Creative expressions create awareness

Azlan Othman

To promote mental health awareness and advocate against social stigma, Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) hosted an art contest for students to express how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their mental health through artistic expression.

The contest from September 7 – October 3 invited students to create a 2D piece of art expressing their thoughts on the phrase ‘My Mental Health in 2020’.

The winners were announced during the UTB World Mental Health Day event on October 10. The first prize winner received BND100 while second and third prize winners received BND70 and BND50. Dean of Student Affairs Pengiran Ida Nurul-Fitri binti Pengiran Haji Kahar presented the prizes.

The contest was organised by the Counselling Unit of the Student Affairs Office, in collaboration with the Student Representative Council (MPP) Executive Committees Publicity and Info-Communication Technology (PICT); Health, Safety, Security, and Environment (HSSE); and Leadership, Development and Mentor (LDM).

First place winner Mohammad Nadhir bin Haji Mohamed Husaini of Creative Multimedia, School of Computing and Informatics said he had a good time reflecting during the long break.

ABOVE & BELOW: First place winner Mohammad Nadhir bin Haji Mohamed Husaini, second place winner Mek Shuet Yi and third prize winner Dayangku Nur Syazwani Rasidah binti Pengiran Adi Noor with their winning entries.
PHOTOS: AZLAN OTHMAN

“I gained a lot of skills despite struggling to work virtually from home and not inside the classroom. The pandemic taught us to be creative during such a difficult time,” he said. “I controlled my emotions, became more positive, and, Alhamdulillah, I got the first prize. I am overjoyed as my art was only created overnight within a few hours. I initially almost gave up and did not want to submit it. But this was good opportunity to share my thoughts with my colleagues. Due to this COVID-19 pandemic, I had all the time in the world to create this art and I have improved my skills a lot.”

The description of his artwork reads ‘Stop being afraid of what can go wrong and start being positive about what can go right even when the world is on lockdown’.

Second place winner Mek Shuet Yi of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering said her art is very meaningful as it creates awareness on COVID-19.

She said the art depicts the positive and negative side of the pandemic and how it affects our mental health.

“We were not used to the new norms like social distancing and attending online classes. Those who planned to go for a vacation did not get refunded for their air tickets,” she said. “But there is also a blessing as families bonded more with people staying at home more. Making this art was a last minute plan and took me three days to complete. It portrays my personal experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Meanwhile, third prize winner Dayangku Nur Syazwani Rasidah binti Pengiran Adi Noor of Digital Media, School of Computing and Informatics recalled when the country recorded its first COVID-19 case in March this year.

“The poster showed that I was trapped during the pandemic and felt depressed due to pressure coming from four corners. This pandemic led my mental health to spiral at a time when it started,” she said.

“Thankfully, my parents and colleagues supported and asked me to keep going and to not lose hope. As the situation gets better, I feel peace of mind. Although this year has been chaotic for everyone, I hope we can remember that once you hit rock bottom, the only way left to go is up,” Dayangku Nur Syazwani Rasidah added.

Thirteen entries from several faculties and schools were showcased since October 5 at the White Canopy of the university. The art pieces were also posted on the MPP social media account. The winners were chosen via online and social media voting open to the public and were selected by a guest judge and professional artist based on originality, creativity and relevance.