ProjekBrunei.com - Everyone has a Story
Abdul Kabir bin Zainidi is a Bruneian actor who is currently residing in Paris, France. He trained at the Cours Florent acting school in Paris from 2007-2010, where he won the best actor Lesley Chatterely Award in 2010 for his acting in a production of ‘Angels in America’. He is perhaps best known in Brunei as having the first Bruneian film selected into the Cannes film festival – ‘Bread Dream’ was selected for showcase in the 2012 short film corner.
Tell me about yourself.
Greetings. I am a Bruneian-born French-based artist called Abdul Zainidi. Granted, an unusual choice for a stage name but since arriving in Europe and mainly studying in England I have come to accept being called Abdul Zainidi instead of Abdul Khabir Bin Zainidi. Plus I was born with this name so to avoid further dismaying my parent's intentions, I prefer to keep my birth name as they had wanted. I feel it keeps my Bruneian roots and Islamic standing intact. At the same time the Zainidi name adds a touch of exoticism.
I consider myself truly an artist from Brunei, with my Bruneian short films made in Brunei 'Bread Dream' and 'Teluki' and 'Gagak dan Merak'. At the same time I am also a writer and I am influenced a lot by Gothic English and American literature and the writing of poets. Most of my work is rich in imagery and symbolism and draws upon symbiotics – I am influenced by Mary Shelley, the Bronte sisters, Edgar Allen Poe, Clark Ashton Smith and Sylvia Plath to name just a few. (There are more where that came from and as endless as the bottom of a well in the middle of the North Pole). I recently shot sequences of a music video for a DJ from Lyon, called DJ Bobot Wallas and that diverted away from my usual standard surrealistic work. It was a good experience, and shooting in the heart of Paris at the Eiffel tower proved unforgettable as the people you encounter. These small comforts are what make the task of making films bearable. It is an occupation that I try to live by and have learned to love. Although it certainly does not come easy to earn a steady income as such – what can I say? It is more about the artistic recognition that comes when you are part of very few from a humble country trying to make a difference.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Abdul Zainidi, filmmaker.
Well on a general basis my daily routine consists mainly of getting up at least at nine in the morning because I feel the brain is active at this time and going jogging. Only during summer though as in other seasons I could risk freezing my talent and other nether regions of my body. I feel that artists should stay physically active and fit and this is accomplished through sport – I usually jog and swim and even partake in collective dance classes.
This may shock many people that know or follow my work but I rarely consume breakfast because I just don't feel the urge to glorify the most important meal of the day. I drink in its absence a sinful amount of coffee (an artist's beverage and filmmaker's ambrosia). Then if I have a shoot I consult with my actors or colleagues what time we are to convene and meet usually in the afternoon where I avoid eating completely. I only reward myself with lunch after a shoot. I feel that eating before makes me lethargic.
After a shoot, which could last for up to five hours, I then assess whether I am 'famished' and whether I have accomplished my objective for the day with a shoot. For me eating and making film are closely associated. There is a recurring theme of food in my work. I then return home after spending social time with friends / actors / collaborators. I don’t ignore dinner, on the contrary, I savour the feast as much as possible.
Being in my line of activity allows me to keep quite slim and active. Actually it is sport, moving the camera, processing the brain, resolving shots, following the actors with your lens. The myth is that actors exert more force than the filmmakers but in actuality it is the filmmakers who are more exhausted. Which is why I tend to sleep well after a good day's shoot - typically around 1 am in the morning, depending on deadlines.
Your work generally straddles and draws on your experience as a Bruneian and in France. How would you define a Bruneian artist? Conversely, do you think nationality has a place in art?
I feel that I represent a surreal, art-house, independent style of film movement from Brunei. As opposed to my other fellow Bruneian filmmakers who emphasize mainly action and comedy. I respect their work and suppose that residing abroad mainly in Paris has 'seeped' and 'leaked' itself into and shaped my work.
