The creative economy has the potential to not only strengthen the expansion of global value chains, increase digital adoption among creative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), fuel the export of cultural goods and creative services, and foster ownership through local engagement, but also contribute to the overarching goal of sustainable development. The global market for creative goods increased considerably from 436 billion US dollars in 2002 to 964 billion US dollars in 2015 (UNCTAD, 2021).
Creativity is part of Singapore’s DNA and has always been intertwined with our national development. In a 2018 speech, our Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, noted: “Singapore is a nation by design. Nothing we have today is natural or happened by itself.”
What is the creative economy? The term invariably evokes multiple meanings, often seen as the nexus of various creative fields, including the arts and culture, science and technology, business and trade. At its root, the creative economy deals in ideas and money (Howkins, 2001).
For many of us who have yet to see Picasso’s Guernica, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, or any of the other celebrated masterpieces up close, they are now within our reach. More art museums and galleries are migrating their collection into the digital realm, the shift primarily driven by the ubiquity of digital technology and accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis.
Agus is a design student in one of the oldest design schools in Indonesia, located in Bandung City, West Java province. Like other design students and professional designers in this city, Agus came looking for a small metal workshop to complete an assignment: a set of home decor products. He hired a metal craftsman to build a prototype. The prototype, built through a simple process, was finished in less than a week.
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (2010), which has been instrumental in promoting and analysing creative economies all over the world through its Creative Economy Program, described the creative economy (CE) as “an evolving concept based on creative assets potentially generating economic growth and development.”
NFTs or non-fungible tokens are creating a buzz in the art world and creatives in Southeast Asia are buying in. They are latching on to the craze, experimenting with their digital work, and gearing up to take the NFT scene by storm.
There is a growing interest in the socio-economic contribution of the creative economy. It is spurred by the technological and digital transformation happening worldwide at an unprecedented rate and the increasing shift from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy where creativity and innovation are becoming critical.
ASEAN businesses need support to internationalise and engage in trade across borders and have a positive impact on economic growth. It is a wellknown that businesses that engage internationally can grow faster, experience higher turnover, adopt technological capabilities, and increase wages. In turn, their competitiveness improves in global value chains as well as in domestic markets.
The Creative Economy Programme of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD, n.d.-a) describes the creative economy as “the knowledge-based economic activities upon which the ‘creative industries’ are based.”
Minister Phoeurng discusses Cambodia’s key policies and programmes to develop and support its creative industries, the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the role that the creative industries play in the country’s post-pandemic recovery plan. She also shares her views on how ASEAN can position itself collectively as an important driver in advancing the creative economy.
Southeast Asia’s enduring tradition of handwoven textiles took centre stage at the recently held TENUN Fashion Week. This inaugural event was held online in the trend of digital fashion weeks as a response to COVID-19 restrictions. It was organised by the ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA) and Tanoti—a Malaysian accredited socialenterprise dedicated to heritage craft preservation, women empowerment, and rural community building. The event was supported through the Maybank Foundation’s Women Eco-Weavers programme and also by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Sarawak, Malaysia.
Elaine Chan, honorary secretary-general of AHPADA and co-organiser for TENUN Fashion Week 2021, shares her experience with The ASEAN.
Miguel “Mike” Alcazaren wears many artistic hats— animator, filmmaker, screenwriter, and comic book series creator. He began his career as an animator, co-founding a stop motion animation company with his brothers in 1989. The company is the first of its kind in the Philippines and produced experimental films, ads, and title sequences for TV shows, many of which earned national and international recognition, including the prestigious New York Festival Award.
Mike branched out into the world of live-action commercial directing in 1995, working mostly in a freelance capacity. He has since built an impressive portfolio of popular and award-winning television ads. In 2013, he wrote, directed, and produced his first feature film, “Puti” [White]. The film was screened at a national film festival and was also an entry at the 32nd Brussels International Film Festival.
Mike’s first foray into screenwriting, which focused on the incarceration and trial of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. during the Ferdinand Marcos regime, won him the country’s prestigious Carlos Palanca Memorial Literary Awards. He recently wrapped up a popular, self-published Filipino zombie comic book series, “Patay Kung Patay” [Death be Damned].
Freelance documentary photographer Joshua Irwandi became the talk of the town when his photograph of a solitary plastic-wrapped corpse of a suspected COVID-19 victim in an Indonesian hospital was published by the National Geographic in 2020. “The Human Cost of COVID-19” photo quickly went viral and sparked a controversy in Indonesia. For this image, Joshua was nominated as a finalist of The 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography.
Joshua pursued his graduate studies in photojournalism and documentary photography at London College of Communication. He was the recipient of the National Geographic Society COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists and Forhanna Foundation Grant for Young Talent in 2020. This year, Joshua received numerous recognitions, including the 2021 World Press Photo Award, Grand Prize of Lucie Foundation Open Call, and Best Single Photo in Citizen Journalist category of the Anugerah Pewarta Foto Indonesia. Joshua was recently selected as a mentee in the VII Photo Agency Mentor Program 2021-23 Cohort.
In 2012, Thao Vu started her sustainable fashion brand, Kilomet109, a local label that prides itself on applying traditional methods into contemporary design and localising its supply chain. She aimed to set an example for other companies to follow.
Kilomet109 is the only label to grow its own textiles in collaboration with local artisans from various ethnic minority groups across Viet Nam. The company is involved in the whole production process from beginning to end.
Thao has been collaborating with other designers and researchers around the globe to promote sustainable methods of natural dyeing and textile production. She has received two British Council Connecting Through Culture grants, which has allowed her and her local artisans to engage in cultural exchange and capacity-building activities.
Born into a family of weavers, Viengkham Nanthavongdouangsy learned the craft at an early age. Through her passion for weaving and dedication to maintain the family legacy, she became a master weaver and a leading fashion designer in Lao PDR. She has also published several books on Laotian textiles and weaving culture.
Vientiane-based Viengkham established her own house of Lao textile and fashion named KHANG in 2015, through which she employs and empowers more than 30 women weavers while promoting Laotian textiles to the global market. She has received international recognition for her designs.
Viengkham has been working closely with weaving communities across ASEAN, participating in events such as TENUN Fashion Week and ASEAN-Korea Fashion Week. Her work is currently on display in the Lao Pavilion at the ongoing World Expo 2020 in Dubai.
Digital technology has been transforming the world of art since the 1960s. Artists are leveraging the power of technological innovations to explore new forms of artistic expression and create engaging digital art experiences. Digital transformation in the art field became more evident during the pandemic, as artists were pushed to expand their work into the digital realm.