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Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Weekly Southeast Asia Radar: The animated short ‘Batik Girl’; Manila’s “casserole pot”

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:

 

 

Peking and Cantonese opera share the same origins and as a result similar characters appear in both disciplines. The images above are from the “One hundred portraits of Peking opera characters”, late 19th-early 20th century, Metropolitan Museum of Art. Via South China Morning Post
Cantonese performing art
South China Morning Post

Cantonese opera was inscribed onto the Unesco list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in September 2009. It is arguably one of the region’s best-loved art forms among Hong Kong audiences.

HISTORY

Chinese opera is considered to have begun in the Tang dynasty under Emperor Ming Huang (712-755) who founded Pearl Garden, the first operational troupe in China. The exact origins of Cantonese opera are open to debate but the general consensus is that the art form migrated from the north to the southern province of Canton (Guangdong) during the Song dynasty (1179-1276 AD). Cantonese opera is generally thought to have evolved out of Nan Xi, or Southern drama which was performed in public theatres in Hangzhou in the 12th century. The first incarnations of Cantonese opera were also known as Yuet Kuk.

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It took a whole year to make Batik Girl – eight months on story development and another four on animation production. — Batik Girl FB
Award winning Batik Girl director says good pool of local talent in Malaysia
The Star, Malaysia

YOU might have heard about Batik Girl by now, or chanced upon the beautifully rendered 2D animated short film on social media.

The nine-minute video, now available on YouTube, is a collaborative effort between The R&D Studio, writer Heidi Shamsuddin, Tudidut Studio and Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Faculty of Music.

It has been making its presence felt at film festivals around the world for the last year or so, and gaining a long list of accolades in the process.

Batik Girl features a simple but poignant storyline about family, love and loss, while promoting Malaysia’s traditional art of batik.

Produced by The R&D Studio (an MSC Status company based in Malaysia which describes itself as made up of storytellers and worldbuilders), Batik Girl is just one of over 100 properties belonging to it.

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Complex history: Melaka was a truly global emporium and where at the height of its economic and political success could boast that more than 80 languages were spoken by the international community of merchants who resided there. — Melaka Museum
Being South-East Asian
The Star, Malaysia

It’s time to reconnect with the region’s complex, varied past – before the European colonial powers came.

IDENTITY politics has assumed centre stage the world over, and it cannot be denied that much of what now passes as everyday political debate assumes the form of identity-based claims that can, at times, also be exclusive and totalising.

Living as we do in the post-industrial age that is soon to be swept aside by developments in artificial intelligence, information technology and the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, societies all over are grappling with changes that are unprecedented and unpredicted.

In some instances, the knee-jerk reaction to these changes has been a return to a politics of nostalgia and a yearning for a simpler, uncluttered past; and in other cases, the retreat from the future has manifested itself in forms of identity politics that are narrow and couched in terms of ethno-nationalism instead.

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(Left to right) Suhaili Safari, Inch Chua, Chong Gua Khee and Ric Liu, with Peter Bingxuan Wang. Photo: Social Space Mag
Take Four: Behind The Scenes With Players From Singapore’s Performing Arts Scene
Social Space Mag 

Meet Chong Gua Khee, 29, Ric Liu, 46, Suhaili Safari, 33 and Inch Chua, 30, all familiar faces of Singapore’s performing arts scene. The four most recently collaborated on “Songs for Tomorrow“, as part of 2019’s Both Sides, Now Carnival. PETER BINGXUAN WANG chats with them about their craft, what inspires them, and the power of the arts for self-expression and social impact.

Please tell us more about you. What do you do and what does your job entail?

Gua Kee (GK): I’m an independent theatre director, facilitator and dramaturg. I work with different companies on various projects, with an emphasis on conversations and the potential that emerges from conversations.

Ric Liu (RL): I freelance in theatre-making and directing theatre. I am also a singer and photographer.

Suhaili Safari (SS): I’ve worked in theatre since the age of 17, and am presently a freelance stage actor. I also play in bands, most recently with The Psalms.

Inch Chua (IC): I’m a singer-songwriter, musician, producer and artist.

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Dozens of artists, musicians and dancers will perform in the two-day programme Câu Chuyện Cải Lương: Thật và Đẹp (Beautiful and Real- An Oral History of Cải Lương) featuring cải lương (reformed opera) on Book Street in HCM City on Saturday. The event is part of a long-term programme launched by the British Council and its partners. Photo by Gia Tiên.
Cultural programme features cải lương on HCM City Book Street
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY A two-day programme featuring cải lương (reformed opera) will be held on Book Street in HCM City on Saturday.

The event, Câu Chuyện Cải Lương: Thật và Đẹp (Beautiful and Real – An Oral History of Cải Lương), is part of a long-term programme on heritage launched by the British Council Việt Nam and its partners.

It highlights cải lương and its performers of different generations who have contributed to the traditional theatre’s development over 100 years, according to the organiser. The event will include a series of cultural activities and performances.

The opening night will feature performances staged by dozens of young and veteran performers and musicians, many of them working for leading State-owned traditional art troupes in the region.

Cải lương stars, such as Võ Thành Phê and Mỹ Hằng, will also be highlighted.

