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:
Yangon’s post-apocalyptic Thingyan
This year’s Thingyan (Myanmar’s new year) celebrations saw an eerie sense of quiet return to the city, absent as it was of music and noisy revelers splashing water on everyone and everything in sight.
But the tranquility was tainted with unease, as residents and street vendors retreated inside to avoid the impending coronavirus contagion. Celebrations were put on hold, Thingyan was cancelled.
Though the city had a post-apocalyptic feel to it, there were still pockets of activity to be found. Here’s a glimpse of some of the action in Yangon, during the subdued celebrations.
Malaysian artist Red Hong Yi tackles racism with portraits made from food items
The Star, Malaysia
The spate of anti-Asian sentiment and racist attacks stemming from ignorance about coronavirus have been making the news the world over – from a Singaporean student who was punched in London, a two-year-old Asian-American and her family in Texas, United States, who were stabbed, and another Singaporean student and friend hurt in a racist attack in Melbourne.
Such assaults against Asians are becoming frighteningly regular. Then you have a long list surrounding racial intimidation and blatant (or casual) xenophobia.
Take the recent news of an Asian-Australian family targeted by racist vandals who spray-painted offensive graffiti on their garage door in Melbourne right to Canadian sports brand Lululemon issuing an apology after being criticised for a “bat fried rice” T-shirt design uploaded by one of its then-employees on his Instagram page.
The Last Reel Now Free to Watch on Frame.io
Are you a fan of Cambodian cinema who is now suffering because all the theatres are closed due to the pandemic? Well, at least something good is coming: for the first time ever, you can watch Award-winning Cambodian film The Last Reel for free on frame.io throughout April.
Nick Ray, the Executive Producer of the 2014 drama says allowing people to watch The Last Reel for free is a small way that his production company, Hanuman Films, can contribute to the world, which is overwhelmed by the Coronavirus Crisis.
“The celebration of Khmer New Year has been suspended this year to help stem the spread of the Coronavirus, so we hope to bring some small consolation to our family, friends and film fans, both in Cambodia and the wider world, by making this iconic film available to watch for free,” Ray says.
Asian artists hone weapons in fight against COVID-19
Nikkei Asia Review
BANGKOK — Amid the human tragedies of the COVID-19 pandemic, art can feel like a frivolous distraction. But several Southeast Asian artists are honing their creative drive into powerful weapons in the global fightback.
“Our country doesn’t ask you to go to the battlefield — just stay at home,” Vietnamese graphic artist Le Duc Hiep said in a Facebook post releasing a vintage propaganda-style poster exhorting people to close ranks.
The poster, which shows a pair of medical workers holding up the Vietnamese flag against the backdrop of the sun’s golden rays, has been shared some 10,000 times since mid-March in social media and other online spaces — some outside Vietnam.
Art like this has a familiar ring in Vietnam, where such propaganda was ubiquitous during the country’s 20th century wars against France and the U.S. But Hiep injects a contemporary feel by using conversational language in its text to appeal to young Vietnamese.
In this time of crisis, artists and cultural workers must not be left behind
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Ever since the national government put the enhanced community quarantine in place, many Filipinos have lost their livelihood after industries and businesses ground to a halt. But among those most affected by the quarantine are our artists and cultural workers, most of whom live on a paycheck-to-paycheck basis and are even more vulnerable with the cancellation of shoots, projects, and events.
Unlike other workers who have the capacity to work from home, thousands of actors, filmmakers, technicians, painters, designers, and staff cannot do so given the nature of their craft and now have to scrape by with whatever savings they have from their last gig’s paycheck. At a time when fear and powerlessness grips the nation, it becomes even more necessary to keep creating and performing narratives of hope. But how do we do this when our artists themselves are barely living?
Fortunately, several groups have banded together to put up initiatives in support of the most vulnerable in the industry. Whether you’re an artist looking for support in this lockdown or a citizen looking for a place to donate to, here are fundraisers that aim to provide for our artists in these difficult times.
Creator of maligned Virus Vanguard superheroes steps down from group he founded, addresses plagiarism claims
SINGAPORE: The creator of a fictional COVID-19 fighting superhero team has stepped down from the art collective he founded, following controversy over the short-lived group.
Posts introducing the Virus Vanguard team were taken down from the Gov.sg website and Facebook page on Monday night (Apr 20), less than a day after the characters made their debut.
The Ministry for Communications and Information (MCI), which is responsible for the Gov.sg portal, said at the time that the five-member team – which it noted was part of a collaboration with art collective Band of Doodlers (BOD) – was “undergoing a review”.
The superhero team had drawn criticism for a number of reasons, including treating the fight against the novel coronavirus with too much levity.
‘Trajectory’: A decade of Lawangwangi creative space
Lawangwangi, which literally means “alluring gate”, had its 10th anniversary in late March.
The creative space, set up by mathematician Andonowati, rose from the initial “Art and Science Estate”, combining a gallery and a science lab, to a splendid entity called “Lawangwangi” which supports and promotes Indonesian artists to an elevated level.
Standing out in its endeavor in the past decade is, among others, the Bandung Contemporary Art Awards (BaCAA), which has gained a reputation of being unique and inspiring with its bold and daring initiatives and decisions.
Andonowati, the driving force behind Lawangwangi, has also been hailed as knowing the balance between ideological and commodification of art.
Music can serve so much more than just entertainment to listeners. Music alone can affect emotions, it can be used as a medium to heal, encourage, allow people to share a message or bring awareness, where others can possibly connect with. The Covid-19 outbreak has inspired many local artists to create songs that aim to promote awareness of the virus, support and have empathy for the country’s medical workers, and ease tensions through a historically stressful time.
A music video featuring despondent images of deserted streets in Bangkok popped up online recently, in which eight renowned singers banded together and sang a special song entitled Ja Mai Ting Gun (Never Leave Each Other) to show their solidarity and send a message of love to all the quarantined Thais.
“Although I didn’t take it seriously at first, but last month when hearing more and more about the situation, it got worse in many countries around Asia and in Europe, I knew Thailand would follow the same fate. So, I decided to do something,” said Boyd Kosiyabong, one of Thailand’s leading songwriters and the main man behind the inspiring music project.
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.