ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia 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. In the weekly Southeast Asia Radar, we publish a round-up of content that have been scoured and sifted from a range of regional news websites, blogs and media platforms.
Here is this week’s Southeast Asia Radar:
Indonesian moviemakers bet on homegrown superhero universe
Mizzima News, Myanmar
Marvel’s Avengers may bring in billions at the box office but Indonesia is taking on the likes of Captain America and Iron Man with its own superhero franchise, tapping into growing global demand for diverse characters.
The first movie of the series, “Gundala”, which was directed by one of Indonesia’s most prolific filmmakers Joko Anwar and released locally to critical and popular acclaim, is now set to play in cinemas across North America.
With a back catalogue of more than 500 Indonesian comics, the studio Screenplay Bumilangit is hoping to create its own Marvel-style “Cinematic Universe” with films featuring interconnected characters and settings.
“Gundala”, based on a 1969 comic, tells of an impoverished factory worker’s son who fights corruption and injustice after a lightning strike gives him superhuman powers.
“The story that people are going to see in our films is not about aliens attacking the earth because that’s not our problem. Hollywood is going to deal with that,” Anwar tells AFP.
Amid Covid-19, virtual tours by Muzium Negara volunteer guides who can’t wait to get back to do them in-person
Malay Mail, Malaysia
PETALING JAYA, July 9 — History enthusiasts can now visit Muzium Negara after reopening its doors amid the Covid-19 recovery movement control order period (RMCO).
But the sight of museum volunteer guides eager to take you on a museum tour explaining stories around the main galleries is now a distant memory.
This is in accordance with the museum’s policy that only allows a maximum of 100 visitors at a time while guides are not allowed to bring in people for tours.
Museum volunteers programme president Karen Loh, 50, said that even if the guides were allowed, only eight visitors would be allowed per guide.
“As such, some of our museum volunteers have been focusing on our in-house research projects where we would be conducting focus talks in different languages later this month.
A virtual tour of Jakarta, the big melting pot of cultures
Jakarta Post, Indonesia
A virtual tour takes tourists to Jakarta’s landmarks safely from the comfort of their own homes during the pandemic.
The tour, dubbed Wisata Keliling Jakarta (Jakarta Touring), took place from June 22 to 28 as a part of the capital’s anniversary celebrations and it was organized by tourism tech company Atourin, the Jakarta branch of the Indonesian Tour Guide Association (HPI) and tour operator Wisata Kreatif Jakarta.
On the last day, the tour took visitors to Jakarta landmarks influenced by foreign cultures.
Tour guide Ira Lathief dressed in traditional Betawi clothing and took the participants on tour with Google maps along with slides featuring pictures and videos she had taken herself.
She explained that Jakarta was a melting pot of many cultures, not only from different parts of Indonesia but also ones that came from abroad.
“People may know the popular Chinatown and Dutchtown [Kota Tua] but aside from those two, there are still more areas in Jakarta that are influenced by foreign culture,” Ira said during the virtual tour via Zoom conference call.
Resistance is not futile
Bangkok Post, Thailand
The world renowned Mona Lisa wasn’t widely recognised until it was stolen from the Louvre in 1911. Johanna van Gogh-Bonger was a woman who believed in a Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh and was a key person behind his fame. War photography brought truth to light. It changed perceptions of war from glory to misery.
These are intriguing stories that people, especially, art lovers can enjoy on the Facebook page Artteller and the podcast Resistance Art, both run by Pasinee Pramunwong.
Growing up with parents who were interested in art, Pasinee had been attracted to art but she isn’t an artist. This sixth-year student at the Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, is into art archiving and art history. Pasinee spends her free time taking online classes at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and researches the subject. Since she was a child, Pasinee had a passion for writing. She wrote many essays about art, but never published them. She created Artteller after her photographer girlfriend encouraged her to publish her work.
France Awards Order of Arts and Letters to Two Vietnamese
Urbanist Hanoi, Vietnam
The awards were conferred to Nguyen Ngoc Lan and Tran Vuong Thach.
Tuoi Tre reports that Nicolas Warnery, the French ambassador to Vietnam, presented Lan and Thach with the Order of Arts and Letters at the level of Knight last Friday evening. The prestigious award honors individuals who have made major contributions to the fields of art and literature.
Lan has led the Institute of Cultural Exchange with France (Idecaf) in Saigon since 2012, spearheading a number of events to build cultural connections between Vietnam, France and other Francophone countries. She has also helped build Idecaf’s French-language library, the largest in Southeast Asia.
Thach, meanwhile, is the director of the Ho Chi Minh City Ballet Symphony Orchestra and Opera (HBSO). He has also served as deputy chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Musicians’ Association since 2010.
According to the news source, the French government gives out the Order of Arts and Letters annually, and it has three grades: Knight, Officer, and Commander. Roughly 200 people receive the award each year, and previous Vietnamese recipients include musicologist Tran Van Khe, author Nguyen Huy Thiep, fashion designer Minh Hanh, and artist Le Ba Dang.
Is the Filipino language even as gender-neutral as we think it is?
Cotabato City (CNN Philippines Life) — Filipino, as an indicator of citizenship, is a gender-neutral word. That this word tends to register as male given the o at the end is indicative of our colonial history, more than three-hundred years of which were under the Spanish crown. That our country is called the Philippines and we are called Filipinos are both markers of a colonial past. Apart from being tagged as “indios,” we were named after a king whom we never saw.
When Spain “[ceded] to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands” through the 1898 Treaty of Paris, a treaty signed six months after the Philippine declaration of independence in Cavite, it annexed Mindanao territories that Spain never conquered. Suddenly, we were all Filipinos, our identity sealed by an exchange between imperialist nations.
In the 1935, 1973, and 1987 Constitutions, we proclaim ourselves as a Filipino people whose national language is Filipino.
But what does it mean for the word Filipino to be gender-neutral when it is placed in the context of conservative Catholicism that the Spanish friars brought to our shores, as they accused the babaylan and katalonan of talking to evil spirits and instructed women — only women — on virginity, chastity, and modesty?
What does it really mean when our collective identity is rooted in a history of imperialism and colonization that reinforce a patriarchal society?
About the author(s)
Nabilah Said is an award-winning playwright, editor and cultural commentator. She is also an artist who works with text across various artforms and formats. Her plays have been staged in Singapore and London, including ANGKAT, which won Best Original Script at the 2020 Life Theatre Awards. Nabilah is the former editor of ArtsEquator.