‘KITA’ Film Screening – Celebrating Malaysia’s Diversity in Helsinki

The Embassy of Malaysia in Helsinki in collaboration with the ‘KITA’ (Us) documentary production team, organised a film screening event at the K13 cinema in Helsinki on 4 June 2024 as part of Malaysia’s continuous Cultural Diplomacy initiative.

‘KITA’ (which means Us in the Malay language) is a powerful documentary that highlights the rich cultural tapestry of Sabah, Malaysia. Through compelling storytelling and breathtaking visuals, the film showcases the harmonious coexistence of diverse ethnic communities in Sabah, celebrating their unique traditions, languages, and heritage. The documentary not only reflects the beauty of Sabah’s multicultural society but also serves as an inspiring testament to unity in diversity as we took this opportunity to also commemorate 50 years of bilateral relations between Malaysia and Finland.

In 2023 ‘KITA’ was screened for the local Malaysian diaspora and making Finland the first international debut for the film to be showcased globally. Given last year’s success, the documentary’s reach and meaningful message were extended to an international audience once again in Finland.

The screening of ‘KITA in 2024 began with an Appreciation Remarks video message by Datuk Christina Liew, Minister of Culture, Tourism, and Environment Sabah, followed by Welcoming Remarks by Mr Mohamed Ariff Mohamed Ali, Charge d’affaires of the Embassy of Malaysia in Helsinki. Both highlighted the close cooperation that has led to the formulation of this event – which in-turn has successfully attracted over 120 registrations comprising members of the diplomatic community, Finnish officials, travel enthusiasts, researchers, students, Malaysians living in Finland, as well as Friends of Malaysia.

For those who had never visited Malaysia, the event showcased and educated the participants about Malaysia as a country, its culture, society, and its diversity as a travel destination. Many commented on the event being an opportunity to discover a new destination and were eager to hear travel advice. Participants also included Asian cinema enthusiasts, who welcomed the rare opportunity to view a Malaysian documentary in Finland, as well as local researchers interested in the film from a socio-cultural perspective, who inquired about further sources for local literature. Overall, the documentary was educational on many aspects – from the multicultural nature of Malaysia’s society, religious diversity and traditions, multilingualism, rural community initiatives, arts and fashion, and, most importantly for many Malaysians – our common love language – the rich food culture!

The event was more memorable with having the presence of ‘KITA’ Producer Mr. Lim Hock Song, who took the opportunity to give an overall vision of the project followed later by an interactive post event discussion session. Mr. Hock Song’s links to Finland date back to his time studying at Aalto University, making him familiar with the local culture and society. His motive for the film, as primarily a business consultant who has lived and worked in many cultures – from Malaysia, China, Austria, and Finland – was to highlight diversity as an asset. During the Q&A session, participants had the opportunity to hear the producer’s insights into religious dimensions, his role in the film, the background of selecting the characters featured, as well as the folk instruments showcased in the film.

The messages of the film – “Diversity is Strength,” “Diversity is Beautiful,” and “Diversity is Delicious” – were captured throughout the film via the diverse experiences of individuals living in Sabah; including a multiracial Chinese-Indian family, a Chinese Muslim religious leader, a music teacher, a Malay teacher teaching mandarin, local chefs elevating Sabahan culture through gourmet food, Pangrok Sulap community artists using art as an avenue to bring out the voices of a remote local community in Ranau, as well as an ethnic motif textile specialist, founder of Chanteek Borneo and promoter of local handmade textile artisans.

Chingduang Yurayong’s Lecture at Seoul National University

On May 30, Chingduang Yurayong was invited to deliver a guest lecture for the colloquium of the Department of Linguistics and the Institute of Altaic Studies at the College of Humanities, Seoul National University, South Korea.

Photo: Sangchul Park

The lecture was entitled Language diversity and contact of Altaic languages in Temperate Asia: Exploring patterns in adjustable quantification and negation, based on the forthcoming publication in Journal of Chinese Linguistics Monograph Series under collaboration with Pui Yiu Szeto (Ca’ Foscari University of Venice) and Sami Honkasalo (University of Helsinki).

Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam Visited University of Helsinki

Prof Julie Yu-Wen Chen and Prof Peter Stadius welcomed the delegation of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam to the University of Helsinki in May. The delegation was led by Ambassador Dr. Pham Lan Dung, Acting President of the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.

Photo by Pham Ngoc

Prof. Stadius gave presentation about Finland’s foreign and security strategies from long-term perspectives while Prof. Chen presented the EUVIP project where the South China Sea issue is one of the core focuses of the project. The meeting facilitated deeper understanding of Finland’s foreign and security policies and approaches toward the current world political situation, including political and security trends in the Indo-Pacific and the South China Sea in the context of great power competition. Please also check Prof. Chen’s recent co-authored commentary on EU-Vietnam relations for further information.