I am a fan of abstract art. I am influenced in equal measure by modern and contemporary art as well. The works of Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Edward Hopper are a few I am inspired by. Andy Warhol, Jean Basquiat and Yoko Ono are also artists I borrow some 'artistic tools' from. What I mean by 'artistic tool’ is that all of us artists - be we writers, painters, directors - we all have a certain feature that defines our work and just like in fashion, we all borrow and lend from each other and recycle it. In other words all artists are inspired by and borrow from each other. I have definitely borrowed, in my short films, the artistic tools of David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Charlie Chaplin…to name a few. It is to an extent all acceptable and as the saying goes 'imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.' However outright copying identically a style is just plain plagiarism.
At 6:15 on a Sunday morning, I am at school. I take a few moments to shake the lethargy from my sleep-heavy limbs, climb out of the car, and head past five or six huge 22-seater buses, their drivers and teachers holding clipboards, consulting important looking documents.
I smile and wave at some of my friends, who look as bemused as I am sure I must. We summon the energy to grumble at how early it is, but it is mostly token grumbling, as insubstantial and brief as the coolness of the morning. We enjoy the novelty of the situation in our secret hearts. We are assigned little jobs – “Distribute these flags”, “Check for loiterers in the toilets” – and sent on errands – “Panggilkan prefek atu”, “Can you make an announcement to gather the students in the waiting area? Thanks”.
By 6:30, more people have arrived and my fellow early risers and I melt away into the crowd, remaining as inconspicuous as we can until it is time to get on the bus. Climb in, headcount, and we're off!
A few selfies later, I am watching the roads fill up as we approach Bandar. Daring Indian bus drivers make new lanes, squeezing into seemingly impossible gaps to get us ahead in the traffic. Old Haji bus drivers in their white caps “tsk” at the impudence and impatience of young drivers today. Impudent and impatient young Malay bus drivers behind their indifferent sunglasses look for opportunities to switch lanes, Kristal FM blaring from the radio. We all watch other faces in other buses and try to guess what schools they are from. I turn to glare at a squeal further down the bus that turns heads and the squealer, embarrassed, stops her frantic waving at a familiar face passing by, reaching instead for her mobile phone.
Near the Royal Regalia building in town, we are dropped off. Teachers and students swarm around the big buses like the small dinosaurs did around the mammoths in Pixar's “Ice Age”. Policemen halt us and wave us forward. We head out, not knowing our final destination, but watching for a familiar uniform in front of us, the faces of teachers we know. I keep an eye on those around me whilst chattering away with my friends. I am careful not to be a trailblazer. Our school move out and take up our positions – in front of the old Post Office building jostling for space, then in front of the old Bolkiah Cinema under fading posters, and are finally moved to in front of Standard Chartered Bank. We stand, squat, lean against convenient surfaces and eye the Dairy Queen. A serious debate arises concerning the merits of a cold DQ over a hot egg burger from one of the many street stalls.
A Maths teacher walking past overhears and calls out in passing, “Get both lah! You can afford it, what.” The girls and I exchange good-natured mutters about how men never seem to understand about diets.
Gossip ensues. Once in a while, sirens sound and students rush to their feet, eager to show their patriotism and do the job that we have gathered here to do. Hopes rise, and fall, dashed. Gossip resumes. Repeat.
At 9:30, THE cavalcade arrives, flags wave madly, we are marched in the SOAS field and out the other side, near the Yayasan complex. Everyone is issued one bottle of water and one packet of mostly rice and one piece chicken. We eat, rest, gossip and gripe our way through an hour. Then I rouse the troops and we and march them back to the buses and school.
When we alight at the end of the journey, I remind the students not to leave any personal belongings in the bus. They check, patting pockets to reassure themselves that they have their phones and wallets.
“Cher, can we go home now?” a few ask as they climb off. I nod my head and answer in the affirmative and mobile phones are whipped out, dexterous thumbs move fluidly over touchscreens and they disperse.
I climb into my car, happy at an easy day of work well done, content to enjoy the rest of my Sunday.
Editor's Note: Mason Cooley once said, "Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are." You have just read a story by Joyce, a sneak peek into her world and some of her experiences. Who is Joyce? I asked her to share a little about herself.
