"Bubbly Thoughts for the Stone Hearted" is a poetry book that features 12 local poets, half of which are students and alumni of Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD).
The series of poems can be seen as an extension of the sold-out novel by Tina Afiqah, "The Bubble Princess and the Stone Heart", as it was written from the perspectives of the different characters in it. Released in early 2021, the readaptation is loosely based on two well-known Bruneian folklore, "Leila Menchanai" and "Jong Batu", which contain many elements of Bruneian culture and heritage.
Tina, who is currently pursuing her Masters in Counseling at the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education (SHBIE), is joined by Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) alumni Hariz Fadhilah, Danish Fikri, Jordine Maxine and Yasmin Lee; Faculty of Science (FOS) student Adibah Kadir; and UBD School of Business and Economics (UBD SBE) student Tara Mendis.
Tina shared that "the book had been intended to allow different people to feel as though they were being represented in the story. Thus there had always been plans of inviting other local creatives to write from the perspectives of the different characters. It also follows the notion that there are always two sides to every story, and all these characters went through the story differently, so I thought it would've been interesting to have the story retold from the perspectives of the other characters."
"The theme of the novel revolves around themes aimed to help readers cope with life, death and loss, as well as the theme of acceptance and letting go," she added. "Love is also commonly represented throughout the book as these characters experience and perceive love in different ways, whether through friendship and/or family."
Danish Fikri demonstrated his versatility by also illustrating the cover of "Bubbly Thoughts for the Stone Hearted". As a Design and Creative Industries (DCI) student in UBD, he took some literature modules and found that academia helps to nurture a deeper literary and artistic appreciation. Moreover, the DCI programme under FASS attracts creative individuals interested in bridging their artistic talents with the knowledge and skills in order to effectively market themselves as well as their products.
"I actually had the opportunity to self-publish my own children's book as a capstone project under UBD Spectrum! It was probably my biggest literary achievement thus far," Danish said. Opportunities to further develop the interest in writing also presented themselves through the UBD Performing Arts Club (PAC). "I myself used to be a member as an actor. A select few writers have gotten to write original plays for them to perform. I don't think a lot of people get the opportunity to see their work come to life on stage. One friend of mine has kept writing scripts ever since his time there."
Hariz Fadhillah majored in Sociology-Anthropology with a minor in History and International Studies which meant that most of his modules involved writing and research. But taking an English Literature module in his first semester was what widened his scope of knowledge in literary works. "I was a part of the Writers' Movement Club for 2 semesters which gave me the opportunity to share my passion for writing and also discuss written works with many other like-minded peers," he said.
"There were also multiple poetry performances hosted by the PAC, where I attended as both audience and performer. These events were quite special moments for me as it has not only encouraged me to share my work with people and help my progress as a writer, but they were also memorable moments that I will cherish forever from my time in UBD."
Adibah Kadir stands out from the group, being a Biology major from FOS. But she took opportunities in UBD to write in clubs like PAC, join open mic sessions and even write songs to perform them live on stage. She pointed out the importance of having local artists display their work in public so people will understand that it takes effort to produce art in its many forms and nature. "They would need to appreciate the work of arts, even in the literary sense, in order to fully realise that local artists would also need to be supported too," she said. "I believe that the quality isn't necessarily lacking, and should not be dismissed so simply."
"The public can show support by coming to exhibitions and purchasing works of art, and even to meet and greet the artists themselves if it was physically possible."
There is still much that can be done to showcase local writers in the country and the series of poems "Bubbly Thoughts for the Stone Hearted" is an example of providing a platform for poets to not only be visible but to shine. With a number of local authors' works already available on sale in bookstores, the challenge is in creating the buzz both within Brunei's creative circle and among the general public. "Don't look down on your local writers," Jordine Maxine, another FASS graduate said. "Support them by purchasing their works and discussing their books in schools."
Through events held on campus and collaborations outside, student writers from UBD are part of the growing creative community who are finding their place making significant contributions whether it is in the workplace or individually.
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