Deep Salt” assist the region in shedding its violent reputation.

As part of this initiative, she stated that she was assisting local entrepreneurs in creating innovative natural products, such as herbs, foods, beverages, textiles, and handicrafts, derived from locally accessible raw materials.

Rueanglada said, “It is inexcusable that violence alone defines your identity.” “From the outside, the situation appears bleak due to reports of violence. When you come here, however, you will see that life is normal and not as dangerous as others believe.”

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