The House of the Raja
Thailand’s troubled Deep South, seldom visited by Westerners, formerly encompassed the Sultanate of Patani, annexed around a century ago by Siam. Its history has been deliberately buried, the vernacular Malay culture supressed and its language curbed. Today, the region is struggling due to Muslim insurgent attacks and repression by Thai armed forces.
Forgotten there, stands a dilapidated wooden palace once home to a Malay ruler, the last of his dynasty. Locals know little about it, but call it the “House of the Raja”, a place suffused with loss and solitude. Intrigued by this borderland, I chanced upon this mysterious house that seemed, somehow, more than just a building. The caretaker, a Muslim shaman who held rituals inside, invited me to stay and initiated me into its hidden dimensions. As I built a bond of trust with the obscure inhabitants of the house, fragments of undocumented history gently emerged, revealing a long-hidden culture in which the real and the magical entwine and the building’s ties to the centuries old struggles in this contested region.
“The House of the Raja”, my first book both as photographer and writer, is testament to which refuses to become lost to the past. It illuminates the whispers and secrets of history, evoking a realm of hauntings, mystic powers and fading memories.
Poignantly, only a few days after the book was launched, the house collapsed, like a moribund soul, that despite its suffering, had held on just long enough to allow its testimony to be imprinted.