Jitti Chompee

Weekly Southeast Asia Radar: Vietnam’s new costume institute; Is Penang’s art scene dead?

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:


Documentary subject Eng Suon and her filmmaker son Guillaume Suon aboard a boat on their return to Cambodia during the shooting of The Taste of Secrets. HANDOUT/TIPASA PRODUCTION/afp


Suon’s Khmer Rouge documentary tackles ghosts of genocides past
Phnom Penh Post

French-Cambodian filmmaker Guillaume Suon grew up haunted by the ghosts of his mother’s past.

It was her refusal to acknowledge them that led the 36-year-old to make the documentary The Taste of Secrets, which made its world premiere at this week’s 24th Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

“I wanted to look at what war leaves behind,” said Suon of the film, which is in the running for BIFF’s main Wide Angle documentary prize.

“My mother never told me full stories, only pieces, and these haunted me, and my dreams.”

[Read more…]


Tourists taking photos on George Town’s Armenian Street with a mural called I Want Bao by Kuala Lumpur-born artist WK Setor on the side wall of a pastry shop. Photo: Alamy
How Penang’s art scene was killed by Instagram tourists and gentrification, sparked by a single mural
South China Morning Post

It’s Saturday night at Narrow Marrow, a hipster cafe in George Town, the capital of Penang island in Malaysia. Among the patrons are Malaysian mural artists Bibichun and Kang Bla Bla, as well as a number of other local creatives. They sit on low chairs while indie and electronic music blares from speakers overhead, rolling cigarettes and sipping coffees and coconut toddy mojitos until the wee hours.

The cafe, tucked at the end of Carnarvon Road, the main thoroughfare leading into George Town, is run by Alvin Neoh and Jaime Oon, two young designers turned artsy cafe operators. It attracts a regular crowd of Penang’s young creatives, who enjoy popping in after working hours.

That same crowd is likely to be spotted on Sunday afternoons selling their wares not far away at the Hin Bus Pop Up Sunday Market, located just behind Penang’s highest building, the Komtar Tower. The market, on the site of a former bus car park, attracts hipster tourists from all over, hoping to bring home some locally made art.

Looking at this commercial den, it is hard to believe that this was where Penang’s groundbreaking street art revolution broke out of the woodwork. Between 2014 and 2016, local and international artists found a spotlight here and transformed this once sleepy island into one of Southeast Asia’s most celebrated artistic hubs.

[Read more…]


Here are eight independent Filipino music talents who refuse to go the familiar route and who defy the process with a more DIY mindset. Photo via CNN Philippines


8 promising Filipino indie acts that aren’t on Spotify
CNN Philippines

Filipino independent musicians earn very little from using streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music. Despite having a bigger reach and fostering a more consumer-friendly community, there’s a lot to be said about Spotify monopolizing the digital music economy by empowering record labels and distributors more than the artists and producers themselves.

This is the very reason why some underground, independent, and unsigned musicians prefer to upload their songs and demos on streaming sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud. The latter allows anyone — from pop upstarts to experimental producers — to put their music up for free while the former’s payout mode gives artists a bigger cut and a more profitable opportunity that also allows them to reach their fans directly.

Below are eight independent Filipino music talents who refuse to go the familiar route and who defy the process with a more DIY mindset. In the online world where the possibilities are endless and music releases are overwhelming, it’s difficult for a new act or an upcoming artist to stand out and gain attention from an audience. But with envelope-pushing musicality and accidental gems, some acts truly deserve more streaming time.

[Read more…]


Photo: Bagus Tri Laksono


John McGlynn’s Strong Passion for Art
Indonesia Design

Art collecting is not just a hobby, it is very personal and a profound dedication. It can be about the money, but it is rarely an issue. Like any aspiration, it requires a burning passion and years of diving into the vast and dynamic sea of art.

For John H. McGlynn, his love for art started early on. After pursuing fine arts and theatre at the University of Wisconsin in the United States, McGlynn came to Indonesia in 1976 to study the art of traditional wayang puppetry. But after learning and becoming fluent in the Indonesian language, McGlynn decided to pursue a different career path. This stemmed his life-long affair with Indonesian literature as he became one of the most notable translators of Indonesian literature and a prodigious supporter of the local arts scene.

In 1987, McGlynn founded the Lontar Foundation along with prominent authors, Goenawan Mohamad, Sapardi Djoko Damono, and Umar Kayam. He has since committed most of his time helping the growth of Indonesia’s literary significance to an international audience.

Four decades of living in the archipelago, McGlynn finds an enduring fascination with the depth and diversity of Indonesian culture, literature, and the underrated richness of the art world. Since the very first time he bought a piece of art back when he was still a student, McGlynn has continued to expand his collection and at the same time create a special bond with the artists.

[Read more…]


Photo via Thanh Nien


Institute of Vietnamese Costumes Officially Opened in Saigon With Discussion on Áo Dài Lemur

Historical fashion enthusiasts might find the newly minted institute a choice destination to explore Vietnam’s past clothing trends.

