Sunday, September 30, 2012

The SEA Write Award for Brunei

I had an interesting day yesterday. I chaired two panels at Dewan Bahasa identifying potential writers and poets in Brunei Darussalam to be the next worthy recipient of the Southeast Asia Writers Award or SEA Write Award as it is always known and the MASTERA Awards. I have to admit that the meeting was literally intellectually stimulating when you have a few people who are icons and diehards of the Brunei Malay literary community discussing about books, poets and writers.

Most people in Brunei have always known whenever they hear the word SEA Writer Award and MASTERA, they will know it as an award given for literary significance. Like me before joining the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, most general public do not really know the awards.

Most have heard about the S.E.A. Write Award, or Southeast Asian Writers Award. The late Rosli Bidin, Borneo Bulletin's reporter was awarded the SEA Write Award back in the early 2000. In fact the SEA Write Award has been presented annually since 1979 to poets and writers in Southeast Asia and from 1986 onwards for Brunei since we joined ASEAN in 1984.

The SEA Write Award is not an ASEAN award even though the awards are given to a writer from each of the countries that comprise the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. For some reasons though not all countries in ASEAN have been represented every year. Sometimes it is hard to tell. The award is sometimes given for a specific work by an author, or it could be awarded for lifetime achievement. The types of works that are honored vary, and have included poetry, short stories, novels, plays, folklore and scholarly and religious works.

For instance this year, we had to go through about 15 books published in Brunei for the last 3 years. Some of these books had been nominated in the last couple of years but had not won the nomination. In that sense we were not looking for a lifetime achievement award but to be nominated one has also to look into the previous achievement of the writer.

What most people do not know is that the award is from Thailand. The ceremonies are held in Bangkok, with a member of the Thai royal family presiding. The most interesting thing to me is that the award was not conceived by any literary society but was conceived by the management of The Oriental hotel in Bangkok, which then sought further backing from Thai Airways International and other companies.

Why a hotel? Well, according to its own website, "Since its establishment, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok has always had an affinity with famous writers from around the world.  During its history, great authors have either stayed in or visited the hotel.  This affinity with the literary world is best exemplified in the Authors’ Residence which houses suites named after Joseph Conrad, Somerset Maugham, Noel Coward and James Michener.  Moreover, suites in the River Wing have also been named after various authors such as Graham Greene, Norman Mailer, John le CarrĂ© and Barbara Cartland, to name but a few."

"As a tribute to this literary tradition, “The S.E.A. Write Award” was established in early 1979 to encourage writers in the ASEAN countries and to bring recognition to the creative literary talents of the region.  The idea emerged from discussions amongst the management of Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Thai Airways International Public Co., Ltd., and the Italthai Group of Companies.  HH Prince Prem Purachatra was elected as the Chairperson of the Organising Committee.  The Organising Committee also received valuable support from the PEN International Thailand-Centre under the Royal Patronage of HM the King as well as from the Writers’ Association of Thailand who took the role of setting the criteria and selecting the winning work and author from Thailand each year.  Later on the Jim Thompson Foundation, Bangkok Bank Public Co., Ltd., Thai Beverage PLC., and a number of other private and governmental organisations joined the Organising Committee.   The annual Awards Presentation and Gala Dinner has always been presided over by a member of the Thai Royal Family."

Who has been Brunei's nominated winners since 1979?

1986 - Muslim Burmat
1987 - Pehin Yahya Ibrahim
1988 - Leman Ahmad
1989 - Adi Kelana
1990 - Salleh Latif
1991 - Mohammad Zain
1992 - Awang Haji Abd Rahman
1993 - Pengiran Haji Mohd Yusuf
1994 - Mussidi
1995 - P.H. Muhammad Abd Aziz
1996 - Pg Haji Sabtu
1997 - Awang Mohammad Timbang
1998 - Pehin Badaruddin
1999 - Norsiah MS
2000 - Pehin Aziz Juned
2001 - Rahim MS
2002 - Rosli Abidin Yahya
2003 - Assoc Professor Dr Hashim Hamid
2004 - Jawawi Ahmad
2005 - Rahimi AB
2006 - Sawal Rajab
2007 - Haji Moksin Kadir
2008 - Pg Dr Hj Mohammad
2009 - Hajah Norsiah Gapar
2010 - Wijaya
2011 - Mohd Zefri Ariff

And who have we nominated for 2012? You have to wait until the award ceremony in Bangkok on 9 November 2012.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

5th ASEM Cultural Ministers Meeting

Yogyakarta, Indonesia - Culture represents the most important factor for political and social stability, while ignorance, a lack of appreciation and intolerance towards culture and religion can result in insensitivity, misunderstandings, strife and civil disputes.

This was stated by the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports, Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Laila Diraja Dato Seri Setia Awg Hj Hazair bin Hj Abdullah on Tuesday while speaking at the 5th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Culture Ministers' Meeting in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

"This has been seen on recent television, how insensitivity towards culture and religion has caused violence and social chaos," he said.

"We need to work together towards creating harmony and improving understanding towards universal cultural diversity. We also need to work together to handle this issue so that it is not misused by certain parties in the interest of their own agendas," he added.

During the meeting, Pehin Dato Hj Hazair also stressed on the importance of protecting and preserving culture, including the preservation of heritage cities, which is currently a hot topic in many countries around the world.

"This reminds us of the history of mankind, human ingenuity and creativity. Nowadays, heritage sites are facing serious Challenges due to rapid progress and development."