Photo by Pham Ngoc

KITA – Malaysian Documentary Film Event in Finland

The Embassy of Malaysia in Helsinki would like to invite the public to a screening of Malaysian documentary film – ‘KITA’. Feel free to invite your friends, family and colleagues to share this cinematic celebration.
‘KITA’ is a documentary film about the realities, values and aspirations of Sabah’s diverse society.
Date: Tuesday 4 June 2024
Time: 4pm
Venue: Kino K13 (Katajanokanlaituri 11A)

For coordination purposes, please RSVP via the QR-code or this link by Monday 20 May 2024 to secure a seat. 

Julie Chen Visited Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam

On May 2, Professor Julie Yu-Wen Chen visited Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam (DAV) and exchanged views with Dr. Do Thanh Hai who is senior fellow at the DAV and former Deputy Ambassador of Vietnam to India.

They discussed how Vietnam views the EU’s Indo-Pacific strategies and how to position EU policies more closely to Vietnam and other regional powers in order to bolster the region’s peace, stability and rules-based order. Professor Chen’s visit is sponsored by Mercator Stiftung in Germany. For more information about her project “Order in the Indo-Pacific”, please visit here.

Four Southeast Asian Embassies Visited Faculty of Arts

On 23 April, embassies representing four Southeast Asian countries visited the Faculty of Arts to foster exchange and explore avenues for future collaboration to promote Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Helsinki.

Photo: Pham Ngoc

From left to right in the picture: Le Thuy Linh (Vietnam), Amelia Putri (Indonesia), Prof. Andrew Logie, H.E. Mrs. Thi Thanh Bình Pham (Vietnam), Dean of Faculty of Arts Pirjo Hiidenmaa, H.E. Mrs. Ratu Silvy Gayatri (Indonesia), H.E. Ms. Chavanart Thangsumphant (Thailand), H.E. Mr. Ariff Ali (Malaysia), Prof. Julie Yu-Wen Chen, and Kosin Phonmang (Thailand)

The delegation was led by H.E. Mrs. Ratu Silvy Gayatri (Ambassador of Indonesia), H.E. Ms. Chavanart Thangsumphant (Ambassador of Thailand), H.E. Mrs. Thi Thanh Bình Pham (Ambassador of Vietnam), and H.E. Mr. Ariff Ali (Chargé d’affaires of Malaysia).

Photo: Pham Ngoc

The Faculty of Art’s dean, Professor Pirjo Hiidenmaa, introduced the faculty and led the discussion between the embassies and Asian Studies professors to explore opportunities. Some key points included the following. Southeast Asia is a major part of Asia and the world. It is characterized by rich cultural and linguistic diversity and is an economic powerhouse. There are significant intersections between Southeast Asia and other regions of Asia currently represented at the Faculty, namely South Asia, and East Asia; these intersections are both cultural and geopolitical. Many researchers and students at the University of Helsinki have active interest in Southeast Asia. Finally, the embassies are keen to support exchange and the promotion of Southeast Asia particularly through the ASEAN framework. This visit paved the way for future collaboration that can continue to develop expertise on Southeast Asia at the University of Helsinki and Finland more widely.

Pham Ngoc from the Finnish China Law Center kindly assisted in the event.

Heritage of Suvarṇabhūmi Project

U-tain Wongsathit and his research group received a funding from the Office of the Thai Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation for the one-year project

Heritage of Suvarṇabhūmi: Scripts, Languages, and Religions Attested in Epigraphs of Mainland Suvarṇabhūmi.

Photo: Office of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation

The steering group at the Department of Oriental Languages, Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University includes: U-tain Wongsathit (principal investigator), Chatupohn Khotkanok, Kangvol Khatshima, Sombat Mangmeesuhksiri and Chatpisit Pachanee. The research is conducted in close collaboration with the partner team from the University of Helsinki including: Chingduang Yurayong, Andrew Logie, Sami Honkasalo and Erika Sandman.

The objectives are to collect inscriptions found in Mainland Southeast Asia areas, including Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, dating back to the periods between the 2nd century BCE and the 10th century CE. The texts will be interpreted and translated, while linguistic features and characteristics observed will be examined by methods and tools from comparative linguistics. The data will be analyzed from four different perspectives: 1) epigraphy, 2) geolinguistics, 3) philosophy, and 4) art history.

Photo: Kangvol Khatshima

The expected results will shed light on early contact between polities in Mainland Southeast Asia, connecting insights from each humanities subfield represented in this project.