BANGKOK — For those with a passion for Southeast Asia, all roads lead to SEA Junction in the heart of Bangkok.
Into its third year, SEA Junction offers a space for Southeast Asians and lovers of Southeast Asia alike to cross paths. Anyone can come to read books about the region — the shelves boast more than 2,500 volumes — or for regular workshops and panels.
At the center of the junction is founder and director Rosalia Sciortino, a 59-year-old Italian who has spent three decades in Southeast Asia.
“At SEA Junction, you go beyond tourist spots and learn a little bit more,” Sciortino explained. “You can start to appreciate the complexity, diversity and richness [of Southeast Asia].”
Trained in anthropology, Sciortino was formerly a regional director based in Bangkok for the Rockefeller Foundation. Fluent in Bahasa Indonesian, she married an Indonesian who passed away in 2013. They both loved Thailand so Sciortino chose Bangkok as the base to setup SEA Junction.
Whenever SEA Junction holds a panel discussion, Sciortino tries her best to secure speakers who are Southeast Asians. Friday saw two Thai speakers and one Indonesian speaker discuss fake news and information wars. Topics covered at SEA Junction events range from refugees, gender, democracy, to information technology.
For Sciortino, a challenge facing Southeast Asia is the question of how to appreciate one another beyond narrow national boundaries.
“I believe in a world without borders,” Sciortino said, wondering aloud whether the more than 100,000 refugees living along the Thai-Myanmar border should be given Thai citizenship.
SEA Junction’s activities are not limited to Bangkok either. It’s currently exhibiting a painting exhibition in Jakarta about women leaders from 1800 to the present.
But Bangkok is SEA Junction’s base and Sciortino says people are always welcome for coffee and tea while perusing the Southeast Asian crafts on display.
“I believe in the idea of broadening borders. Interaction is very important,” Sciortino explained.
SEA Junction is located in Room 408 on the fourth floor of the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. It’s open every day except Monday from 10.30am to 7.30pm. SEA Junction welcomes donations and support from the public.