From Fear to Resilience

FROM FEAR TO RESILIENCE: STORY TELLING OF COVID-19 IN SOUTHEAST ASIA Call for Photo, Short Video and Art Essays by SEA Junction and Partners

These days we are inundated with photos of deaths, ICUs and suffering, creating fear as an incentive to keep us all at home. No matter how well-meaning, this narrative of COVID-19 remains one-sided and may have many unwanted consequences. We know from the HIV epidemic that fear only changes behavior in the short term and it may cause traumas and prejudices that make it more difficult to learn to live with the virus. This narrative also leads to seeing the ‘other’ as the ‘enemy’ who can potentially infect us, triggering unnecessary stigma and discrimination that hampers the efforts to control the epidemic. More needs to be done to raise understanding of the rationale of preventive measures and to provide the social and economic means to enable people to apply those.

SEA Junction invites all to make an effort to collectively provide a different visual story of the epidemic in Southeast Asia that shows strength and hope. We believe in the importance of reducing fear and promote informed policy and public discussion with more accurate reporting of the epidemiological realities of COVID19. We need to show that COVID19 is also a tale of survival, resilience and solidarity.

We are asking for short stories in the form of photo essays, short documentaries and illustrated art essays in any language of the region (to be later translated into English) or in English. We will then select, curate and showcase them in a special section to be established on our online platform and on our social media. We will be also looking for other partners interested in broadcasting these works of resilience. When the Covid-19 situation ease, we will use the selected visual storytelling works to organize a 2-week long exhibition at BACC.

Possible topics could be:

  • cultural rituals and faith to counter our anxiety;
  • experiences of quarantine (at home or at reserved locations) and survival;
  • people that continue to work in essential services;
  • laborers and migrant workers that keep the economy running by continuing to work in construction, agriculture, fishing, etc.;
  • rural and urban community organizing to control the epidemic and provide support to the needy;
  • innovation and adaptation of technology in resource poor settings;
  • strategic intervention to enhance people survival beyond relief;
  • and people that fight for social protection and for upholding of privacy and other human rights amidst this epidemic.
    Needless to say, ethical and safety principles need to be respected in the production of the stories, and compliance of preventive measures is a must at any time.

Needless to say, ethical and safety principles need to be respected in the production of the stories, and compliance of preventive measures is a must at any time.

This initiative has been launched by SEA Junction in partnership with Beyond Food, the Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women (GAATW) and Bangkok Tribune and we welcome other interesting parties to join this call.

If you have a series or an idea or want to contribute to this initiative just contact us at or with our instagramtwitter or facebook.

Looking forward to shaping this initiative with all of you!


Shadow Plays Go Virtual by Yayasan Sang Pamarta Indonesia

Yayasan Sang Parmata conducted a training on virtual performance last October to enable wayang kulit traditional shadow puppetry artists to continue their work and gain exposure to wider audiences amid the pandemic.

COVID-19 Tune Educates, Empowers Indonesia’s Remote Marapu Community by Fendi Widianto & Joseph Lamont

Singers and song-writers in the remote Marapu community in East Sumba, Indonesia, take up the challenge of conveying information on the COVID-19 pandemic in local idioms and language and in a way that touches their realities.

Art and Activism in the Age of Covid-19 in Iloilo City: A Tribute to Our Frontliners by Vic Salas

A couple of weeks ago, a new set of murals appeared in Tanza in Iloilo city. The drab walls had been cleaned and painted white, while a discernible set of faces emerged. These later turned out be close-up renditions of masked faces – those of city frontliners caught up in the epidemic.

Warding Off Illness with Traditional Talismans in Lao PDR and Other Neighboring Countries by Tara Gujadhur et al

In March 2020, when the danger of COVID-19 became recognised, a number of effigies, bamboo woven talismans or taleos, and gates cropped up in rural and urban areas. They were meant as a marker and warning to delineate the boundary between the safe space of the village from the outside world, where potentially dangerous spirits and entities – including now the coronavirus—roam.

Exploring Art and Nature while Stranded in Bogota by Ged Merino

Artist Ged Merino found himself stranded in Bogota on his way from Manila to New York when all three places went into lock-down at slightly different times. Even if familiar with Bogota the thought of being stranded in less common territory was in many ways unsettling. Nature and art helped him find new strength and creativity.

