Ever since she was a kid, Lala Bohang dreamed about publishing her own book. Growing up in Palu, a relatively remote city in Central Sulawesi, books became Lala’s best friends. But when she moved to Jakarta to pursue her studies, she put that dream on hold for a while and carved out a career as artist and illustrator.
“Artwork is not accessible to everyone, as it is only exhibited in a space for a certain amount of time. There is nothing wrong with that, and I love doing it because the connection between me and the audience is instant and magical, but I also want my work to be permanent in a more accessible way,” Lala explains.
To publish a book seemed to be the most natural way to achieve this goal, so when Gramedia Pustaka Utama asked Lala to develop a book, giving her creative freedom in terms of content and aesthetics, she was excited. After an intense phase of drawing and writing, Lala eventually published “The Book of Forbidden Feelings”.
“The inspiration was simple,” Lala says. “I wanted to speak about things, thoughts, emotions that are currently hidden within society’s obsession towards a picture-perfect life. Everything is always positive. But humans are multi-layered creatures. We are not always happy, we are not always sad. We are not simple, and we need to embrace every layer and fragment within ourselves to become a whole and complete living creature.”
“The Book of Forbidden Feelings” features Lala’s signature whimsical characters, yet what at first glance may seem like adorable drawings, carries a deeper meaning: there is nothing wrong with being sad or melancholy once in a while, with wanting to be alone and with binge-watching TV shows while eating huge amounts of junk food. Perfection is often just an illusion.
“I placed a drawing at the end of the book, saying ‘this is not a motivational book’, but people who tagged me on social media said they felt motivated through this non-motivational way to be free, real, honest and pursue what they truly want in life,” Lala says.
The positive response fueled Lala’s love for art. Therefore, in conjunction with her book launch, she organized the exhibition “The Museum of Forbidden Feelings”.
“After having a discussion with my friends, we had this simple idea: why don’t we invite some people to lend us their personal belongings that evoke ‘forbidden feelings’ - I thought it was an amazing idea because it felt very genuine,” Lala recalls.
The 72 objects in the exhibition represent secrets and forbidden feelings and celebrate imperfection; most of them were contributions from Lala’s good friends and colleagues.
“This project was a collective effort,” Lala says, adding that she appreciates her friends’ willingness to lay bare their souls and inner selves for the exhibition. “I felt closer to them than ever before. Every time an object arrived at my house and I received a story in my inbox, my friends became vulnerable. I felt like I was talking to them in person. It was simply magical.”
Looking ahead, Lala can’t say for certain what will come next - but something will for sure.
“I usually take inspiration from my own obsession with what I love and hate,” she explains. “Now I am still in my resting phase and need to empty myself again, so a new obsession can grow in an organic and hoepfully genuine way.”