Immersive technology has unbelievable potential to take people into emotive, thought provoking and interactive story experiences. Sitting at the intersection between digital arts, culture and community storytelling, we see XR technology (virtual, augmented and mixed reality storytech) as a way to hold space for underrepresented voices and shape the future of inclusive dialogue and spaces in the metaverse.
Last year Maitree established Cahaya XR - a platform for original narratives and experiences from SE Asian communities to be created and shared using innovative XR storytelling. The initiative was launched at the Georgetown Festival in 2022 as a part of our First Edition mentorship program and exhibition.
The mentorship created opportunities for Malaysian artists to explore integrating immersive technology (AR/VR/XR) into their artistic practice and consider the intersection of community narratives with art and technology. In this first cohort, artist team White Bones, Kabilan Murali Dharan, and Ysabel Loh were guided by XR mentors (Michelle Brown from Australia, Quin Ooi and Steven Voon from Malaysia) to create a prototype of their own XR immersive experience - each with a brief to explore a community story unique to Georgetown and Penang.
The collection of XR works created in the Mentorship was presented to the public at a five day showcase during the festival and simultaneously in the Cahaya XR gallery space in the metaverse (a virtual reality and desktop viewing experience). The exhibition received an overwhelming response and was featured in several media reviews by BFM radio, Penang Arts District publications, Bok Chor Mee Boy, The Star and others.
In an article by Penang Arts district, Koay Choon Sean addressed Cahaya’s mission accurately in his own words,
"In a world where the fine line between the physical and digital domain gets increasingly blurry, it is easy to lose sight of the roots that anchor our identities in the community. Cahaya XR seeks to find a place in the borderless Metaverse for the social and cultural narratives of Penangites to continue surviving. "
Cahaya XR: First Edition, demonstrated new ways of reimagining Penang’s traditional stories and heritage while showcasing how the metaverse can be used to hold space for inclusive community storytelling.
Alongside the exhibition Maitree presented festival-goers a series of artist talks, workshops, and XR play spaces for audiences young and old to explore how art, technology, and local storytelling can intersect in the metaverse.
As a social impact organisation, Cahaya XR strives to use immersive media and storytelling as tools to address real world challenges and drive social impact, in alignment with the UN sustainable development goals. Cahaya currently provides mentorship and production support to artists and storytellers from across SE Asia interested in integrating XR storytelling into their work and focusing on social impact storytelling. In the future we aim to create access to funding and distribution pathways for creators from the region.
Cahaya XR: First Edition was Cahaya XR’s first steps towards building an XR Storytelling for Change platform in SE Asia. The Cahaya and Maitree team are excited to explore the multifaceted components of this new emerging world as we continue to learn, grow and share the possibilities of XR storytelling.