She is a dedicated teacher at a Sixth Form centre in Brunei where she daily entreats, begs, threatens, cajoles and teases her students in an attempt to develop their skills in the English Language. She is a self-confessed bibliophile and excessive book addict who enjoys doodling, diving once every school holiday, messing about with bits of paper and string, and dancing in her car at traffic lights. In her free time, she annoys her fighting fish and long-suffering hamster who oversee her day to day adventures. She plagiarises from the Pixar cartoon “Up” to remind everyone that, “Adventure is out there!” and from Tae Joon in “A Beautiful You” to say, “Miracle is just another word for effort.”
Editor's Note: Hi Readers! Lately, I have been introducing new contributors to this blog. There was the travel piece by John from NerdWallet, I am a Bird by Kathrina and Angel's Bistro Chez Fio experience. Over the next few weeks I will be introducing other new writers. This is important to me as everyone has a different perspective on things. We see things through different lenses. On that note, allow me to introduce you to Teah. This is a little bit about her in her own words.
"A civil servant by day and a freelance writer at night, Teah recently launched a Brunei based writing zine, Songket Alliance. She is also the co-founder of Bruneians Read, which means she likes to read. She travels too, and that's kind of the same as reading sometimes."
5 Things Bruneians Need to Talk About
by Teah Abdullah
1. Upholding a Realistic Language
The government is trying its hardest with upholding the writing and speaking of the Malay language. Quite frankly, it isn't working very well.
Before I go on to elaborate my point, let me clarify this: I write really well in English, and I'm not making this point as a form of superiority complex. I write Malay relatively better than the average person who writes English as well as I do. I write Malay for work every day, and I do not resent writing or speaking in Malay.
But standard Malay is a pain.
As oppose to emphasizing the continuation and the upholding of standard Malay, we need to start being realistic when it comes to our culture, which is: Uphold Melayu Brunei as a national language.
You can consider Melayu Brunei as bahasa pasar if you want, but I disagree. There is nothing more culturally strong and significantly Brunei than our capability at speaking Melayu Brunei. Granted, the Bahasa Rojak (English and Malay mixed together while talking) will always exist, but we need to realise that language evolves. "Cali" or humourous, for instance, is believed to stem out of the comedic actor Charlie Chaplin, "eksen" or "bluffing" derived from "action". We've allowed these words into our lexicon without thinking of its origin, and they are so deliciously Brunei.
When I was studying in Singapore, I surrounded myself with people who were enthusiastic of the Southeast Asian region. Some of them spoke both Standard Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. In the event I was on the phone with my mum, my best friend Shalina would tell me, "I think Melayu Brunei is the most beautiful and delectable Bahasa Melayu dialect in the region."
I have my biases when it comes to thinking we have a pretty good Melayu dialect, but I know several others who feel the same way as Shalina does. Our tonal goes several harmonies and our Melayu Brunei sounds playful. Continuing language identity is a very difficult task, but when people resent Standard Malay because the language sounds odd when uttered, we need to be realistic and find a language that is more identifiable to Bruneians, and that is Melayu Brunei.
Incest is a subject that goes on the newspaper often, but no one actually uses the word 'incest' to describe rape between family relations, which strikes me as odd. I'm personally curious to know the data on incest, and why we--as a society--have done little to reprimand it other than quietly discussing it. There are some things that should be left behind the walls of a family's house, but incest rape is one area where we need to start having serious discussions about, even if there are already regulations dedicated to it.
The less we talk about incest rape, the more we are giving space to fathers who rape their daughters saying that the girls were "tempting" him (legitimate reasoning I have personally seen on a newspaper.) Other than the psychological harm it may cause on the victim, it can be even more dangerous for the female in the event she gets pregnant from it. Other than the possibility of deformation, abortion is an option that isn't available for females who got pregnant through rape. And if the method is available, it isn't medically safe.
3. Our Overindulgence is Becoming a Cultural Trait
Want an iPad? No worries. Pay an installment of such-and-such dollars and you'll be able to pay them off in three years, at which time, there will be two other new iPads on the market! Want an LV bag? Go to the nearest mall! There's several grade-A fake ones you can afford!
