The creative arts industry is silent but ever-growing in Brunei. With many art galleries opening all around the Sultanate and social media encouraging growing artists, it is safe to say that the art world will have the potential to grow rather quickly than the other industries. Amongst the multitude of art works showing up in Brunei, there are two that we at Sutera are particularly interested in highlighting – the art of cartooning and cosplaying. With that in mind, we interviewed one of our very own local cartoonists named Ezzani Khalid, or otherwise known as DoneByJen in the art world.

Growing up, having a family full of artists had certainly rubbed some of those artistic charms onto Ezzani Khalid. For her cartoon drawings, she first became inspired by some of the sketches she had seen as a child. From there, she began tracing back all the caricatures she loved and eventually started creating her own western style comics.

“When I draw, I want to create a character that has a mixed of everything such as; background story, feelings and emotions. I would use vibrant colours to portray these features,” said Ezzani Khalid.

Her newfound passion eventually led her to create comics for the Brunei Artistic Creative Comics (ARC) though she left the scene later on due to having limited times in completing the comics. Recently, she had worked with Kaleidoscope studio in the hopes of honing her skills further. An amazing feat from Ezzani Khalid was selling out her first project for 2018 which was the DoneByJen’s Zodiac Planner Calendar. In the future, she hopes to be able to create her own comic book with the help of a publisher.

Not only is Ezzani playing an artist’s role in the art world, she also dabbled in the cosplay community in Brunei. While not really known within the country, the cosplay scene has garnered a sizable popularity through western and Japanese culture influences. It was in 2017 that Ezzani created her first hijab costume. Since then, she has portrayed a number of other well-known characters like Harley Quinn and Scarlet Witch; all done with a unique style that incorporated modesty of a Muslimah.

Ezzani mentioned, “As a cosplayer, I need to have certain creativity in improvising my costume. This is to ensure that it’s appropriate for the Bruneian audiences as well as staying true to my beliefs in dressing decently.”

While the small community thrives in their activities, there are a few challenges that came towards both the arts and cosplay in general. According to Ezzani, people took art creation for granted; especially at the people who sell them. The artist points the root of cause to be the lack of awareness behind the effort put into creating those art forms. Equipment is also hard to come by in Brunei as Ezzani stated that most of her gear can only be bought outside.

In the cosplaying spectrum, the challenge came from the rules imposed onto portraying characters in Brunei. Documentations were necessary and at one point, it also became forbidden to cosplay in public. However, cosplayers are gutsy people. They are not afraid in dressing up as the heroes or villains they adore and it’s that infectious passion that makes people around them smile. This is how they overcame the problems of strict guidelines in the Sultanate.

Ezzani hopes that in the future, there can be proper places for artists to display their work and for the cosplaying community to grow. She wants Bruneian cosplayers to take pride in their form of artwork – one that portrays a fictional persona, coming to life for the entertainment of others or for themselves.

“Do what makes you happy; inspire others; experiment; improvise; network with other people and continue to learn – all of this should be accompanied by hard work, dedication and passion. With these three factors, you can surely strive to be an excellent artist or an inspiring cosplayer,” said Ezzani as a final message to the budding artists and cosplayers out there.

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