Two days, 14 countries, 30 crew and staff and 200+ delegates from around the globe have made for an incredible Borak Arts Series in George Town, Penang. Borak Arts Series, Malaysia’s primary regional networking platform for creative practitioners and business leaders from around the world featured a rich and varied programme with 16 showcases, including excerpts and pitches via Pitchpad ASEAN. It is timed to coincide and link with the internationally acclaimed George Town Festival (GTF). The two-day event kicked off with welcome remarks by Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin, Founder and Director of MyPAA, and Joe Sidek, Festival Director of GTF. Building from 2013 and 2014’s Borak Arts Series of Building Sustainability in the Arts and Building Knowledge Capacity in Funding and Mobility, and in celebration of Malaysia’s chairmanship of ASEAN this year, this year’s conference was aimed to break boundaries and strengthen relationships across ASEAN communities via this year’s theme of ASEAN and The Future. “Within the ASEAN region, artists struggle for recognition, acceptance and to make a sustainable living. They look towards the west for validation and the more successful artists tour more extensively in the west than within ASEAN. We are separated by politics and national boundaries. However, culturally, we need not be separated. How do we connect and leverage on our arts and culture to capitalise on a market of 600 million in population? The Borak Arts Series is a preliminary step to open doors for more ASEAN artistes and their works to be recognised and further developed,” remarked Izan Satrina. “Inaugurated in 2010 in honour of George Town’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Festival transforms the city into a global stage, showcasing world-class performances, installations and collaborations from international and local artists alike. With over one hundred unique events each year, the Festival seeks to create new and vibrant connections between the traditional and the contemporary, the past and the future. We are delighted to have been given the chance to work together with MyPAA on the Borak Arts Series. It was only a matter of time that an arts conference of this stature was made to be a part of the Festival. I believe that the conference spurs intellectual discourses and complements well with all the performances and exhibitions that happen during this month-long festival, making the George Town Festival a celebration for the mind and senses,” said Joe Sidek. Annually, Borak Arts Series provides a platform for the globe to discover ASEAN’s best creative works, find new colalborators, network with fellow professionals, and meet key ecosystem players including funding and development agencies to build works and tours. The platform includes keynote addresses, panel discussions, country and city highlights, round robin sessions, networking platforms and performances. Further strengthening the content for this year’s conference to aid in bringing local and ASEAN works across borders, MyPAA has included two brand new components – i) One-on-One Meetings with local and international presenters including theatre programmers and festival directors with an appetite for ASEAN works and ii) Pitchpad ASEAN, a forum for ASEAN creators and arts professionals to share and discover new performing arts projects. The conference introduced delegates to a range of influential speakers and provided them with the rare opportunity to hear, network and discuss on various topics regarding the industry. Speakers who were present and met with delegates from all around the region included: – Fiki Satari | Chairman | Bandung Creative City Forum (Indonesia) – Kristopher McDowell |President & CEO | KMP Artists (USA) – Rithisal Kang | Director | Amrita Performing Arts (Cambodia) – Pauline Fan | Managing Director | PUSAKA (Malaysia) – Amna Kusumo | Director | Kelola Foundation (Indonesia) – Mio Yachita | Assistant Director & Head of Cultural Affairs Department | The Japan Foundation, Kuala Lumpur (Japan/Malaysia) – Eliza Roberts | Arts Residencies Manager | Asialink (Australia) – H.E. Elaine Tan | Executive Director | ASEAN Foundation (Indonesia) – Teresa Rances | Director | Asian Cultural Council (Philippines) – Anna Har | Director | Freedom Film Fest (Malaysia) – Sharaad Kuttan | Journalist & Radio Presenter (Malaysia) – Suryani Senja Alias | Festival Director | Arts in the Park & Medini Live! (Malaysia) – Marlene Margaret Ditzig Li-Mei | Programmer | Esplanade Singapore (Singapore) – Andrew Ross | Artistic Director | Darwin Festival (Australia) – Marnie Karmelita | Programming Director | Brisbane Powerhouse (Australia) – Kate Ben-Tovim | Creative Associate, Asian Performing Arts Program | OzAsia Festival (Australia) – Sachio Ichimura & Hirotomo Kojima | Director & Vice Director | Festival Tokyo (Japan) – Seng Song | Associate Country Manager | Cambodian Living Arts (Cambodia) – Pichet Klunchun | Founder | Pichet Klunchun Dance Company (Thailand) – Ening Nurjanah | Program Manager | Komunitas Salihara (Indonesia) – Laurent Van Kote | International Advisor in Performing Arts Policy | Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication (France) – Emmanuel Benbihy | Founder & Producer | Cities of Love (France) – Grace Chin | Publishing Lead | Viddsee (Malaysia) – David Ho | Founder | Navigator Asia Business (Malaysia) Topics during this year’s Borak Arts Series were curated with the view of building knowledge