Picture from Facebook/Reformartsi

Weekly S.E.A Radar: Civil rights workshop for Malaysian artists; calls to modernise Indonesian folklore for millennials

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.

Artists can brush up on their civil rights knowledge and pick up tips on dealing with public complaints and police reports about their work. — Picture from Facebook/Reformartsi

Civil rights workshop planned for Malaysian artists with tips for dealing with authorities, public backlash
Malay Mail

PETALING JAYA, July 12 — An upcoming workshop by ReformARTsi (Coalition of Malaysian Artists and Arts Organisations) will help local creatives to be aware of their rights when presenting their work to the public.

The half-day programme will consist of a talk by civil rights lawyer Syahredzan Johan who will advise attendees on how to deal with the authorities, respond to public complaints or police reports about their work, or even handle a protest mob outside a venue.

Other topics include understanding the roles, responsibilities, and limitations of enforcement agencies when it comes to stopping a play from being staged, removing a painting, or banning a song from the airwaves, as well as freedom of expression as laid out in the Federal Constitution.

[Read more…]


In an adjournment motion on achieving arts excellence, NMP Terence Ho suggested turning arts institutions such as Lasalle College of the Arts (above), which currently offer diploma and degree courses in the arts, into full-fledged arts universities to attract local and overseas talents to enrol in them. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Singapore needs full-fledged arts university: NMP Ho
The Straits Times

Singapore should consider transforming arts institutions such as the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Nafa) and Lasalle College of the Arts into full-fledged arts universities, said Nominated MP (NMP) Terence Ho yesterday.

Lasalle and Nafa offer diploma and degree courses in the arts. Other arts institutions include the School of the Arts, Singapore’s first pre-tertiary arts school, and the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music.

While they are all reputable, Mr Ho feels “more can be achieved”.

“As an aspiring arts nation, I believe we should have our own arts university. By transforming or upgrading our art academies, this will draw local and overseas talents to enrol in these institutions,” he said in an adjournment motion on achieving arts excellence.

[Read more…]


The National Museum of the Philippines. File/Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Duterte signs law strengthening National Museum

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a new measure strengthening the National Museum in support of the cultural development of Filipinos.

The National Museum of the Philippines Act or Republic Act No. 11333, signed on April 26, designates the National Museum as the country’s primary institution for the management and development of museums and collections of national importance in the areas of arts, cultural heritage, and natural history.

“It shall be a permanent institution in the service of the entire national community and its development, accessible to the public, and not intended for profit,” the new law stated.

The new law also renames the “National Museum” to “National Museum of the Philippines” alternatively in Filipino, “Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas.” It also continues to classify the museum as a national government agency.

[Read more…]


Photo via Frontier Myanmar

Detained filmmaker U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi speaks from Insein Prison
Frontier Myanmar

U Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi, filmmaker and founder of the Human Rights Human Dignity International Film Festival, is being prosecuted for allegedly defaming the Tatmadaw in a series of Facebook posts. He has been denied bail, despite having liver cancer, and faces a two-year prison sentence. Frontier’s Naw Betty Han interviewed him in Insein Prison, where he has been detained since April 12.

How is your health?

I have had a cancerous growth removed from my liver. Normally, there would be a post-operation check to determine the status of the cancer but I have not a chance to do that in prison.

How are conditions in prison?

When I was first sent to Insein Prison it was April 12, and it was very hot in the prison cell. I had to bear scorching heat. I recently learned I’m entitled to be detained in hospital where it is more comfortable but I have tried to get by here because I don’t want to compromise my political principles.

A visitor reads a Panji comic at the Panji Visual Exhibition at Taman Krida Budaya, Malang, East Java, on July 11. (JP/Nedi Putra AW)

Tales of Panji subject to modern interpretation: Lecturer
The Jakarta Post

Indonesian folklore, especially the tales of Panji, need to be reinterpreted in modern contexts, lecturer Joko Susanto of the Social and Political Sciences Faculty at Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, has said.

At the Panji Cultural Discussion held at Ma Chung University in Malang, East Java, on July 11, Joko said the tales of Panji were essentially stories of and for the youth.

“That’s why there’s a need to make the tales more straightforward for the millennials,” he said.

