Jheri St. James
of Brunei (Abode of Peace) has one of the highest standards
of living in the world. It became independent in 1984, after
declining to join the Malaysian Federation and remain a British
dependency. Its ruling royals, led by the head of state Sultan
Hassanal Bolkiah, possess a huge private fortune.
Jefri, the brother of the sultan, at one time held a 400 million
pound distress sale of his art collection, the biggest ever
single-owner sale of art, in four auctions--because some of
the paintings offended Islamic fundamentalists. Previously
Prince Jefri paid the highest price ever for a painting, at
50 million pounds. His collection includes Impressionist and
Modern art from artists such as Renoir and Modigliani. The
best pictures hang in the private apartments of the Sultan
and princes in the Royal Palace.
Brunei is located on the island of Borneo
in Southeast Asia. Apart from its coastline with the South
China Sea, it is completely surrounded by the states of Sarawak
and Sabah, East Malaysia. The culture of Brunei is predominantly
Malay, with heavy influences from Hinduism and Islam, but
is seen as more conservative than Malaysia. The sale and public
consumption of alcohol is banned, with foreigners and non-Muslims
allowed to bring in 12 cans of beer and two bottles of spirits
every time they enter the country. After the introduction
of prohibition in the early 1990s, all pubs and nightclubs
were forced to close. Drug trafficking and illegally importing
controlled substances are serious offenses in Brunei and carry
a mandatory death penalty.
An Islamic Asian country of dense
forests and mangrove swamps, whose people enjoy high subsidies
and pay no taxes, Brunei is highly dependent on imports. Despite
its immense wealth, most of the country outside the capital,
Bandar Seri Begawan, remains undeveloped and unexploited.
Mother Earth is alive and well in Brunei Darussalam. This
is always good news to Common Ground 191, as we pay homage
to Her in our art project, and to the unity that the platform
of Her being provides for all human beings of whatever social
strata residing upon that surface.
has long fascinated biologists. Charles Darwin described the
island as “one great wild untidy luxuriant hothouse
made by nature for herself.” The Heart of Borneo is
a forested highland region, which covers 30% of the island,
and is home to creatures such as the orangutan, clouded leopard,
sun bear, Borneo pygmy elephant and proboscis monkey.
WWF (World Wildlife Fund, now World Wide Fund for Nature)
expedition between July 2005 and September 2007 added another
52 species discovered in Borneo, including three new trees.
Also found was a previously unknown type of snake which can
change its color spontaneously like a chameleon. When picked
up and put in a bucket, it was reddish-brown but later changed
its color to white. The biologists named the serpent, two
specimens of which were recovered, the Kapuas Mud Snake, after
the river that flows through the region. They said that although
some reptiles with legs had the ability to change color, it
was rare for snakes. With around 15,000 plant species, Borneo
is the most botanically diverse region on the planet. The
UK by comparison is home to 1,623 species. “The rate
of discovery is about four new species a month for 10 years,”
said Stuart Chapman, the international coordinator of WWF’s
Heart of Borneo program. (Photography: David
First contact with Shova Thapa of the U.S.
Embassy and the collector in Brunei, was made in July of 2006.
The soil was received here in Laguna Beach, California in
December so, much as the processes of the earth itself, the
unfolding of our project is often slow and progress invisible.
and her associate, a so-far unnamed person from the Brunei
History Museum, picked up this soil collection in a town called
Seria, Brunei Darussalam. “This small town is also known
as the birthplace of the nation’s wealth and home of
the oil industry, affectionately known as Brunei’s economic
heartland . . . the Seria oilfields are a famous landmark.
The Billionth Barrel Monument stands near the site of the
very first oil well dug at Seria.” Below are her photos.
with two diagonal bands: white (top band, double-width)
and black (starting from the upper hoist side).
The national emblem is superimposed in red at
the flag's centre. The emblem includes the following
Swallow-tailed flag, representing Royalty
The Royal umbrella
Winged column, symbolizing the protection of justice,
tranquility, prosperity and peace
Two upraised hands, signifying the Government's pledge
to promote welfare, peace and prosperity
An upturned crescent, symbol of Islam, the national religion
Embodied within the crescent in yellow Arabic script is
the nation's motto, which can be roughly translated:
Always in Service by God's Guidance
A scroll beneath the crest with Arabic script reading
"Brunei Darussalam" or "Brunei, the Abode
education officer from Brunei, Zul Fakhari Muksin aka ZulF
is the 25-year-old winner of the first ever music competition
in Brunei Paspot to Fame (P2F) in October 2000. His group
is known as Pneumatic Soulz and they are responsible for the
new audience for Brunei artists in his country, formerly fans
of Malay musicians only. In much of the world, musical fame
is a revered form of royalty.
a bride and groom, always momentary figures of aristocracy,
get their feet washed as part of their wedding ceremony in
people think of royalty, they think of sultans, kings, queens,
princes and of late divas and celebrities of all stripes.
Politicians and the very wealthy take on the trappings of
royalty, surrounding themselves with secret service men and
armed guards, riding in their sleek black automobiles. These
are actions and images of human beings.
This royal throne of kings,
this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this (England/Brunei?),
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home . . .
This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world . . .
believe that real royalty is “this earth of majesty”,
the foundation of all the dreams of mankind, Mother Earth,
provider of the soil of Brunei, now part of the Common Ground
191 collection. Thank you, Shova. The word for peace in Brunei
is Aman sejahtera.