Prose, poetry and prattle: some published, and some ... well, not yet.

Thursday, 13 April 2000

Quoted In Asiaweek

The article below appeared in Asiaweek's From Our Correspondent: Enter Here
Websites offer convenient access to the Kuala Lumpur arts scene
By SANTHA OORJITHAM. The original source is here.

Kamil Othman, head of creative multimedia at Malaysia's Multimedia Development Corp., is a theater and movie buff -- but he's too busy to search the newspapers for information about what's on where. A couple of weeks ago, a friend told him about KuLture, a web-magazine about the arts in Kuala Lumpur ( Kamil visited the site, found some international art films being screened at the Mid Valley Megamall and a theater production (Four Men and a Woman) on stage at The Actors Studio, and headed over.

Without KuLture, Kamil wouldn't have known about these shows: "Websites are useful for special interest groups," he says. "I open my e-mail every day so this just takes one additional move." Launched in June last year, KuLture is the newer of two sites devoted to the arts in Kuala Lumpur. The first Malaysian arts website,, started up in May 1998. Both have fuelled--and benefitted from--a boom in the arts scene. Arts enthusiasts welcome both -- and say there is room for even more.

"I wanted to bring together the three loves of my life -- the Internet, marketing communications, and the arts," says Artseefartsee founder Vernon Emuang, a Malaysian actor and performer. In the early 1990s, as creative director at Bozell PR, he designed free websites for Dramalab and the Five Arts Center. After leaving advertising, he decided to start the country's first weekly website on the arts "to demonstrate to the arts community how critical electronic media is in communicating economically, efficiently and speedily." He started out with 30 subscribers and now has about 4,000 on his e-mail list. The site gets over 15,000 hits per month.

KuLture was founded by a couple of expatriates -- journalist Jenny Daneels and urban planner Barbara Camus. "There is a lot available in the Kuala Lumpur art scene, and we want to make it more accessible," says Daneels. After 10 months, they have 1,000 subscribers and their site receives 100 hits per day. Inscribe Webmedia helped them design the site and they have sponsors: Novartis, Boh Tea and the Alliance Francaise. On April 11, they launched a new design (following an online survey in November last year) and announced that they were incorporating. They've hired a website manager and now hope to attract advertising revenue. Access to their webzine and subscriptions to their e-mail list are free.

Both sites offer listings of what's on (music, theater, films, dance, and art exhibitions), reviews, links to regional and international websites (for similar listings, arts festivals, etc.), live forums for arts discussions, and directories of other arts and culture publications and institutions. Both websites send out e-mail alerts. KuLture offers a classified section where subscribers can offer to buy and sell things like arts-related tickets and instruments. And it has a glossary of arts terminology.

The arts websites took advantage of a growing audience, says Krishen Jit, founder of Five Arts Center: "There's been an appreciable change in the size of audiences in the past five years -- and especially in the last year. And the websites also gave us some sense of world-wide exposure, which has never happened before. We get visitors from Australia, the U.S. and Britain who knew about us because they had read about us on the website."

Five Arts Center's Jit says Artseefartsee has "warmth and coziness" thanks to founder Emuang's "intimate relationship with artists Š and sense of who they are and what they are doing." KuLture, he says, "is looking in from the outside, not participating and not involved. Perhaps they may not have passion, but they have very useful knowledge and objectivity." Both need to expand, he says, and there's room for more such sites: "These are both mainly Kuala Lumpur-based and in theater, for example, they focus on English-language theater. There is a niche [to be filled] outside Kuala Lumpur and in other languages." Emuang, for example, has helped the state-funded Penang Arts Information Center to set up a similar website ( and e-mail list.

The arts community uses both KuLture and Artseefartsee, although their audiences overlap somewhat. "We use both avenues because we want to reach a lot of people and we don't want to miss anyone," says Lim Ee Lin, an arts administrator in Kuala Lumpur. "They are free, and they offer an additional web presence as well as their e-mail lists." The print media tend to "pick and choose" which arts events they cover, says Lim. The websites, in contrast, "offer the whole range, concentrated. It's an opportunity for people to find out what else is happening, to plan their schedule. And people do take note of their reviews."

The best way for both sites to keep their subscribers, Lim believes, is by providing "regular updates and useful information and services." What do audiences want? "I wish it could expand," says KuLture subscriber Kamil. "There are not enough in-depth reviews; they are more like announcements." KuLture's founders say they are expanding its content, but the number of reviews which it can commission will depend on its commercial viability.