What lies ahead for the arts in Borneo as it inherits the colours of its past?
Borneo Bengkel is a platform founded in 2017 with the aim to unite creatives from throughout the regions of Borneo: namely Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysia), Kalimantan (Indonesia), and Brunei.
Through our activities we explore identity, culture and creative expression through the eyes of artists, filmmakers, social activists, researchers and cultural practitioners.
As an island divided into three nations, we felt disconnected from our fellow Borneans. Over the past four years we have hosted creative residencies, workshops, exhibitions, and talks for collaborators from Borneo, Peninsular Malaysia, and beyond.
Bengkel, meaning 'workshop' in Malay, reflects Borneo Bengkel's core emphasis on knowledge exchange. Just like our ancestors of old, we believe that the exchange of skills and knowledge—both traditional and contemporary—are essential both for sustaining the creative human spirit and our shared histories.
A core focus and theme of our work is looking at our cultural roots and knowledge and exploring them from today's perspective.
Many of our collaborators identify as indigenous, however what that means in these diverse and rapidly developing regions is often different from the stereotypical "forest and feathered people" portrayed in the media.
We aim to create a space within which to honour our land and ancestors, whilst also acknowledging that Bornean identities not consigned to museums and tourism videos, but are evolving concepts that can adapt and actively respond to contemporary conventions and conversations.
Bor(neo): The Project
KL, Pontianak, KK