capacity for the ASEAN performing arts industry, addressing relevant issues such as funding, freedom of expression and more. The topics presented this year were: – Creating an ASEAN Community via Arts and Culture (Keynote Address by Fiki Satari) – ASEAN Tradition and Putting a Contemporary Spin on It (Panel Discussion) – Getting to Know our International Fund Partners (with an Outlook on ASEAN) (Panel Discussion) – Protecting Freedom of Expression in ASEAN (Workshop) – Investing in International Exchange, Distribution and Networking Within ASEAN (Panel Discussion) – Aligning Arts with Digital Marketing (Panel Discussion) – Quick Snapshot of Funders and Partners (Round Table Session) The highlight on the first day was the One-on-One Meetings with Malaysian and International Festival Directors and Venue Programmers. Delegates had the exclusive opportunity to directly and specifically communicate with influential players from the performing arts industry. “The One-on-One Meetings with Festival Directors and Venue Programmers is a new component of Borak Arts Series. After having attended a number of international performing arts markets and events, we realized that ASEAN works are much sought after. We also acknowledged that most of the artistes from our region do not have the luxury of time or resources to attend these events therefore we saw the importance of using the relationships that we’ve cultivated since MyPAA’s inception to develop the industry by making Borak Arts Series serve as a conduit for meaningful conversations,” expressed Izan Satrina. The second day of Borak Arts Series opened with another new segment called Pitchpad ASEAN. Up to ten ASEAN submissions were selected to pitch their new works in development within ten minutes to the stellar line-up of international festival directors and venue programmers in the presence of all delegates. The ten submissions were: – “The Malay Man and His Chinese Father” by Noor Effendy Ibrahim | Independent (Singapore) – “Malay” by Sarah Salazar | Independent (Philippines) – “Gobyerno” (Government) by JK Anicoche | Sipat Lawin (Philippines) – “Bordal Serei” by Rithisal Kang | Amrita Performing Arts (Cambodia) – “Double Punctum” by Loh Kok Man | Pentas Project Theatre Production (Malaysia) – “Swordfish, Concubine and The Fall of Singapura” by Kee Thuan Chye | Independent (Malaysia) – “The Next” by Bernard Goh | Hands Percussion (Malaysia) – “The Gongs & Songs” by Sharmini Ratnasingam | Rhythm in Bronze (Malaysia) – “The Pak Yung Revisited” by Dr. Joseph Gonzales | ASWARA (Malaysia) – “PADI” by Aida Zurinna Redza | Ombak-Ombak Art Studio (Malaysia) Delegates were also witnesses to an opening performance entitled “Wayang Koh Maak” (by Adam Tan, Michelle Tan, Foong Bao Hui, Hilyati Ramli, Clement Pau), performances of “KAMA (by Rhythm in Bronze) and “Pinang Keepers” (by Aida Redza, Liu Yong Sean). Two interviews on Asian artistes, Loo Zihan and Ellison Tan (Singapore) and Jecko Siompo (Indonesia), were also shown courtesy of Japan Center, Pacific Basin Arts Communication or PARC. Due to the support from George Town Festival as co-organiser of Borak Arts Series, Sime Darby Foundation, Asia Center, The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, the National Department for Culture and Arts, ASEAN Foundation as official partners, and Think City, Goethe-Institut Malaysia, Australia-Malaysia Institute, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australian Government), MyCreative Ventures, Embassy of France in Kuala Lumpur, National Arts Council Singapore and ASEAN as supporting partners, the conference’s aim to promote accessibility of information, tools and ideas on how to bring ASEAN works or discussions forward, encourage cultural mobility and create alliances that would assist in building a conducive performing arts ecosystem, was achieved. “We are very delighted to see Borak Arts Series grow from strength to strength. Borak Arts Series is a strategic platform created out of the public-private partnership under the National Creative Industry Policy (DIKN) effort. A local home grown brand that has gained much regional traction, Borak Arts Series has become the starting point for many conversations with partners outside Malaysia, initiated either by MyPAA or by the artistes and producers actively investing in their international relationships,” remarked YBhg. Datuk Norliza Rofli, Director General of the National Department for Culture and Arts. “The programme targets partners with influence and the potential to create momentum for Malaysian performing artists as well as those from the ASEAN region. Advocacy and networking create other opportunities for those involved to have international dialogues. The dissemination of information raises the profile of works from this region amongst players from bigger, more matured markets. Dialogues between artistes and stakeholders of the arts should never cease and Borak Arts Series addresses this and in the two years of its existence, we’ve seen many fruitful or highly potential discussions come out of it. It has been a catalyst for our Malaysian artists being present to pitch to 700 delegates in New York, sparked a collaboration between Korean and Malaysian dancers in addition to seeding collaborations between New Zealand and Malaysian artistes,” expressed Izan Satrina. Tickets to the conference were priced at RM150 two-day admission) and RM80 (per day admission) and included admission to the conference, two coffee breaks and lunch.