Naked or nude? | Selangor Times
Issue 118


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Naked or nude?
Writer: Sharyn Shufiyan
Published: Fri, 01 Jun 2012

What is the difference between being naked and being nude? Do they both mean the same thing, to be without clothes, to let it “all hang loose”?

Or do they evoke different meanings, different reactions?

Kenneth Clark asserted that being naked is simply being without clothes, whereas nude is a form of art: “The word nude, on the other hand, carries, in educated usage, no uncomfortable overtone. The vague image it projects into the mind is not of a huddled and defenceless body, but of a balanced, prosperous and confident body: the body re-formed.”

John Berger, on the other hand, looked at European Renaissance paintings of nude women and asserted that “to be naked is to be oneself; to be nude is to be seen naked by others and yet not recognized for oneself. A nude has to be seen as an object.”

Sounds fancy doesn’t? It’s like calling an orange, tangerine. On the physical level, they both look similar that sometimes we think they’re one of the same but then once you peeled the layers, you can taste the differences.

The difference between being naked and being nude is not so much on the physical aspects of the body but of how people see the body.

Put it simply, a naked woman arranged or modeled, in a particular way and her image being captured for a particular audience, whilst conscious that she is to be looked at, is then considered nude. It is nakedness on display.

Whereas being naked is being with our raw and rude body, for what it is with all its creases, hair, stretch marks and other imperfections of our bodies in our own private space.

An image only means something when we ascribe meanings to that image. How we ascribe these meanings are subjected to our values, social environment and belief systems.

We are nurtured to have certain ways of seeing, developed certain aesthetic vocabulary and understanding of the visual. Our eyes take in the visual cues and our minds then categorically arrange these cues into something that we can comprehend.

The process of filtering takes place as soon as we consume. And then we judge as we make sense of these cues.

How we see something is always influenced by an external factor or are guided by a figure of authority. A painting becomes valuable when someone of substantial standing regards it as valuable.

A photo makes it to the front page because the editor wants it to frame the story in a particular way. The curator of an exhibition filters submissions in order to create a story.

There were many images of Bersih 3.0 circulating both in print and online media. People were constantly sharing and distributing images that they like, that they want others to see.

We don’t just share a photo for the sake of sharing a photo; we are trying to make a statement knowing that there is an audience. We can know one’s principles through which photos he or she forwards.

There were images of police violence and images of protester violence. There were images of peaceful, carnival-like gatherings and images of catapulting tear gases.

There were images of smiling people and images of injured people. All these took place. But we are all guilty of bias, because we have already filtered these images before we set them out.

For those who participated, they were circulating images that they took themselves, of events that took place that day through their own lenses, partly as a reaction to mainstream media whom they feel was biased in their reporting, and partly to justify the cause and to prove to skeptics that it was “peaceful”. From both sides, pro- and anti-, people were trying to show the “real” Bersih 3.0. And how we make sense of these images depends on our ways of seeing; the violent protesters were “planted”, the police were “defending” themselves.

From both sides, they were “attacked”.

The most controversial image and perhaps the most talked about was the hand signal exchange between Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and Azmin Ali.

The classic example of he says, she says, supporters were reiterating that they were negotiating with the police while opponents were reiterating that he had instigated the breach. Whatever the true intentions were, we only had an inaudible video and photos to judge the actions leading up to the infamous breach. So it was really up to our own interpretations. After all, what does a set of hand signals really mean? And who create these meanings? Most of us were not there to verify what had transpired between the two, and even for those who were, the confusion and ambiguity at the time didn’t do much justice either.

For all we know, they were just playing lat tali lat tamplom. Were they naked, or nude?



 Selangor Times



Also by Sharyn Shufiyan:

It’s all in the lyrics

WHEN you listen to a song, what is it about that song that would hold your attention for four minutes? 

Syncretism of cultural beliefs

WHEN different groups of people exist in the same environment, integration often takes place. 


The end of the world?

Will love or faith prevail?

WILL love or faith prevail? That is the premise of “Nadirah”, a play written by Alfian Sa’at and directed by Jo Kukathas staged recently at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

Pluralism is not a bad thing!

Last month, my partner and I checked out our friends’ ongoing community arts project, Have a Holy-Day! in Brickfields. Like first class busybodies, we hung around for about an hour or so and snapped some pictures as proof that we were there.

Response to the Responses of Suara Cicit Tunku Abdul Rahman

Sharyn Shufiyan takes a detour from talking about current affairs to talking about her current affair. 

The imaginary boundary

Work takes me to Sabah and Sarawak quite often lately, home to two of the longest rivers in Malaysia. 

The universality of fasting

It’s that time of the year again when Muslims test their patience, refrain from worldly desires, and increase their piety.

Displaced by development

Branding Politics

Raving about Rave

Rave isn’t really my scene but I will enjoy a good night out anytime.

A Thai in our midst

"It was way back in 1956, at a time when the then Malaya was on the verge of gaining independence that the idea of building a sizable Buddhist temple close to the federal capital of Kuala Lumpur was first conceived. The temple was also to reflect the status of Buddhism as one of the major religions in the country, and also serve as a symbol of the long standing close relationship that existed between Thailand and Malaya.”

Reaching new heights

Walking into the concourse of Batu Caves, one is greeted by majestic structures of Hindu deities, temples and swarms of pigeons flapping just inches above your head. Macaques blend into the landscape amongst worshippers and tourists, making their way up the 272 steps to the Temple Cave.

Please flush after use

November 19th was World Toilet Day! What better way to celebrate World Toilet Day than to address our toilet habits?

Aren’t we all dirty minded?

Taking shelter from the rain, I walked into a Chinese coffee shop occupied by uncles playing mahjong. In small towns like Kuang, an outsider stands out like a sore thumb. At one point while I was on the phone, the uncles stopped playing and stared at me. “They thought you are a police,” said Uncle Chong, who came to sit next to me.

Picking on the right hemisphere

I’m the worst early riser, ever. But on that particular Saturday, I was actually looking forward to it. The plan was for us to gather in front of SK Sentul Utama. Walking up to the school, I could see the field marshals wearing cute tentacles on their heads, checking in other enthusiasts and assigning them into groups.

A play of lights

As we turned the corner, bright lights greeted us from a distance. With the dark of the night in the background, shades of red, blue, green and white burst into view. We were entering a neon forest.

Leaving and arriving: The non-place

A Caucasian couple with a toddler on tow walked out of the arrival hall. As the parents’ attention was focused on a row of men holding up name placards, the toddler, lying face down, dragged himself along the marble floor, as if licking it, then got up and mischievously scurried away.

Making use of the great outdoors

When I first heard of Broga, I thought it was in Spain or Latin America. It didn’t sound local to my ear. Located on the border of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, it is believed that Broga earned its name from Buragas, a mystical beast that lives in the forest.











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