If you haven’t heard of the ‘Just Bruneians’ movement, it is a passion project started by Liyana Hanif, who is currently the Art Director at Hoco Agency.

“It was a project that I didn’t expect to get a lot of attention and positive responses for,” she said. She knew that by starting such a thing, it would cause a lot of conversation, but is thankful for the good feedback and positivity from the community.

The idea for the project arose during a panel discussion at Creative Space, where one of the panellists was discussing about pricing their art or theatre performance ‘too expensive’ and had received complaints about the price. “They were asking; why should I pay so much to watch a local show? Why should I pay this much to watch a Bruneian? They’re just Bruneians! That line stuck with me for the rest of the day, and I knew I had to do something out of it.”

Liyana explained that as someone in the creative industry, she resonated with those lines from doing freelance projects and having clients think that the value of her work should be at a lower price.  “It feels harder to express that this is what we’re going to do for a living and we just want you to show value towards our creativity,” she added.

Social media is a powerful platform that reaches the masses and Liyana tries to utilise it as a way to interact with more people in the community. She started with a few questionnaires, which received a lot of responses about what people think of the industry in Brunei.

She then started a support ‘thread’ on Twitter, where she encourages people to share whatever they do, whether it’s in drawing, digital illustration, animation or photography. “I was amazed by all the things that they shared. I’m so glad that people were participating in it, and it was nice and inspiring to see the range of creatives in Brunei.”

Photo by: Safwan Sidek

Her passion for graphic design only came later, after gaining some work experience in a local agency. “When I started working, all my designs were really bad. My skills were not great, and I had to learn so many different kinds of software but I was motivated – I knew that I really wanted to create works that make people go, wow this is really cool!” she explained. Learning never stops for Liyana, be it YouTube tutorials, books, and especially learning from other graphic designers.

“Learning from other graphic designers is really important too, because that’s where I learnt most of my keyboard shortcuts or like tips and tricks of how to use Illustrator or Photoshop – it’s something you can learn from other people and collaborating with them, learning how they work, their creative process.”

Her passion grew even more from collaborating with different kinds of artists and she praises about one of the collaborations she did for her Just Bruneians project with Moosethetics, who helped to create pins. “I have never worked with anyone that well before – he was fast, efficient and super creative, and that’s the kind of qualities you want to see in people nowadays.”

Liyana says that having passion and drive for their creativity is what she wants to see in Bruneians as she believes that we have that skill and the ability to become better and inspiring people.

When asked about the next step for Just Bruneians, she says that she wants to see more people get collaborative with each other. “I think collaboration goes a long way and instead of looking at each other as competition, we should support each other in whatever we want to express our work in, but also keeping in mind the standard of work we put out there. Getting international standards in our work is something that we should all strive for!” she exclaimed.

In the future, Liyana wishes to see more support towards the local creative community – give them a wider range of audience and an opportunity for them to make it a sustainable career. If you are interested in seeing more of what she has in store for the Just Bruneians project or more of her work, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.