Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Weekly S.E.A. Radar: Vietnamese artwork ruined; Myanmar rocket festival

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ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region. Here’s a round-up of content from this week, scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms, and brought together in one article for convenient reading.

Redefining masculinity: Garin Nugroho’s ‘Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku’ explores the nuances of gender identity through its protagonist, Juno. The character is based on the life of ‘lengger’ dancer Rianto. (Courtesy of IMDB.com/-)

Palembang adds fuel to controversy over Garin’s ‘Memories of My Body’
The Jakarta Post

The Palembang administration has demanded that Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku be pulled from theaters across the South Sumatra city amid concerns over its “negative content”.

Released internationally as Memories of My Body, the film by acclaimed director Garin Nugroho was accorded the Cultural Diversity Award of the 2018 Asia Pacific Screen Awards (APSA) and has been screened at several international film festivals, including Rotterdam and Venice, and at UNESCO’s Paris headquarters.

Palembang city secretary Ratu Dewa has urged the South Sumatra Broadcasting Commission (KPID) to issue an immediate ban on screenings of Kucumbu Tubuh Indahku[Read more…]

Muhammad Haji Salleh, Mamta Sagar and Jayapriya Vasudevan during Commonwealth Writers Conversation (Photo: Nazry Bahrawi)

In pursuit of Bandung
Commonwealth Writers

It has only been four months but 2019 has been nothing short of delightful in my journey as a literary translator. During this period, I had begun a cultural residency at the Toji Cultural Centre in South Korea, contributed as a judge for the first ever literary translation prize in Singapore for Bahasa poetry in English, and spoke to some international publishers who are keen on learning about the world of Malay literature.

But the most defining event for me has to be the Commonwealth Writers Translation Symposium early last month. I think fondly of the few humid days that I had spent with fellow translators, publishers and a literary agent from the Commonwealth countries of Asia. We were at the island part of Penang, one half of two Malaysian states recognised collectively as a UNESCO world heritage site. Most of our time was spent in intense discussions upstairs of the beautiful bookshop called Hikayat, the intellectual hub of this once former Straits Settlement. Hikayat is managed by the hospitable former TV personality turned entrepreneur Bettina Khan as well as the erudite and wry editor, Gareth Richards.

Our overarching concern centred on the state of literary translation in our little corners of the world. [Read more…]

Pa’O ethnic people watch the launching of a homemade rocket during a festival in Nantar, Shan state, on April 29, 2019. (AFP/Ye Aung Thu)

 

Dragons and wizards fired up at Myanmar rocket festival
The Jakarta Post

Clad in elaborate headdresses representing dragons and wizards, Myanmar’s ethnic Pa’O fire huge, homemade rockets into the sky — an annual call for plentiful rains and a chance for a windfall of cash.

The Pa’O are one of the largest of the country’s minority groups, numbering around 1.2 million people and living mainly in Shan state’s highlands.

They are overwhelmingly Buddhist but many intertwine animism with their faith, believing they descend from a she-dragon and a wizard with mystical powers, known as a “weiza”. [Read more…]

A visitor takes a selfie in the midst of an art work featuring houses made of cardboards on display at De La Salle university museum in Manila on April 26, 2019. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP)

Intricate cardboard city rises in Manila art show
Malay Mail

MANILA, April 30 — A twisting maze of tiny buildings crafted from discarded cardboard boxes is the heart of an eye-catching art piece in the Philippines highlighting the humble material’s value to millions of people.

In a nation where nearly a quarter of the population lives on less than US$2 (RM6) per day, cardboard is a cheap and abundant material used for shelter, bedding and furniture.

While the installation was originally made in and patterned on the south-western Chinese city of Chengdu, the Filipino artists behind the work told AFP the use of cardboard packs more meaning in Manila. [Read more…]

The overall depth of Nguyen Gia Tri’s ‘Vuon Xuan Trung Nam Bac’ lacquer painting before and after cleaning are observably different in these photos uploaded on Facebook by Pham Thanh Toan.

Vietnam’s ‘national treasure’ painting severely damaged after cleaning
Tuoi Tre News

A lacquer painting by renowned painter Nguyen Gia Tri has suffered from irreversible damage after the artwork, considered a national treasure of Vietnam, was removed for a scheduled cleaning at a museum in Ho Chi Minh City last year.

Vuon Xuan Trung Nam Bac (Spring Garden of the Central, South and North Regions) was the final work of Nguyen Gia Tri, done over a period of 20 years between 1969 and 1989.

The lacquer painting depicts girls in traditional costumes of central, southern and northern Vietnam interacting with nature and their surroundings.

It is listed as a national treasure by the Department of Cultural Heritage for being the epitome of lacquer arts in Vietnam, done over the longest period of time by one of the leading pillars of Vietnamese contemporary arts. [Read more…]

Planet Krypton. Photos courtesy of WTF Gallery and Café

New exhibition challenges black-and-white view of society
Bangkok Post

Discussing Thai society and its current political situation can be a highly sensitive matter. It seems there’s a thin line between being labelled a hero or a villain. The same actions may be hailed by one side as patriotic and the other as treasonous.

Local activist and former lèse-majesté prisoner, Pronthip Mankhong has teamed up with radical artist Pisitkun Kuantalaeng for a superhero-themed art exhibition titled “Planet Krypton”, revisiting Pronthip’s two-year stint in prison.

Planet Krypton, which opened last week at WTF Gallery and Cafe on Sukhumvit 51, uses interactive multimedia installations to expose the ambiguities in our attitudes and the realities that society so often tries to ignore. The hope is that the experience will challenge people’s ideas about society and what is right and wrong. [Read more…]

Malaysia’s preeminent art patron and collector, Zain Azahari, launches the third volume of Hati & Jiwa: The Zain Azahari Collection.

The Sophisticated Art Patron
The Edge Galerie

A gentleman with an immense appetite for collecting works of art, Zain Azahari Zainal Abidin, also known as Pak Zain, has amassed an incredible number of artworks — over 1,000 paintings and sculptures by notable Southeast Asian and international artists. Now 84, he began his lifelong journey of art collecting in the 1960s.

If one wonders where all the paintings are kept, well, they are spread out systematically — on the walls of his office, his children’s homes and his private museum, Galeri Z. A great number are in secured storage — not in a state of neglect but rather, stored in a climate-controlled environment and cared for by a professional conservator who inspects them periodically. 

When Pak Zain was a law student in London in the 1950s, he played the saxophone and began collecting jazz records, amassing about 8,000 records, which he keeps till this day. Also an avid reader, Pak Zain immerses in the poetry of Rumi, and his rotational reads include the same books by the revered poet. His interest in arts and culture was nurtured as a student. [Read more…]

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