BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – The works of 39 local artists took centre stage on Saturday as part of a governmental initiative to highlight Brunei’s art scene during the sultanate’s 35th National Day celebrations.

The large art installation, located in the heart of the capital, spells out the characters #nbd35 — the hashtag for this year’s National Day — and is covered in murals.

The #nbd35 art installation, located at the Yayasan Complex, was set up to commemorate the country’s 35th National Day. Photo: Rafidah Hamit/The Scoop

Project Manager and Head of the Design and Decoration Unit at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Wan Nur Zahidah Metussin, said that this is the first time local artists were engaged in painting the #nbd panels that have become a prominent fixture during national day events.

“Panels from previous years would usually be painted with our national colours, but this year, the ministry wanted to shed light on the arts community in Brunei, to show the nation – and the world – that this community exists in Brunei, and it is thriving,” she said.

She noted the rise in the number of art exhibitions and local galleries in recent years, adding that that events featuring local artists have been “blooming” of late, grabbing the ministry’s attention.

“It’s rare to see Bruneian artists featured in such a public space as this, and we want to support the community by giving them a space for them to express their creativity, because arts and culture go hand in hand, and we want to see more artworks that show our Bruneian culture.”

Project Manager and Head of the Design and Decoration Unit at the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS), Wan Nur Zahidah Metussin. Photo: Wardi Wasil/The Scoop

Hjh Nurul Erne Azlina Hj Zainal, a mural artist from Arttralia Brunei, said it was an honor to be part of National Day celebrations, because it is one of the few events in the country that gathers Bruneians from all walks of life in the capital.

“[The project] is a good opportunity that can give a lot of exposure to artists, and with all six panels, you get to see each artist’s individuality, their own unique creative expression, its like a collage featuring what our local artists are capable of.”

Siti Nazurah Hj Mohammad Usop, another featured artist, said she has hope for the country’s art scene, especially with the government engaging local artists to take part in public events.

She added that in the digital age, there are more avenues for artists to pursue — such as marketing and interior design — making it a more viable and socially-acceptable career.

“This is how we evolve through the times, nowadays more companies employ artists for their marketing campaigns, it is a good development for the country’s art scene, but at the same we want to ensure that our artists to hold on to their individuality,” added Wan.

Mural artist from Arttralia Brunei, Hjh Nurul Erne Azlina Hj Zainal, posing with a part of the #nbd35 panel that she designed and painted for Bruneis 35th National Day celebrations. Photo: Wardi Wasil/The Scoop

Giving local artists a space to thrive

With the MCYS hoping to promote and engage local artists, Wan said that there are a few projects in the pipeline that will give them an opportunity to gain a wider audience and build a sustainable career as an artist.

She shared that the ministry has planned a number of exhibitions at the Royal Wharf Gallery until the end of October, with plans to feature different artists each month, ranging from women’s art, to comic book art and sculpture.

“To enliven the capital even more, we want to turn the gallery into a sort of of an art market, and we want to give artists a chance to sell their art, to earn their living.

“We’ll be collaborating with different public and art institutions, so that there will be a variety [of exhibitions] and ultimately, we want Bruneian artists to believe in their individual creativity and we want them to use it to express themselves, their experiences and our culture.”