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(Yangon, Myanmar)—From September 16-19, the SEAD1 fellows gathered at the Pansuriya Art Space in Yangon, Myanmar for the final part of the SEAD program.

SEAΔ is a program co-created by Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council which creates space for cultural practitioners to reflect on how their work in arts and culture can contribute to sustainable development within South East Asia through their individual and collective leadership.

On Day 1, we looked back on what SEAD has done for us in the past year and what the future might hold for us. As an interdisciplinary art-science person, I really appreciate how much more exposed I am towards social and environmental issues, and also as a former journalist I shared my experience in communicating my work especially on the internet.

In the evening we prepared a Burmese dinner together, thanks to the fantastic team of Sa Ba Street Food Tours. I really love the tea leaf salad, and what a great introduction to delicious Burmese food.

 

On Day 2, we spent time getting to know some inclusive art spaces in Yangon, such as the Pansuriya Art Space where the fellowship was held, and The Able, a cafe and community space which employs hearing-impaired people. We also mapped out our networks and listed our skills, reviewing them as we slowly move forward from SEAD. It was a great say seeing how art can permeate different communities, and how far we ourselves have come.

 

In the evening some of us went to the beautiful awe-inspiring Shwedagon Pagoda, currently my favorite pagoda in all of Southeast Asia. I really liked the animal sculptures that all had some kind of symbolism.

On Day 3, the last day, we thought about our assets as artist and I realized I had more resources than I thought, and ideated on our insights, values, questions, and redefinitions that we had over the course of the nine-month fellowship. Critically (at least for me!) we worked out what our ladders of success (whether vertical or horizontal), and I diagrammed “The Art Dojang”—how I mapped out an arts career to taekwondo, because, well, what better metaphor do I have? We wrapped up the day sharing stories that connected us, and also filmed a message for the future SEAD2 fellows.

We wrapped up our time in Yangon at the wonderful Burma Bistro. It was quite a wild ride for the past nine months! This is the first fellowship I’ve had where I didn’t need to bring hot sauce. I’m really happy to have said yes to this opportunity to reconnect with my Southeast Asian half in a nurturing and safe environment and to think about the divergent ways I can manifest being an artist. I’m thinking about this experience in the context of a very productive year with very timely gigs, starting from The Unlearning Place at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt to China Residencies and then Southeast Asia. .

My deepest thanks to the Mekong Cultural Hub’s Frances Rudgard, Jennifer Lee, and Patty Chan; creative facilitators Nicola Turner and Sudebi Thakurata; and the British Council’s Katelijn Verstraete, Daniel Donnelly and Julia Davies for taking great care of us and helping me grow through this process, and my fellow SEAD friends for being my teachers as well as colleagues. Very excited to take all that I have learned in the next steps. Can’t wait to begin again in Sydney! .

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It’s that time of the year when I finish all residencies, fellowships, talks, and exhibitions, and reflect on the year that’s about to pass. It’s been a wonderful year of learning from different cultures and finding other ways of pursuing my practice. In 2018, I held residencies and fellowships in Vienna (KulturKontakt Austria and the Austrian Federal Chancellery), Beijing (China Residencies and Red Gate Gallery), and Taipei (Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council). This post recalls some of my favorite memories during Part 1 as a SEAΔ fellow. Head to this post for thoughts about my Vienna residency, and this one for my Beijing residency.


Hot off the heels of my residency in China was my fellowship as part of the inaugural SEAΔ Program of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council. I flew to Taipei from Beijing and got to work.

SEAΔ is a program co-created by Mekong Cultural Hub and British Council which creates space for cultural practitioners to reflect on how their work in arts and culture can contribute to sustainable development within South East Asia through their individual and collective leadership.

The inaugural SEAΔ fellows from Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, and the UK, together with staff from the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council. Image credit: Mekong Cultural Hub

Each year 10 Fellows are selected from 10 countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. The program has 4 main gatherings spread over a one-year period where Fellows get together. Each gathering takes place in a different country and has a unique purpose: exchange, create, share then reflect.

The first gathering, SEAΔ Exchange, was held in Taipei, and after the week-long exchange, we were split into four groups based on our proposed projects, which we were going to iterate for the second part of the program, SEAΔ Create. I was with my co-fellows Sinath Sous (Cambodia), Zikri Rahman (Malaysia), and Thet Oo Maung (Myanmar)—a great fit since we were all working on sustainability in some way. For SEAΔ Create in May, our group will gather in Cambodia to execute the project.

Our project is in conjunction with Arts and Environment Festival 2019 in Kampong Thom, which SEAΔ fellow Sinath Sous is spearheading.  The platform will be opened for artistic exchange to encourage experience sharing of arts and environment to better address climate challenges. The objectives are to focus on capacity-building workshops based events to support the team in climate action and to promote local knowledge among development experts and governments on this topic of sustainable development project in the future. My part here involves co-designing art workshops and scavenger hunts for the participants to reflect on climate change impacts in Cambodia.

During the exchange in Taipei, the fellows finally met each other and it was great to learn about their work. We engaged in design thinking workshops, met with the creative community of Taipei, and learned from stellar speakers who shared their work. We also had opportunities to go outside of the city, such as meeting the staff and artists of the Bamboo Curtain Studio. Taiwan is an island bustling with creativity and promise.

The SEAΔ program was the most unique in all of the fellowships I’ve had, and certainly stands out among all of the things I’ve done this year. Frankly, this is one of the few fellowships I’ve had in Southeast Asia—an involuntary choice, seeing that most opportunities available to me have been in the West and in East Asia where I felt more culturally adapted to as a Chinese-Filipino who grew up in a Chinese community, and in the Philippines where American culture is widely available. While I have tried to pursue projects in my home region, such as a research trip earlier this year to Cleopatra’s Needle Critical Habitat in Palawan, the Philippines with the Centre for Sustainability PH and Great Escapes Philippines, and the art residency I did with Plan International and the International Climate Initiative last year, finding funding for the projects I want to do will take time (and a bigger network and fairy dust), and it has been a lot easier and more logical to accept all these foreign opportunities while there were available and while I was within their age limits.

Applying to SEAΔ was my way of filling in the gaps in my world experience, and to be able to find something worthwhile to do considering that this region will bear the brunt of climate change impacts. I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and am really excited for the rest of the fellowship. It was my first time in Taipei—a personal revelation according to my childhood friend Barbie whom I reconnected with in my Beijing residency was that the books we read in Chinese school were actually Taiwanese. This would give me a bigger identity crisis if my grasp of the Chinese language were any better. But the people were wonderful and the parks were free and the food was fantastic. Cambodia will also be a whole new world for me. I can’t wait for 2019!

SEAΔ Exchange, the first part of the SEAΔ program, happened from November 26-30, 2018 in Taipei, Taiwan. SEAΔ Create for my group will take place in Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Thank you to the wonderful staff of the Mekong Cultural Hub and the British Council!

What’s up, Taipei! I’m honored to be one of the 10 inaugural SEAΔ fellows for 2018-2019, with my aim to develop the arts-led climate change educational program of The Apocalypse Project. Very excited for what looks like a kick-ass program and to meet some incredible people. I’ll be in Taiwan from November 25 to December 8; an obvious invite to meet up of you’re there! 😙

SEAΔ is a program co-created by Mekong Cultural Hub @mekonghub and the British Council @britishcouncil which creates space for cultural practitioners to reflect on how their work in arts and culture can contribute to sustainable development within South East Asia through their individual and collective leadership.

Learn more about the program and the other fellows here: https://mekongculturalhub.org