There is something about branding that irks me. And while every so often I fall as the victim to branding, the overindulgence I see in a portion of Bruneians can be shocking. I'm sure there's someone that we know who has a new phone every few months despite not being a technobrat; they just buy it because it's new on the market. And there's the issue of grand weddings which causes people to drown in massive debt because of societal expectations, which isn't a good start to marriage. How about that WhatsApp message that circulated around recently about the Malaysian Ringgit being at its weakest and we could see long queues at money changers? Our overindulgence has become a cultural trait that our neighbouring country is abusing the weakness knowing that a portion--no matter how small or big--of our population would fall for it.
UBD did a study in 2009 which found that 75 percent of Bruneians aged 25 to 45 currently do not save or invest. THAT. IS. CRAZY. Where does their money go to?! Repayments, loans, cars, new and expensive phones.
This is dangerous for the future of our country, particularly when it comes to poverty. In other societies, elderly and women are the ones more likely to fall into poverty. With government pension no longer a privilege, this puts several generations of the Brunei population at risk.
It definitely isn't my business to tell you what you buy, but it certainly is my concern that we should not think so highly of ourselves that we forget moderation when it comes to our spending for the future of our economy or social stability.
Greetings readers. I caught up with Jonathan Bong over a meal a while back and picked his mind about some of the lessons he has learnt from his entrepreneurial journey to date. You may be asking yourself, "Why does he seem so familiar?" Not surprising really. You might remember him from one of his previous stints, from St Andrew's School or from his time with Breeze Magazine in East Malaysia. Today, he is in the construction industry, "focusing on road base for both industrial and rural roads", working on projects in three international markets.
I asked him, What advice would you give to others looking to make a name for themselves in business? Here are his five pointers:
1. Have realistic goals. "There are no guarantees in business so, unless you have really deep pockets, do not waste your time chasing lofty dreams."
2. Be pragmatic. "Practice due diligence and know your market. Be brave enough to let go of wishful thinking to do that which makes you money."
3. Find good partners. "You are not good at everything. Work with people who complement your skill sets. Also, look for investors and mentors who can coach you through."
4. Do less. "It helps to focus on one thing at a time instead of spreading yourself thinly over too many things."
5. Grow yourself. "Do not be contented and comfortable; be hungry. If you are able, work and learn about business overseas. Expose yourself abroad and then come back with different experiences."
What do you do?
A freshly graduated fashion designer specializing in conceptual womenswear clothing.
Describe yourself in a few words.
Optimistic and loves indulging in anything creative.
What does success look like to you?
Success to me is to persevere despite the many obstacles and negativity that you may face.
When I see the words 'fashion designer', I think of The Devil wears Prada and Ugly Betty. Exaggerations? Or pretty close to reality?
Perhaps some scenes are quite true as being in an industry where competition is always never-ending, catty attitudes are not uncommon. But, the way they portray interns in the movies is probably exaggerated as it really depends on the company on how they treat their interns, as generally interns are not paid as we are giving free labour but, I guess it is up to us individuals on whether we can find ways in learning through that experience. There are times where I had to do simple errands such as walking around the city to collect things or send things; it may seem boring but I take it as a way to observe the sights and sounds of the city whilst doing so. At the end of the day, it is how you perceive these small tasks in a different light.
Apart from that, designing clothes may seem like a glamorous career but it is actually a lot of hard work, talent and dedication. I remember being in the studio doing my own tasks and observing the long hours that the designers dedicate their time towards their designs.
Have you always been creative? Or was it something that grew on you?
I have always enjoyed drawing and making creative crafts as a child so I think that came quite naturally to me. In middle school and high school, I was in the Science stream so, for a few years I did not have any formal education in art and design and did not have the opportunity to yield my creativity. However, that is the period in my life when I realized that I wanted to pursue something creative as I really missed drawing and having the freedom to create something artistic on a daily basis.
A peek into my sketchbook
Hunting for fabric
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