Research: Brunei 02

Bandar Seri Begawan

2016.9.25 - 9.26

This was the second research trip to Brunei. Joined this time by fellow curator Merv Espina, who grew up in Brunei until 11, the trip became an even more productive investigation into Brunei’s art scene. Particularly impressionistic was the sight of young artists coming together and trying to expand venues for their artistic expressions.

  • Merv Espina
  • Haruko Kumakura
  • Sayuri Kida
  • Mami Kataoka
  • Naoki Yoneda

Yasmin Jaidin (1987-)


Sayuri Kida

Yasmin Jaidin, born in Brunei in 1987, studied art in London from 2007-2010 and again from 2013-2014 and is now based in Brunei. Her work Factory (2008), which was the starting point for an ongoing series using sugar, takes advantage of the material’s propensity to harden when a specific water: sugar ratio is made and then dried. She uses this technique to make sugar tiles of approximately 40 by 40 cm and piles them to form works of art. By using such materials, she defamiliarizes the familiar and presents it in a completely different form, a concept and approach which continue in her subsequent works. Inspired by displays in jewelry stores, Our Habitat (2014) is composed of four plinths. By casting parts of each plinth in sugar, she explores their function within gallery spaces. Despite there being several art spaces or galleries, Jaidin explained that it is still challenging to constantly exhibit works in Brunei as the understanding and appreciation of modern art is less than adequate.

Awang Bin Sitai (1949-)


Haruko Kumakura

Awang Bin Sitai is an artist born in 1949. In 1970, he became one of the first artists to travel to England on a government-sponsored study abroad program. Until then, such programs were primarily catered toward art instructors. Sitai traveled to England three times in total, and he shared with us that it was extremely stimulating for him to study in Europe during a time when some of the great masters of the 20th century such as Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Andy Warhol (1928-1987) were still alive. But he also said it was a difficult period in terms of establishing his own style. His abstract paintings were extremely rare in Brunei at the time, suggesting that he is one of the first generation of artists that brought modern art into Brunei. After his return, he held a job designing the art sets at the nationally-run television bureau that opened in 1975, but he continued to also paint. It was during this time that he founded the Brunei Art Association with more than 20 of his artist friends, holding exhibitions several times a year; a collective engagement that continued until the 1990s. It can be said that he is truly the figure who built the foundation for art in Brunei today.

Creative Space


Haruko Kumakura

This is a new art space established by painter Osman Mohammad (1950-), whom we interviewed in the last round of research, and his daughter, Osveanne Osman (1989-) who works as a curator. Osveanne studied at Queensland University of Technology in Australia on a government-sponsored scholarship, and returned to Brunei in 2012 which was when she realized there was no platform in Brunei for modern art. This space was thus established as an environment conducive for artists’ creative practices, a space where they can pursue their artistic expresssions. Creative Space covers a wide range of activities, including hosting exhibitions and production workshops, holding networking forums with guest speakers from overseas, planning creative conferences, and creating a database and archives of Brunei artists. Osveanne Osman says that these activities are designed not only to further the production of artworks but also, by sharing the networks themselves and the art market with many artists, to generate economic conditions that will enable Brunei’s artists to be active internationally and earn an independent living. Also, utilizing his experience and connections cultivated over the years through organizing exhibitions in Brunei for the Philip Morris Art Awards, he said that he plans to reach out to the government and private corporations to organize art fairs and international exhibitions such as biennales in Brunei.

Special Thanks

Ali Haji Abd Rahim
Awang Bin Sitai
Azmina Ahmad
Haruz Khalid
Lisa Ahmad
Mahaddi B.Hj.Matzain
Marsidi Bin Omar

Maziyah Yussof
Osman Mohamed
Osveanne Osman
Redzuan Ruzli (wan)
Wan Zahidah
Yasmin Jaidin
Zakaria Bin Omar