Artist Akkara Naktamna’s ironic sense of humor and ambivalence toward the Buddhist faith manifests in his latest solo exhibition Demonic. This set displays a series of photos that question the sanctity of the Buddhist faith, and trains the spotlight on the perceived downfall of Buddhism in the last few years, as revealed in scandalous issues involving temples being accused of fund fraud or monks wearing designer clothing while traveling in a luxurious jet.
Akkara, himself a Buddhist, plays up flash photography to reveal the “demons” hiding within the folds of a monk’s saffron-colored gown. Each photograph reveals a chilling image of blackened hands holding up different artifacts, meant to symbolize transgressions against the basic principles of Buddhism.
Each photograph hides a profound and provocative meaning, stripping these vestments off their sacred representation, and bringing forth the realization of how close the “demon” is to us or how we may have been fooled by the figures we once thought were our spiritual anchors. One photo, for instance, of a demon holding a doll in his hands portrays the immoral circumstance of a monk having physical contact with an underaged girl.
The young photographer realizes that this abstract, yet eye-opening, series may produce both backlash and criticism, given that Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country. “Well, if they look closer, they will know that I’m not talking about Buddhism in general but of specific circumstances,” Akkara says. “Buddism didn’t teach us to believe, but to think critically before believing. So I hope that the viewers criticize consciously.”