The minister further said that, like the industrial revolution and achievements in the mechanical field, cultural achievements in the field of ICT and globalisation can contribute to a country's economic development, especially through the creative arts.

He also described developments in the field of heritage preservation currently being carried out in Brunei.

This includes the changing of the contents of the Antiquities and Treasure Trove Act of 1967 to be more relevant with current developments and to fulfil the criteria listed in the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972 and the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage 2003. Both the aforementioned conventions were signed by Brunei in 2011.

He further said Brunei has also documented a number of historical sites and monuments across the country and these efforts will continue in order to ensure their survival and continuity.

The minister also supported the workshop topics that were discussed over the course of the meeting, which concentrated on issues related to the management of historical cities in Asia and Europe.

He expressed optimism on the prospect of cooperating with other ASEM countries to share experiences, particularly in handling the management of historical sites in cities.

The minister also noted that ASEM through the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) has, on a number of occasions, held meetings between experts through workshops and heritage forums.

In regards to this, Pehin Dato Hj Hazair proposed that such workshops be extended to youths so that they can actively engage in developing urban heritage cities to become creative cities and at the same time encourage economic investment without damaging its cultural values and history.

He also shared with fellow ASEM culture ministers information regarding the Brunei Heritage Project - an IT project being carried out by the Brunei's Museums Department_ The project is expected to go online in early 2013 and will be combined with the Asia-Europe portal, 'Culture 360' with the aim of sharing, promoting and exchanging information among member countries of ASEM.

Among the digital information included in the project is information on the archaeological site in Kota Batu, which was the capital and port of Brunei between the 14th and 17th Centuries. The site will also become the first National Archaeological Park in Brunei and will be aimed at education and recreation.

The 5th ASEM Culture Ministers' Meeting, themed 'Managing Heritage Cities for a Sustainable Future', was attended by 38 ministers and representatives from ASEM members, and was officially opened by TYT Bapak Professor Muhammad Noh, Indonesia's Minister of Education and Culture.

In the chairman's statement following the meeting, the ASEM culture ministers gave their joint support and commitment in improving cooperation in a number of areas related to culture and heritage, including initiatives and roles carried out by the ASEM.

The ASEM culture ministers also declared that heritage conservation should involve policies and programmes aimed at improving the quality of life for the local community The ministers also expressed their hope that the conclusion of this statement will be taken into consideration in the ASEM Summit, which will be held in Vientiane, Lao PDR on November 5 and 6 later this year.

Brunei and the Netherlands joint-chaired a workshop session entitled 'Historic Urban Landscapes in Response to the Challenges and Disasters' and presented a paper entitled, The Preservation of Historic Building in the City: Brunei Darussalam's Experience' in a following workshop.

The 5th ASEM Culture Ministers' Meeting was also attended by Hj Mohd Rozan bin Hj Dato Paduka Mohd Yunos, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), as well as senior officers from both the MCYS and the Ministry of Home Affairs.

--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Friday, September 21, 2012

Brunei History Talks

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to be the guest of honour at the Tarindak D'Seni restaurant for Malam Bicara Sejarah. It's a new method, certainly for Brunei, to introduce history. The History Centre invited a few speakers to speak on specific topics. Three topics were chosen, one was about Sultan Hashim, an Islamic historian who apparently many people know but somehow has escaped me by the name of Ibnu Khaldun and the third was about our own historian, Pehin Jamil. The talks were interesting and certainly opened up a few minds. However the Brunei Times have captured the story as follows:

History buffs discuss historical figures

Sunday, September 9, 2012
OVER 100 history enthusiasts and academics attended the History Talk to discuss the contributions of important figures in history in an event held at the Brunei Arts and Handicrafts Training Centre yesterday.

Organised by the Brunei History Centre, the talk focused on the subject, 'Historical Figures: Their deeds and contributions', with local History experts delivering talks on the biographies of important people in history.

Attending the event as chief guest was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, Hj Mohd Rozan Dato Paduka Hj Mohd Yunos.

Speaking to The Brunei Times, Hj Mohd Rozan said that the main aim of the yesterday's talk was to create awareness for the history of Brunei, and expose the different aspects of history to the participants.

Pointing out the important role of understanding history as a means for gaining a sense of identity, he said "If you don't know your history, you don't know your wont know how important it is...the struggle that we experienced to get to where we are today".

"History, in some sense, it is is us. If you know your past, then it is easy for you to chart your future", said Hj Mohd Rozan.

The History Talk featured several lecturers from Universiti Brunei Darussalam namely Associate Professor Dr Hj Asbol Hj Mail who delivered a talk on the father of Islamic History, Ibnu Khaldun and UBD lecturer Ismail Nordin who talked about Sultan Hashim Jalilul Alam 'Aqamaddin's contributions to history.

Ustaz Hj Abd Kadir N.C. Mohamed, researcher and translator of Arabic language from the Brunei History Centre, also gave a talk during the event which was based on the deeds and contributions of the current Brunei historian and Head of Brunei History Centre, the Honourable Pehin Jawatan Dalam Seri Maharaja Dato Seri Utama Dr Hj Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri.

Towards the end of the evening, a prize presentation was held for winners of the History essay-writing competitions and illustrative story-telling competition previously organised by the Brunei History Centre.

Hj Mohd Rozan said that recognition through such competitions and history talks that are conducted in a more relaxed and laidback setting are among a few of the ways that can help gain students' interests in the subject of History.

"A lot of people consider History as a dry subject...well, in some sense, it is a dry subject, but of course, if we make it more interesting, then people will be more interested in it. That is what we're trying to do here", he added.
The Brunei Times

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