The Star/Low Boon Tat

Weekly S.E.A. Radar: Malaysian political cartoonist Zunar publishes book; Filipino Sign Language interpreters at music festival

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.

Making noise: Setabuhan collaborates with Berlin-based pencak silat fighters for its performance at the CTM Festival in Berlin, Germany. (Courtesy of CTM 2019/Camille Blake)

Indonesian performers make noise at Berlin’s CTM fest
Jakarta Post

In a dimly lit room, two young women dressed entirely in black face each other over a table that is stuffed with mixers, soundboards and a tangle of cords and cables; they begin their performance with a steady, monotonous beat, only to add more sounds and noises as they progress, from soothing to screeching.

It seems as though they are engaged in a dialogue with one another: an initially calm conversation where tension slowly builds and eventually leads to full-on confrontation that ends with one of the performers screaming at the top of her lungs.

The performance of Sarana, a dark ambient-experimental unit from Samarinda in East Kalimantan, was part of this year’s CTM Berlin – a festival well known for its unapologetic approach to contemporary electronic, digital and experimental music. [Read more…]

Grandchild of Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad offers intimate look at iron-fisted prime minister
South China Morning Post

Filmmaker Ineza Roussille clearly recalls the moment in 1998 when she heard that her grandfather had sacked Malaysia’s deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar’s daughter was in tears at their Kuala Lumpur school and being comforted by a group of friends. When Roussille, then 11, asked what had happened, they tutted and wagged their fingers as if she was the cause of her classmate’s distress.

That was the start of an excruciating time for the eldest grandchild of Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad. 

[Read more…]

The Summer Noise 2019 lineup includes (from top left): Japanese Breakfast, Turnover, Last Dinosaurs, Phum Viphurit, Jakob Ogawa, UDD, Cynthia Alexander, and Shiela and the Insects. Photo from THE REST IS NOISE/OFFICIAL WEBSITE

Summer music festival to feature Filipino Sign Language interpretation in all sets
CNN Philippines

Manila (CNN Philippines Life)  One of the things that made the 2017 Metro Manila Pride March memorable was — apart from the outpouring of love and support to and from the LGBTQ community — the Filipino Sign Language interpreter working hard onstage to translate the musical sets, including the Lady Gagita lip sync to Lady Gaga’s Superbowl halftime performance. Metro Manila Pride March has been including sign language interpreters to make the event inclusive to the Deaf community, and to witness such an effort during a musical set (the interpreter was also dancing along to the lyrics) was such a heartwarming moment. Anyone who paid attention can now do “Born This Way” in sign language.

In recent years, music performances and festivals have also been employing sign language interpreters to make musical events more accessible to the Deaf. Interpreting songs isn’t just making direct translations of the lyrics. As The L.A. Times’ Lynn Q. Yu notes in a story on American Sign Language interpretations at Coachella, “Since ASL grammar is different from English grammar, attaching meaning and signs to song lyrics is akin to translating poetry in a different language. Performance interpreters also do character work, taking on the mannerisms of the performers and channeling the moods of their songs.”

This year, Summer Noise 2019 will be featuring an FSL interpreter in all the sets. [Read more…]

‘It is not a biography, not a history. It’s more my story about using cartoons to go against a regime,’ says Zunar. Photo: The Star/Low Boon Tat

Cartoonist Zunar tells his story of intimidation, harassment and jail in new book
Star 2

Cartoonist Zukiflee Anwar Haque, better known as Zunar, is a busy man this month.

The 56-year-old recently launched the exhibition Art Of Freedom By Zunar at the Penang State Art Gallery.

The show, curated by Penang State Museum director/curator Haryany Mohamad, features a total of 202 of Zunar’s cartoons – a visual document of his fight through cartoons from the last 19 years.

Art Of Freedom By Zunar, which ends on May 28, is one of the cartoonist’s biggest exhibits to date. In February, a mini exhibit of his works was shown at the Foresea KL 2019 Democracy Festival.

Many people have seen Zunar’s worldview, shaped by Malaysian politics and beyond, through his drawings. [Read more…]

‘Vuon Xuan Trung Nam Bac’ by Vietnamese painter Nguyen Gia Tri is on display at the Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City in this photo taken on April 30, 2019. Photo: Tuan Son / Tuoi Tre News

Dishwater soap used in cleaning of ‘national treasure’ artwork in Vietnam
Tuoi Tre News

Dishwasher soap was used by an amateur to clean a lacquer painting by renowned Vietnamese painter Nguyen Gia Tri, irreversibly defacing the famed artwork that is considered a national treasure of Vietnam.

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

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.

However, the artwork looked noticeably different when it was put on display in February 2019 after being removed for a two-month scheduled cleaning beginning last December. [Read more…]

Oei hosting an auction where audiences bid on pieces of heritage.

The impossible feat of being an artistic director in Singapore 
SG Magazine

It’s a breezy Friday evening, and we’ve just finished the preview of The Substation’s SAD: The Last Meal. On an upcycled crate in the basement’s SAD Bar, Alan Oei wolfs down soggy French fries as he ponders our question.

“So your question is am I giving up? Then your answer is there already what.”

Classic sass from the 42-year-old Artistic Director, who, since taking on the role in 2016, has received ample criticism for his new direction for the counter-cultural space. But some two months ago, The Substation put out an open call for applications to be the next Artistic Director, with Oei quietly announcing his resignation on the side. It came as a surprise to many; why so soon?

The short answer: to return to his artmaking. But there are no short answers when it comes to arts programming in Singapore. [Read more…]

Jan-Philipp Sendker on a visit to Myanmar in 2017 / Jan-Philipp Sendker’s Facebook page

International best-selling novel set in Myanmar to be adapted for big screen
The Irrawaddy 

“The Art of Hearing Heartbeats”, the globally popular romance novel set in Myanmar by German author Jan-Philipp Sendker, is to be made into a movie with shooting scheduled to start next year.

Published in 2002, “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats” was the first book by the author. It was the beginning of a series, with the second book, “Well Tempered Heart”, released in 2012.

The novels have proven successful not only in Myanmar but worldwide, being translated into 35 languages including Burmese. They are set in Myanmar’s popular tourist destination, the hill town of Kalaw in Shan State. [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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