As Thanh Nien reports, on October 14, the Institute of Vietnamese Costumes held an opening ceremony on site at 29/9 DEF Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in District 1 of Saigon. At the launch, the institute presented a new áo dài collection by veteran designer Si Hoang and conducted a seminar on southern Vietnamese fashion during the Nguyen Dynasty (Đàng Trong).

Si Hoang is also the costume institute’s founder and deputy head, with history professor Nguyen Khac Thuan in the role of institute head. According to Hoang, he established the project in hopes of contributing to Vietnamese culture through a range of academic activities: compiling and translating academic documents about the costumes of Kinh Vietnamese and other ethnic minorities, restoring and developing retrofit fashion inspired by past fashion, and offering training and research opportunities to fashion students.

[Read more…]


Dinosaur by Jitti Chompee. Unfolding Kafka Festival 2019. Photo via Bangkok Post


Art scene metamorphosis
Bangkok Post

The third instalment of the biennial festival Unfolding Kafka, well-known for its rich and eclectic programmes of conceptual art interpreting the works of Franz Kafka, is returning to Bangkok and Chiang Mai again, running from Saturday (Oct 26) to Dec 15.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Kafka Zoo”, and will explore the wild side of animals and odd creatures found in Kafka’s novels and short stories. The festival invites artists from around the world to show their work through various mediums — from drawings, paintings and sculptures to dances, a circus and film screenings.

With the support of the Goethe-Institut Thailand, Japan Foundation, and French Embassy, the Unfolding Kafka festival is held with the aim of promoting Thailand’s contemporary art scene and cross-cultural collaborations between Thai and international artists.

The festival’s founder and renowned choreographer Jitti Chompee said the festival’s goal is not to provide a direct interpretation of the novelist’s work, but to spread contemporary visual art that is unique and distinctive to a local art community by using Kafka’s imagination as a breeding ground for thought, discussion and creative exchange.

“Some people are afraid to come because they have never read Kafka’s work and thought that they wouldn’t be able to understand the shows. But the fact is that you don’t need to be a fan of his books to fully appreciate the festival,” said Jitti.

[Read more…]



Phoe Wa/The Myanmar Times


Thadingyut Zat Pwes
Myanmar Times

The thadingyut festival is just around the corner, as you may have noticed from the many lanterns and street installations that light up the city.

People from all walks of life await the lantern festival, which also marks the end of the rainy season. Young couples wait until the arrival of thadingyut to tie the knot. Students are happy to take a week’s break from their studies, and parents are pleased to spend the time with their extended family.

In towns and villages across the country it’s customary to celebrate with a “Zat Pwe” – an occasion for dancers and musicians put on a royal show, as they hail the end of Buddhist lent in style.

For at least a month before Thadingyut, the beat from the rehearsals can be heard across the wards of Tharkayta, Daw Pone, and the North and South Dagon townships.

[Read more…]


Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Pendeta Ismail Hussein is considered to be responsible for our consciousness of Dunia Melayu. Photo via New Straits Times
The Malay World, according to Ismail Hussein
New Straits Times

THE term “Dunia Melayu”, or Malay World, has been articulated without being precise as to its essence and parameters.

Such ambivalence may not augur well for Malaysia, and in the nation embracing culture as integral to its foreign policy.

In national popular consciousness, as a category and vocabulary used among the Malays in Malaysia, the term Dunia Melayu also can be seen to fairly overlap with the period of the New Economic Policy.

Gapena (The Federation of National Writers’ Association, Malaysia) has been synonymous with the Dunia Melayu movement with its first Dunia Melayu Symposium held in Melaka in 1982.

That provided the opportunity for most of the participants to begin engaging with other Malay, the so-called Malay diaspora.

Malays in Sri Lanka, and Madagascar began to emerge in the national discourse.

[Read more…]


Filmmaker Alfonse Chiu. Photo: Ooi Boon Keong/TODAY
Gen Y Speaks: We need to look at films differently
TODAY Online

The first Singapore short film I watched that changed my life was Kirsten Tan’s award-winning Dahdi at the Singapore International Film Festival in 2014. I was then a member of the festival’s inaugural Youth Jury and Critics Programme (YJCP), a programme which nurtures tertiary students to become young writers on cinema from the region.

Though I had no formal prior film education, I signed up for the programme out of my curiosity for independent South-east Asian cinema; knowing that there is a huge world out there cinematically even in our own backyard.

As I watched Dahdi, I had an awakening  to the enormous power and potential of film in telling stories and how it can give depth and meaning to events that would have otherwise been easily forgotten.

Beyond aesthetics and the cinematic language, the film connected with me on a very fundamental level. It told a story of compassion and care between two human beings who could not be more remotely different — an old woman living on Pulau Ubin, and a young Rohingya refugee who washed up from the surf, alone and terrified, ready to bolt — and the greater forces at work that push us into futile situations.

[Read more…]


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.

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.

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