Wardi Wasil/The Scoop

Weekly S.E.A. Radar: Buku Fixi drops Malay right-wing author; cosplayers in Brunei; eating Thai curry for art

ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts about arts and culture in Southeast Asia, 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.

In a statement on Twitter today, Buku Fixi said they will no longer sell any books authored by Helmi Effendy, adding that while they support the freedom of speech they do not accept death threats being issued against others. — AFP pic

Buku Fixi drops author, founder of Patriots group who hoped for killing of Malay liberals
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, May 29 — Online bookstore Buku Fixi have dropped the works of Malay right-wing author Helmi Effendy after the latter had hoped and prayed for the purge and killings of Malay liberals and certain segments of the non-Malay community in Malaysia.

In a statement on Twitter today, Buku Fixi said they will no longer sell any books authored by Helmi, adding that while they support the freedom of speech they do not accept death threats being issued against others.

“Starting today we will no longer be selling any books by Helmi Effendy in Kedai Fixi or online on We support the freedom of speech but not threats or prayers that people to be killed. Other books published by The Patriots will still be sold.

[Read more…]

A still from “It’s Easier to Raise Cattle”, photo courtesy of Amanda Eu.

Southeast Asia’s Vengeful Man-Eating Spirit is a Feminist Icon

n Southeast Asia, legend has it that a man out alone at night must never look directly at a beautiful woman, because she might be a ghost that rips his guts out. For anyone who’s ever been harassed while walking late at night, that sounds like one refreshing rule.

According to folklore in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, a pregnant woman who dies in childbirth or as a result of male-inflicted violence turns into a ghost known as the pontianak. Wearing a white dress with long, dark hair (an aesthetic shared by Sadako from Japanese cult novel Ringu), the pontianak seduces men before using her dagger-like nails to tear open their stomachs and devour the organs in a bloody feast. Her presence is usually associated with the sweet scent of the frangipani flower, followed by a stench meant to resemble a rotting corpse.

Photo: Urbanist Hanoi

Le Pho Painting Sets Record for Most Expensive Vietnamese Art Sold at Auction
Urbanist Hanoi

‘Nude,’ or ‘Nue’ in French, is an oil painting by famed 20th-century Vietnamese artist Le Pho. It was recently sold for US$1.4 million, more than 2.5 times its expected value at an auction at Christie’s in Hong Kong last Sunday.

The 90.5cm x 180.5cm work depicts a nude, seemingly serene woman lying down. The sale surpasses his previous high mark of US$1.2 million for a silk painting sold at an auction in 2017.

Le Pho (1907-2001) painted ‘Nue’ in 1931 and it eventually found its way into the private collection of Thuan Phan, a Vietnamese-born American who began collecting the art to connect with his heritage. Phan first learned of Le Pho decades ago and notes he especially appreciates how the artist paints women “so beautifully, so mysteriously.”

Grab a free bowl of curry and eat among the artworks at Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija’s exhibition, “(who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green)”, at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington. Photo: AFP

How a bowl of Thai curry can be an artwork, a conversation starter and a protest
South China Morning Post

Twenty-seven years ago, Thai artist Rirkrit Tiravanija began serving curry out of a makeshift kitchen in a New York gallery. The artwork was not only the curry and its environs, but also the people who came to the gallery, the way they interacted with one other, and the conversations they had while they ate.

It fell within the framework of what’s known as “relational art”, or “social practice”, working off the kind of amorphous concept that can drive people crazy: basically, the way people experience Rirkrit’s art is the art.

In the years between that work, Untitled (Free/Still), and Rirkrit’s current exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, “(who’s afraid of red, yellow, and green)”, the art and food worlds have inched closer to each other.

[Read more…]

Sudirman reading about his most recent success in the New Straits Times. Photo: New Straits Times

Remembering Sudirman 
New Straits Times

“SUDIRMAN Haji Arshad would have celebrated his 65th birthday last week if he were still alive today,” quips my friend when the faint sound of the late singer’s evergreen song, Balik Kampung, starts filling the air from an antique seller’s gramophone.

With Hari Raya just around the corner, traders at my usual Friday morning hangout at the Kampung Berjaya Flea Market have taken upon themselves to set the mood by playing a plethora of festive songs. Apart from evergreens like Sharifah Aini’s Suasana Hari Raya, M. Nasir’s Satu Hari Di Hari Raya and Wan Aishah’s Pulanglah, Sudirman’s popular 1984 ballad is also among the clear favourites.

During our hour-long sojourn, my friend, a diehard Sudirman fan, claims that not even Malaysian silver screen legend P. Ramlee was as popular in Asia during his time as Sudirman was during his brief 16-year career.

[Read more…]

Cosplayer Anarozana Hamdani styling her wig as she gets into costume. Photo: Wardi Wasil/The Scoop

Cosplay: A labour of love, a misunderstood art
The Scoop

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The whirring of her sewing machine breaks the monotony of the room as Faeza Md Idrus puts needle to fabric, working on her latest creation.

But the 33-year-old is no fashion designer, she’s a self-taught costume maker, in large part due to her passion for costume play or popularly known as cosplay.

The pre-school teacher spends a chunk of her life being someone she’s not, having been on the scene for more than 10 years.

Cosplay (a portmanteau of the words costume play) is the art of dressing up as characters from a film, book or video game and it is starting to gain traction in Brunei as comic book and geek culture edges its way out of a niche and into mainstream pop culture.

[Read more…]

This photo taken on May 22, 2019 shows Rampai Sripetch, a 65-year-old Thai Muslim woman, weaving silk fabric on a loom at a workshop near Darul Falah mosque in Bangkok. Photo: AFP

By a thread: Thai Muslim family keeps silk weaving heritage alive
Asia One

Over the click-clack of the teak loom, Niphon’s family laments the lack of apprentice weavers at his Bangkok silk shop, as modernity lures young Muslims away from a trade their community has dominated for generations.

They say they are the last of the Muslim weavers of Baan Krua, a storied neighbourhood of dilapidated wooden houses and a mosque in downtown Bangkok, nearly engulfed by the city creep of condos and skyscrapers.

“This is Muslim heritage… Baan Krua silk is very famous,” Niphon Manutha, 71, told AFP.

A typed letter from Robert Kennedy on the wall of his canalside shophouse attests to that lineage — a gift to Niphon’s parents after the then-US attorney general visited in 1962.

[Read more…]

Photo: Viet Nam News

Creating comics, a challenging task in Viet Nam
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY – Hesman, a comic book series written by Nguyễn Hùng Lân has come to an end after 160 episodes and 23 years.

It along with others like Thần đồng đất Việt, Cô tiên xanh, Thằng Bờm, Siêu nhân Việt Nam, Anh trai tôi là khủng long, Cổ tích Việt Namand Tý Quậy made many childhood memorable.

But popular though they have been, comic book sales in Việt Nam are insignificant compared to their international counterparts.

[Read more…]

About the author(s)

Kathy Rowland is the Managing Editor of, a registered charity that she co-founded with Jenny Daneels in 2016. The site is dedicated to supporting and promoting arts criticism with a regional perspective in Southeast Asia. Kathy has worked in the arts for over 25 years, working in the areas of critical writing and arts advocacy, with a special interest in media platforms for the arts. She is the Project Lead for ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asian Arts and Culture Censorship Documentation Project, launched in 2021. She has written extensively on censorship of arts and culture in Malaysia. She was a member of the International Programme Advisory Committee of the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture, 2019.

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