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Weekly Southeast Asia Radar: Protest art in Thailand; The productive pandemic

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:

Photo by KITKAT PAJARO, via CNN Philippines
Why Jessica Zafra is done with writing columns
CNN Philippines, Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — In the aftermath of the US elections, Jessica Zafra picked up Isabel Wilkerson’s book “Caste: The Origins of our Discontent.”

“She argues that the problem of the US is not racism but casteism. Your caste is determined by what is perceived to be your race because race is a social, not biological construct. So they look at the color of your skin, and you know, you could be Barack Obama but being non-white, you are considered inferior to the dominant caste which is these white people,” Zafra explains. “It’s very distressing. After reading this, I thought, ‘This was an eye-opener. Now back to fiction.’”

Zafra is done with non-fiction.

She quit writing for a newspaper in 2016, and, save for a travelogue of Central Europe, has been pouring her time into writing fiction. She published a collection of short stories in 2019 (an omnibus of two earlier collections). And this year, Zafra gave the world her first novel.


Photo: National Gallery Singapore via
Georgette Chen: An Inimitable Pioneer of the Nanyang Style

Georgette Chen called herself a product of two Chinese revolutions and two world wars—a legacy that frames the late artist’s life and work, as presented in her first major survey in over 20 years at the National Gallery Singapore, Georgette Chen: At Home in the World (27 November 2020–26 September 2021).

‘We felt it was most important to portray Chen as a prolific artist who was dedicated to her practice in spite of major global upheavals, while also highlighting her lasting contributions to Singapore’s artistic community as an educator, mentor, administrator, and patron’, explained exhibition curators Lim Shujuan, Sam I-shan, and Teo Hui Min by email.

Born in China in 1906, Chen led a truly cosmopolitan life. She grew up between her hometown of Nanxun in Zhejiang province, Shanghai, Paris, and New York thanks to her father Zhang Jingjiang, an international antiques dealer and important financial backer of Sun Yat-sen’s republican revolution.

Photo: Garasi Performance Institute via Jakarta Post


‘Urfear: Huhu’ redefines live performance
Jakarta Post, Indonesia

The complete package of theatrical performances Urfear: Huhu and the Multitude of Peer Gynts pokes fun at what is perhaps the humans’ biggest fear: A walk into the unknown.

There is no warning that the virtual trip throughout the 10 performing arts could serve as mental support to face the unforeseeable future, or the end of the global crises in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Available on the website from Oct. 31 to Nov. 30, the presentation of the performances was smartly designed to give the audience control of how and at which point they would start this journey into the unknown.

Set up as a large board game, there are four stages available on the website, each of which would stimulates different emotions and senses we have forgotten over the past long months – the urge of taking chances.

[Read more…]


The Day Britain Returned Royal Treasures Stolen From Burma’s Palace
The Irrawaddy, Myanmar

YANGON—On this day in 1964, the British government returned more than 140 pieces of royal jewelry and other items from among the many valuables that British colonizers looted from the Mandalay Palace of King Thibaw following their annexation of Upper Burma in 1885.

The British government returned the valuables at the request of General Ne Win, who was on a two-month visit to London at the time.

The general arranged to have the historic artefacts sent back in two batches, but personally brought one item back with him—the “sanlyak”, a four-edged dagger that was one of five articles of Burmese coronation regalia. It is believed to date back to King Alaungpaya, who founded the Konbaung Dynasty in the mid-18th century.

[Read more…]


Via Coconuts Bangkok
Protest Art: Creativity boosts Thailand’s pro-democracy movement
Coconuts Media, Thailand

Poncho-clad protesters ride rubber ducks, a protest symbol. Others put on theatrical makeup and wings to pose as an angel. Students on stage dress as dinosaurs or perform covers of Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You as symbols of democracy flash on screen.

Creativity has given color to the protest movement, with art and ideas on display each week taking on Thailand’s art world as well – a bastion for elites and symbol of the feudal-like system the protestors are hoping to dismantle.

“In Thailand, the art scene is run by elite old men, nearly all conservative. Before I was a lonely minority, but now all of the young artists have turned radical… doing art, performing music, designing posters,” Thai artist and activist Mit Jai Inn told The Art Newspaper in September.

[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.

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About the author(s)

Nabilah Said

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.

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