The Globe as you know it is changing.
Coming June 2019

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  • Independent, free and member-supported
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  • Member engagement with our journalists

To understand more about why you are so important to our member-supported initiative, we encourage you to read the following from our managing editor ~ Read more

The Globe as you know it is changing.

Since 2007, Southeast Asia Globe has been a space for some of the region’s best writers and photographers to take our readers behind the headlines into the stories that shape people’s lives. Every month, you could expect to pick up our latest print edition and find high-quality journalism, analysis and artwork waiting on every page. And since 2007, we’ve fought to uphold our promise of quality and independence to you, our readers.

But, like we said, the world is changing. Print publications just aren’t reaching the audiences they need to fulfil their promise of informing, educating and entertaining the public. Advertisers continue to invest in digital platforms while printing costs creep ever higher. Print may not be dead, but it’s fighting for its life. And we’re tired of waiting by a sickbed for its condition to improve. We want to be present at the birth of something new.

That’s why Southeast Asia Globe is relaunching as a member-driven platform featuring daily long-form features combining world-class journalism with enthralling art design and data-centered tech. Through our core pillars – Power, Money, Life and Earth – we are focusing in on the central issues that our readers have always engaged with most, with the same in-depth coverage of politics, business, social affairs and the environment that you’ve come to expect since 2007.

But leaving print behind us doesn’t just save our backs from lugging stacks of magazines across Southeast Asia. It opens up a global readership who don’t just want to read the news, but have a say in the stories that we tell and the way that we tell them. We’re not asking you to take out another magazine subscription – our stories are open to all. What we’re offering our members is a space where they can pitch and vote on the stories that they think deserve to be told. We want to inspire an engaged and active community of members who vote for, comment on and contribute to the stories that matter most to them. We want to work with our members to curate the way they engage with the news – not just as readers, but as an active extension of our editorial team.

That’s how we’re changing to bring you great stories. Here’s how we’re not.

We’re independent. Always have been, always will be. We’re not owned by any corporation or aligned with any state. We choose the stories that we tell, and the way that we tell them.

We’re creative. We’re not interested in churning out breaking news stories on the hour, every hour. We believe that the best stories are the ones that come alive on the page, digging deeper into the issues that shape Southeast Asia – and bringing you along for the ride. From our dedicated designers to our new software development team, our commitment is to constantly challenge ourselves to find new ways of reaching out to our readers.

We’re open. Challenging governments, NGOs and businesses to be transparent with the public means nothing if we keep our own readers in the dark. That’s why we will be completely open about why we tell the stories that we tell – and how we pay for them. Work with us to build something that endures where many media fail, and decide with us exactly where that money is going.

Above all, we’re optimistic. And yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Faced with impending climate collapse, the rise of right-wing authoritarian governments across the world, widening wealth and income inequality and deepening divisions rooted in race or gender or creed, it’s hard not to open the papers and feel the weight of the world pressing down. But we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t believe that when people work together, they can make their little corner of the world a more just, open and equal place.

And that’s why we can’t do this without you. We believe that across the globe is a community of people who care deeply about social justice, environmental action and press freedom – and who will join in to help make those ideals a reality. We’re not just holding our hand out – we need your voice to play a vital role in building Southeast Asia Globe into a leading space for progressive causes in the region. Tell us what stories the mainstream media is missing. Share with us the causes that matter most to you, and how we can champion those causes not just across Southeast Asia, but the world.

Our vision is clear. By 2025, we want to be recognised for building a great space for outstanding journalists from across the region to explore new ways of telling Southeast Asia’s most vital stories. Let’s bring together a community of engaged and loyal members who want to help reshape the media rather than just read it. And we want to reach a point where our readers, not advertisers, are the ones working to support our shared vision of an inclusive media.

We can’t do this without you. Let’s get together and build something that we all believe in.

If you’re interested in joining us, sign up to our newsletter, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter. And watch this space.

Art on the move / From boardrooms to brothels

By: Paul Millar - Posted on: March 8, 2018 | Culture & Life

Through its art walks, OH! Open House, an organisation in Singapore, leads enthusiasts through locations from boardrooms to brothels with the aim making art less of a “middle class, bourgeois pursuit.” 

Alecia Neo’s ‘Garden of Being’

A fire is smouldering in the belly of Sir Stamford Raffles. Open to the elements, his ribs lay bare beneath the sky like the bars of a grill. Crouched over his blazing entrails, Indonesian maids in Javanese court sarongs prepare traditional kueh kapit, a thinly folded wafer eaten across the ocean-faring nations of Southeast Asia.

This provocative artwork by Singaporean artist Jimmy Ong is the centrepiece for the latest art walk by OH! Open House, a Singapore-based group that leads art lovers and laymen alike through the streets of the city-state in search of art that has been uprooted from the crisp, white walls of galleries and museums.

“When we started it really was about: ‘How do you take art out of the [museum] so that people will find it more accessible to their lives?’” Open House’s artistic director and curator Alan Oei said. “Because museums, fundamentally, are still very much a middle-class, bourgeois pursuit, right? We believe that art has resonance for a much bigger population.”