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A student at the Samakee Songkrau School in Bangkok’s Khlong Toei district. Photo: Puncharat Chaichanawanich
Bencharong for Babies: Keeping arts heritage alive for future Thai generations
Coconuts Bangkok

Born to a Thai-Chinese family that owns an antique shop, I was exposed to Chinese and Thai art starting at a very young age. One day, I accidentally dropped a soup bowl and, to the utter shock of my entire family, that little accident came with a THB200,000 (US$6,600) price tag.

I realized the bowl, as well as our other kitchenware, tea sets and garden stools, were not ordinary porcelain, but forms of Bencharong and Lai Nam Thong ceramics.

Known for unique forms, prominent motifs and bright hues, Bencharong enameled porcelain has become a “must-have” souvenir from Thailand. More than that, however, the craft is an example of intangible cultural heritage – practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills that local communities recognize as part of their identity and sense of belonging.

Bencharong and Lai Nam Thong, its sister art form, are the two mainstays of Sino-Thai ceramics, which historically were made in China for the Siamese court. It dates back to the late Ming period in China, corresponding to the early 18th century during the Ayutthaya period. But it was during the Qing dynasty – which coincided with Bangkok’s Rattanakosin period – that Bencharong was most prized by those with wealth and became the most sought-after porcelain through the 19th century.

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Photo: Star/File
Cayetano on P50-M cauldron: It’s a work of art
Philstar Global

MANILA, Philippines — It’s a work of art.

This was how Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano described yesterday the controversial cauldron designed by the late National Artist Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa for the country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) opening next week.

Cayetano, who chairs the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC), defended government expenses in the country’s hosting of the 30th SEA Games even as he gave assurances the newly built world-class sports facilities put up in Clark will continue to be of use long after the competition is over.

He said the country’s hosting of the SEA Games the biggest in history would reap long-term benefits for the country, including the honing of champion athletes and more investments.

Since Monday, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has been questioning the expenses of hosting the Games, including what he said was the P55-million “kaldero,” or cauldron to be used for the torch-lighting ceremony on Nov. 30.

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Vincenzo Floramo (Courtesy Yawnghwe Office In Exile) Caption: Shan artist Sawangwongse Yawnghwe stands in front of his work on Myanmar’s Peace Industrial Complex at a studio in Chiang Mai in 2018
Myanmar Artist Shuns EU-Funded Show Over Ne Win Family Residence Deal
The Irrawaddy

Sawangwongse Yawnghwe, artist and grandson of Myanmar’s first president, Sao Shwe Thaike, has withdrawn his work from a European Union-funded exhibition in Yangon, opening next week, in protest at the EU’s continued decision to rent its official ambassador’s residence from the family of long-time Myanmar dictator General Ne Win.

The highly lucrative deal to rent the ambassador’s residence, first reported by The Irrawaddy, reportedly required special approval from Brussels due to the vast sums involved, according to EU insiders. Ne Win’s family has regularly received a tidy sum for renting out the residence since the first EU ambassador moved in shortly after the EU established a permanent diplomatic presence in Myanmar in 2012.

In a statement released this week, Sawangwongse explained his decision to pull his work, citing the dramatic events surrounding the arrest of his grandfather on the evening of Ne Win’s 1962 coup and the EU’s decision to subsidize Ne Win’s family’s opulent lifestyle.

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‘Kursi-Kursi’ (‘Chairs’), a play by Satu Lampung Theater on the opening night of the Jakarta Theater Festival 2019 at Taman Ismail Marzuki in Central Jakarta on Tuesday. (JG Photo/Nur Yasmin)
Jakarta Theater Festival Returns With New Respect for Audience
Jakarta Globe

Jakarta. The 46th Jakarta Theater Festival will be happening in the next three weeks, from Nov. 12 to 29, at Jakarta’s Taman Ismail Marzuki arts center – currently undergoing a major renovation, organized by the Jakarta Arts Council’s theater committee.

“We should be proud of this festival. It’s the longest-running theater festival not just in Indonesia but also in Southeast Asia, having been held every year since 1973,” Dadang Solihin, Jakarta’s deputy governor for tourism and cultural affairs, said during the opening night on Tuesday.

The festival also features discussions and an exhibition called “Drama Penonton” (“The Audience’s Drama”), curated by Mayumi Haryoto, an Indonesian designer-illustrator who mixes the present with the past in her work.

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Sethisak playing Canio, the bad-tempered clown in Pagliacc.. GT2/Taing Rinith I
Khmer tenor who introduced opera to the Kingdom
Khmer Times

A FRIDAY’S evening in early October, hundreds of people from all nationalities laughed and cried and gave big rounds of applause in Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra’s ballroom where an Italian opera performed, kicking off the second Sofitel Phokeethra Classical Music Festival. The play, called ‘Pagliacci’ (Clown) and written by Ruggero Leoncavallo, narrates a tale of romantic entanglements of Canio, the head and a clown of a comedic troupe, Nedda, Canio’s wife and Silvio, Nedda’s love affair.

Despite being performed in the heart of Phnom Penh, only a few Cambodian artists performed in the opera. However, a Cambodian tenor, Khuon Sethisak, was playing Canio, the most important role in it. He has a great singing voice, giving the audience goose bumps when he hits a high pitch. And his performance received positive response from viewers as well. He has quite good skills to bring out the protagonist he plays, especially the emotion in his voice and facial expression while his well-built physique allows him to match Canio, a man with a quick temper.

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ArtsEquator’s Southeast Asia Radar is compiled every week. All sources and credit belong to the original publishers and writers. Click here for past editions of Southeast Asia Radar.

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