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.
Female Malaysian hip hop artist who raps in a hijab and traditional dress: ‘We can’t jump around so much’
South China Morning Post
One of the few Malaysian female rappers, Bunga says she at first didn’t consider a career in music.
“My initial dream was to be a politician or a lawyer,” the 19-year old rapper said before her first performance in Singapore for the Malay arts festival “Pesta Raya” last weekend.
Her success has her changing her tune.
Bunga, whose real name is Noor Ayu Fatini Mohd Bakhari, is one of the only known rappers who wears a hijab and baju kurung, a traditional Malay dress, at her performances. Selfies on her Instagram account show her wearing various shades of hijab, but she didn’t start that way.
A talk with Thanom Chapakdee, the curator pushing Isaan’s new art movement
The Isaan Record
Sporting thick yellow-rimmed glasses and a cigarette in one hand, the man who some consider Thailand’s most sharp-tongued art critic, humbly introduces himself with “I’m a Lao-Isaan Suay guy who likes to eat beef laap and koi.”
Born and raised in Sisaket, Thanom made a name for himself as a Bangkok university lecturer teaching art theory and cultural criticism. In the country’s art circles, he became known for rarely holding back with questions and criticism when attending exhibitions. His experience in travelling to art shows worldwide has allowed him to critique art with a certain amount of credibility.
After retiring from a position at Srinakharinwirot University’s visual arts department last year, he turned back to his home region and founded an alternative art festival.
Art Jakarta moves to larger venue, to feature more galleries
The 2019 Art Jakarta is slated to run from on Aug. 31 to Sept. 1.
This year’s return of Art Jakarta marks its debut in a new venue, the Jakarta Convention Center (JCC) in Senayan, Central Jakarta.
Tom Tandio, director of Art Jakarta, said in a media gathering on Tuesday that presentation-wise, the event would appear more attractive in the 6,000-square-meter space of the JCC.
Who’s watching Becca D’Bus?
For those of us more used to sitting and watching, the people from showbiz are invariably an intimidating bunch. And so it was when I met with the drag queen Becca D’Bus, albeit sans glitter and tulle, and instead in a large, circular-cut kaftan-poncho hybrid. This was Eugene Tan, although he is quick to clarify – and he has done so in other interviews – that the line between Eugene and Becca is an unclear one, that Becca D’Bus is just an amplified version of himself. To wit: before settling on this Rosa Parks reference, he was adamant his drag name would simply be ‘Eugene’.
But back to the point: Becca D’Bus is an intimidating figure, and I don’t mean this in a roundabout way of saying the quite plainly obvious: that she is tall and fat. Up close, without the lights, costumes, and makeup that go into a show, one is left face to face with a person of strongly-held opinions, the intellect to back it up, and the eloquence to put it across. That’s a rare combination, and one that belies the flamboyance, colour, and artifice that goes into making, by Becca’s own (and possibly slightly underplayed) measure, this “very sparkly clown”.
Myanmar’s first sci-fi comic series breaks new ground
As a youth, artist Ko Kyaw was burning with curiosity about what life would be like in the future. He grew up in Yangon, and conceptualises a completely different city decades – even centuries – from now.
“In the year 2500 or 3000, perhaps we will be taking a flying bus to and from work and seeing multi-layered flyovers in big cities,” artist Ko Kyaw said.
It sounds a bit weird. But these impossible things can be realisable, first in art form. Artist Ko Kyaw has turned these hitherto unseen into something more real in his science-fiction comic series Dubadda.
Du means “second”, while Badda denotes “the world”. Dubadda, “the second world”, will make its debut this August. The comic book, which is the first-of-its-kind in Myanmar, will be a monthly publication.
George Town Festival hits 10th edition, rolls out a festival for everyone
Let there be light – this is how the 10th edition of the George Town Festival in Penang is going to start. We mean it quite literally.
This year’s festival will kick off with When Night Falls, a two-day event featuring illuminated works from different groups and collectives from around the world.
Here’s also where the state’s Town Hall and City Hall will be transformed into a canvas of moving visuals in World of Fantasy through projection mapping.
When Night Falls is a free public event, like many from the George Town Festival’s line-up this year. Of the 150 programmes, including visual art, theatre, music, dance and film, about 70% are free. Over 500 performers from 20 countries are involved in the festival, which runs from July 13 to 28.
Ubud’s contemporary art gallery, Tonyraka
Wood and stone carvings can be found all over Bali. Along roads, in homes, and in temples, the faces and figures of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Ganesha are constant reminders of religion, tradition and values on the island. On JI Raya Mas street in Ubud, Tonyraka Art Gallery was originally a family-owned wood-carving gallery that opened in 1968—founded by A.A Gede Raka Wirayuda, but in the 1990s his son A.A Bagus Tony Hartawan began to transform the space by introducing artworks by Indonesian artists with a more modern aesthetic.
Even more recently, Hartawan created the new Art Lounge, solidifying Tonyraka not only as a significant gallery for contemporary Indonesian art, but also as an inviting gathering place for the community. The sprawling compound now comprises several gallery spaces, the lounge and homes for five generations of Hartawan’s family.
Cinema ’76 Film Society pays tribute to actor Eddie Garcia with film festival
Micro-cinema Cinema ’76 Film Society pays tribute to the late Eddie Garcia, one of the Philippine entertainment industry’s most prolific actors, by screening three of his independent films from today until July 11.
Garcia passed away at 90 years old late last month after suffering from an injury caused by a freak accident on set. He worked as an actor and director in more than 600 films since he started his showbiz career in 1950.
Movies to be screened in Cinema ’76’s film festival include the LGBTQ+ film Rainbow’s Sunset, romantic drama-comedy Hintayan ng Langit (Heaven’s Waiting), and the martial law movie ML.
Not resting on his laurels
‘It’s just a teasing nickname my fellow writers and journalists gave me. I’m only working the usual way as my career is supposed to be. I’m not really that great as they say,” said the columnist and writer Worapoj Panpong about the moniker popularly bestowed on him, “The country’s No.1 interviewer”.
Despite his humble demeanour, his reputation is more than well justified. Worapoj is often considered by many to be one of the most important essayists of his time. With 25 years in business, Worapoj had interviewed over 1,000 subjects, and written nearly 30 books, which contributed significantly to discourse on creative nonfiction. Many of his books work like a diary that reflect on the social, and grim, reality of the country, and have been cherished and loved by readers everywhere.
Worapoj is this year’s Silpathorn Award winner in literature, given by the Ministry of Culture of Thailand whose award presentation ceremony will be held later this year.
About the author(s)
Kathy Rowland is the Managing Editor of ArtsEquator.com, 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.