The Panji tales are a collection of classic Javanese folklore originating in East Java in the 14th century. They narrate the life of Raden Inu Kertapati aka Panji Asmarabangun, who faces trials and tribulations in his quest to reunite with his true love, Candra Kirana aka Dewi Sekartaji. The tales are told throughout Indonesia as well as Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos.

The discussion was held at the 2019 Archipelago Panji Festival, which aims to popularize the collection.

[Read more…]


Eighty-five artifacts are displayed before the handover ceremony at the National Museum, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, July 5, 2019. Millennium-old Cambodian artifacts displayed in a Japanese collector’s home for two decades have been returned too. Photo via Frontier Myanmar

Japanese Collector Returns Cambodian Artifacts
VOA Cambodia

Millennium-old Cambodian artifacts displayed in a Japanese collector’s home for two decades have been returned to the Southeast Asian country’s National Museum.

The 85 artifacts are mostly small bronze items and include statues of Buddha and the Hindu god Shiva, plus jars, ceramics and jewelry. Cambodia’s Culture Ministry says some items were older than the Angkor era, which began about 800 A.D. Others date from the Angkor era or just after it ended in the late 14th century.

Cambodia has made intense efforts to recover artifacts looted during its civil war in the 1970s.

[Read more…]


A map displaying the name of books written by women writers from various countries. (JP/Donny Fernando)

‘It’s about time’: Transit, an indie bookstore that wants you to read more women
Jakarta Post

The earthquake that struck Jakarta in early 2018 meant many things. First, it was the first of many natural disasters that would hit Indonesia throughout the year, in what would be known as “the year of disasters”. Second, it shattered the illusion that the capital city was a quake-free zone. Third, it shook Indra Soaloon Situmorang and reminded him of a long-forgotten dream.

Indra was at a meeting on the 27th floor of a high-rise building in Jakarta when he felt the quake. As with almost everyone else in the city, he panicked. The majority of Jakartans had not experienced an earthquake for a very long time, so the afternoon was quite unusual.

When the tremors hit, the idea of Transit Bookstore leaped into his mind. “The first thing that crossed my mind was: Oh God, I haven’t opened a bookstore,” he said, “It was not marriage or work, but the bookstore.”

[Read more…]


Photo via Prestige Online

Actress-director Sharifah Amani: “The Malaysian film industry hasn’t evolved at all”
Prestige Online

Malaysian actress and filmmaker Sharifah Amani has no interest in being famous. “I don’t subscribe to celebrity culture. Humans should not be held up on a pedestal. Please don’t tell me you’re my fan. I’d rather you refer to my work. I’m messy. I’m disorganised. I will disappoint you real fast. But my films, my work, I’m very serious about it.”

Yet, Amani cuts a prominent figure. The protégé of the late legendary director Yasmin Ahmad entered the limelight early; at 17 years old, she took on her breakout role as the lead actress in Sepet, unarguably her most well-known work to date. Directed by Yasmin, the critically-acclaimed film centres on the relationship between a Malay girl in high school and a Chinese VCD seller, tackling matters of race, culture, and class. Now, at 33 years old, Amani has since starred in a variety of film, television, and theatre productions and has directed several of her own short films, including SangkarKampung Bangsar, and her latest: 5 Minit. This year, she is part of the jury panel of Singapore’s National Youth Film Awards, a platform that puts the spotlight on young filmmakers.

[Read more…]


A village head going through the ritual of presenting the headdress to the principal male character. Photo via New Straits Times

Manora: The long-forgotten stage performance
New Straits Times

“THAT looks very much like the headdress of the main actor in Manora performances,” quips my friend, drawing my attention to an interesting structure nearby when we meet during a celebration at Wat Nikrodharam, one of two major Buddhist temples in Alor Star.

A person who’s always generous in sharing his vast knowledge of local traditions and culture, the retired postal clerk takes a breather from his voluntary work manning a drinks stall and patiently elaborates when his earlier comment draws a blank expression from me.

“Manora is a theatrical dance performance based on the legend of a Kinnaree, a half woman half bird character in Buddhist Jataka tales or stories based on the previous births of the Buddha. No longer seen today, these troupes were common occurrences in Kelantan and Terengganu up until the middle of the last century,” he says, while using several images stored in his phone as effective visual aids.

[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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