Since 2009, Open House has led its followers on tours that take in locations ranging from the boardrooms of investment banks to the brothels of old Singapore. This month, though, Oei and his team will be travelling not just through physical space, but also to a time when the Lion City still crouched cowed beneath the boot of the British Empire.

Once the site of an immense nutmeg plantation owned by acting postmaster general William Cuppage, Emerald Hill now bears little resemblance to its 19th century forebear. Located just off the major shopping belt of Orchard Road, the neighbourhood has become the haunt of pricey bars and even pricier real estate.

This month, visitors will be presented with three tours exploring different facets of Emerald Hill’s history. In The Moral Hazards of Growing Nutmeg in a Faraway Land, their journey will take them through a recreated 19th-century warehouse packed with nutmeg and surreal sculptures shaped by artists Nabilah Nordin and Nick Modrzewski. In All the King’s Painters, they will see how history has been warped by its victors, as well as the struggle for artists to conform to a narrative that at times appears beyond question. And in Ways of Seeing, they will experience the clash between the colonial gaze and native traditions in shaping natural space, climaxing in a performance from academic and spirit medium Zarina calling upon the pre-colonial spirits of the land.

Academic and spirit medium Zarina Muhammad prepares to call upon the powers that be in her “Flowers from our Bloodline” performance piece

For a nation transformed from trading post to towering economic power in just over half a century, Oei said, Emerald Hill provides the perfect setting to draw back the curtain on Singapore’s own colonial past.

“A lot of post-colonial countries, one of the first things they do upon winning their independence is to tear down their sculptures and the legacy of their oppressors,” he said. “We, on the other hand, celebrate it as well.”

Built up into both trading port and military harbour town by the British to challenge the Dutch and Portuguese stranglehold on Southeast Asia’s spice trade, the Singapore founded by Sir Stamford Raffles seems a far cry from the city that has outstripped its regional competitors on just about every metric of prosperity. To modern eyes, the idea that the shining city-state could have grown from a seed as humble as nutmeg seems almost unthinkable.

“The Dutch and the Portuguese had been coming to Asia for a long time because of the spices – and nutmeg was one of the most valuable ones,” Oei said. “I think in Europe they had this idea also that nutmeg could even ward off the plague – so nutmeg really was worth its weight in gold. If you bought it here and sold it back in Europe, it was something like a 4,000% profit.”

As with all imperial projects, it was a profit that came with a devastating cost – though one that seems to have left little outward mark on the glittering metropolis of the 21st century. It is this buried tension surrounding the legacy of Singapore’s celebrated British founder Sir Stamford Raffles that fuels the latest work of Yogyakarta-based artist Jimmy Ong. His work, featured in the All the King’s Painters tour, picks apart the warring narratives that paint Raffles as both colonial oppressor and current-day icon of Singapore’s unrivalled prosperity. For many Singaporeans, he told Southeast Asia Globe, it was easy to see which history had triumphed.

“The perception of Raffles, at least from my memory, is that he is a branding of prestige for a school, a hotel, and then, later, property developments in the CBD of Singapore,” Ong said. “The funny thing is that people here in Indonesia actually say they wish Raffles had remained in Java, that it would have made Indonesia more successful like Singapore.”

Despite the weightiness of the subject matter, Oei said, it was these kinds of controversies – explored not just through fine art but the art of conversation – that breathed new life into the once-familiar streets of Singapore.

“Ours is kind of a blend of storytelling, and I think that explains some of our success in reaching out to people who normally aren’t so attuned to art – this allows them to follow stories and understand how the art works and give them different kinds of experiences,” he said. “That way I think we’ve been able to explore sensitive or even challenging issues.”

Yen Lin Teng’s ‘Secret Landing’

In a city-state as prosperous and densely populated as Singapore, that same ambition that drove the European powers to bend an entire people to their own economic ends remains rooted in the foundation of every high-rise. According to Oei, it is a realised ambition that has not come without cost.

“In Singapore we often don’t think about neighbourhoods as having any sort of value, or any specific identity just because of the nature of property speculation and how we’re always trying to upgrade to the next thing,” he said. “But each of [Singapore’s] neighbourhoods has their own secret stories, and that’s what we wanted to focus on as well.”

Like all stories worth hearing, the narratives of these neighbourhoods are inevitably shaped by money, power and the imaginations of the men who wield them. Almost two years ago, when Open House led groups on an artwalk through the rapidly developing district of Potong Pasir – famous for its distinction as Singapore’s longest-held opposition ward – they were showing people two very different Singapores.

Neglected for years by an authoritarian government loathe to lavish funds on a neighbourhood that refused to follow its party line, Potong Pasir had long been a vision of old-world Singapore in all its ruinous charm. Now, with even graveyards buckling between the weight of a sudden influx of cranes and scaffolding brought on by the local triumph of the ruling People’s Action Party in 2011, the new neighbourhood bears little trace of its political past.

“I think that strange message of what this construction means in relation to politics is something that hits home very strongly – because we are all so used to construction and development that we don’t think about the politics of it,” Oei said. “And so Potong Pasir was one that was quite poignant, because you could walk around and see things changing before your eyes – and you knew that it was all politically motivated.”

This article was published in the March edition of Southeast Asia Globe magazine. For full access, subscribe here.

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