Transgender Women Bond in Solidarity in Jogjakarta, Indonesia by Nico Haryono

COVID-19 has made it difficult for transgender women to earn their little money with their informal jobs on the streets, threatening their survival. Some relief is coming from transgender organizations that have raised to the challenge of providing relief to ease the burden of disadvantaged members of their community and other vulnerable groups

The Philippines’ Face Masks: Protecting Health, Celebrating Identity by Diana G. Mendoza

The frantic search for face masks began as soon as the Philippines went under lockdown in mid-March. Three months later, various versions of the protective piece of cloth proliferated, made by Filipinos who suddenly found themselves without work and income. Soon also masks made of indigenous, traditional fabrics emerged

Sacred and Secular Sanitizing: Handwashing Stations Spring up in Bali by Garrett Kam

On the island of Bali in Indonesia, most villagers pump household ground water from a well up into an elevated storage tank. When COVID-19 arrived, they took measures to ensure they could wash their hands when outside their homes. In a rush, water containers of all sizes and colours were installed all over the island.

Umi and Ayu: A Mother and Daughter Bonded by a Hair Thread Amidst COVID-19

The subject of this visual story telling essay is the newfound mother-daughter bond during the COVID-19 epidemic. A series of poses in which Ayu and her mother, tied by their hair, undertake domestic tasks together conveys the feeling of reassurance in being with family during the pandemic.

“At Work Vs At Home”: Diptych Photography at the Time of COVID-19 by Toto Santiko Budi

Forced to remain at home, photographer Toto Santiko Budi reflects on the world outside and the household setting with a fascinating and entertaining series of diptychs– singular artworks made out of two pieces of photographs.

“Stay Away from Covid-19” Dance Performance in Thailand by Lopburi College of Dramatic Arts

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in Thailand, the staff and students of the Lopburi College of Dramatic Arts launched a public education initiative to spread information about how to prevent infection using a cultural approach consisting of traditional dance with new lyrics.

Engaging Javanese Tradition for Protection in Jogjakarta, Indonesia by Yanuari Christyawan

The author tells us how he continues the tradition of his Javanese ancestors and their belief in the universality of art and prayers, irrespective of specific symbols or rites. We are all united to safeguard our universe and humanity, and he dances and prays that this COVID-19 goes away soon.

Queen Azenith Performance Breaks the Limits of COVID-19 Confinement in Metro Manila by Aze Ong

Queen Azenith performance on the roof made the artist Aze Ong feel at peace with herself and the surrounding. She felt she had reached the peak, for an infinite moment of time freed from all the COVID-19 confinement.

Adaptation and Re-invention for Survival among Food Vendors in Chonburi, Thailand by Jan Daga

This portray of the food producers and sellers in the photographer’s neighbourhood of Chonburi in the surroundings of the tourist location of Pattaya aims to show how their lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. All bars and tourist enterprises are closed but wet market and street vendors have been allowed to remain open. Still customers are few since there are no tourists and locals are expected to stay home. Sellers have to adapt and re-invent themselves to survive.

Organic Gardening Sustains a Distressed Community in Metro Manila by Rhon Palmera

During the lock-down in Pangarap Village, organic gardening has become a source of healthy food for the villagers. Growing some vegetables helps them reduce their livelihoods costs and their movement thus helping them to survive and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Gravediggers in Jakarta Race Against Time by Edy Susanto

Towards the end of April, under the blazing sun of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, gravediggers in Pondok Rangon Public Cemetery wielded their shovel and dug into the ground.

Creativity Against Distress in Self-Isolation in Bangkok by Ana-Lina Thoueille

The drawings include natural elements that interrogate our capacity to put environment in the center of the political and economic agendas. But more than this, they are my personal journey through fear and insecurity to learning to live with the pandemic.

Junior Gymnastics Athlete, Ave, Exercises at Home via Digital Apps by Toto Santiko Budi

In these COVID-19 times, Ave, a member of the Gavrila Gymnastics Club in South Tangerang City, Indonesia keeps practice artistic gymnastics at home five days a week not to lose her flexibility. Only now, she has to follow instructions online via the zoom application and use home-made equipments.

Spiritual Shield Against COVID-19 in Bali by Garrett Kam, Gusti Putu Sudharta and Ni Komang Sutini

The Balinese believe that invisible demons cause illnesses, so they and their leader Durga, Hindu goddess of disease and death, must be appeased with offerings and prayers. This was the case also for COVID-19 and, besides taking preventive measures all over the island, rituals were performed to appease the deities and demons.