Citizens of the small, oil-rich Sultanate of Brunei enjoy an impressive standard of living. But with natural reserves dwindling, the government is diversifying the economy and introducing strict sharia laws, such as a ban on public celebrations of Christmas. The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports operates the contemporary space Waterfront Gallery and Brunei Young Artists Space for art activities. On July 23, the new Belait District Museum dedicated to local heritage and culture was opened by the Brunei Museums Department.
At the Malay Technology Museum, “Tōhoku: Through the Eyes of Japanese Photographers” (2/11–3/4), a Japan Foundation traveling show, illuminated the history and culture of the Tōhoku region before the 5th anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake. For International Museums Day on May 18, the museum organized “Ekspresi” (6/4–8/2), a group show of paintings, drawings and photographs created by the museum’s artist group MuzArt.
In the capital, Rainforest Gallery hosts art displays and offers art classes, while the commercial Ratna Dina Arif Gallery promotes local artworks. Kaleidoscope Studio, an artist-run space managed by University of the Arts London graduate Nur Khalisah Ahmad and Sadiq Serbini, relocated to new premises in the capital’s iCentre on August 28. Previously it held “Urban Art Forms” (1/31–2/22), featuring the work of nine graffiti artists, visual artists and photographers, such as Budi One and Jay Johar, and “Identity” (3/12–4/4), with local talents including painter Pg Timbang.
The annual Francophonie Week (3/12–20), organized by the Alliance Française, included an innovative photo-audio exhibition, “Tell Me Ten Words” (3/12–20), held at Jubilee Park and the Royal Wharf Art Gallery, in which French journalist Cecile Castilla revealed her impressions of Brunei through photographs, with accompanying audio clips. The French cultural organization also hosted a solo painting show by Pei Yee, a young local artist in residence at the Rainforest Gallery, entitled “A Bruneian View on French Culture” (10/8–11/8), at their headquarters in Batu Besurat. Later in the year the program for the inaugural French-Bruneian Arts Festival (11/12–20) comprised local art exhibitions and French-language film screenings.
In the Sengkurong Shopping Centre, Creative Space Brunei showed “Emerge 1” (4/2–5/1), featuring works by nine local artists, including Faiz Morshidi and Erne Zainal. “Emerge 2” (10/17–11/7) comprised 11 works by six artists, including Lizzan Linggat and Sufi Lee.
Abroad at the Singapore Biennale, “An Atlas of Mirrors” (10/27–2/26/17), Faizal Hamdan displayed a two-channel video work, Dollah Jawa (2016), profiling his grandfather who was forcibly exiled to Brunei by the Japanese army during the Second World War.
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