Mahen Bala

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Mahen Bala is a photographer, filmmaker, and writer who has worked on documenting Malaysian history and identity for more than a decade. His primary interest is in investigating the human experience (individual and community) and their relationship with the environment.

In 2017, he represented Malaysia on an expedition to Antarctica which then resulted in ‘No Man’s Land’, at the National Art Gallery. The exhibition explored the past, present and future of human activity on the continent. In 2018, he published ‘Postcards from the South’, a documentation of memory, identity, and history of the Malaysian railways.

He is currently a Fellow at the Japan Foundation Asia Center.

Longing and Belonging: Railway heritage in Japan and Southeast Asia (December 2019 – May 2020)

Upcoming exhibition

cēb bah hēp explores the relationship of the indigenous Batek tribe and the tropical rainforest in Malaysia. The exhibition features photographs andVirtual Reality (VR) documentary.After a successful run in Kuala Lumpur, the project will travel to Singapore in the third quarter of 2020.


2011, 2012 GEA Group Art Exhibition, Germany
2012 ‘StoriesWithoutWords’, Annexe Gallery
2014 ‘CONTEXT’,Vallette Fine Art Gallery, Malaysia
2016 ‘Beyond Borders’, Vallete Fine Art Gallery, Malaysia
2017 ‘No Man’s Land’ National Art Gallery, Malaysia
2017 KL Biennale 2017, National Art Gallery, Malaysia
2018 EDITIONS, SGFA Advisory, Malaysia
2019 cēb bah hēp, Taman Tugu, Malaysia
2020 banyu wangi,Tanah & Air, Malaysia


2017 Memory and history of the Malaysian railways (RUANG)
2017 Johore Wooden Railway:A revised history (Badan Warisan Malaysia)
2017 OBSOLETE(?) : A conversation on analog image-making processes (National Art Gallery)
2018 Memory and history of the Malaysian railways (ILHAM Gallery)
2018 The old cinemas of Kuala Lumpur:Then and now (NUS, Singapore)
2018 Postcards from the South (Malaysian Design Archive)
2019 Mind the gap: New perspectives on writing Malaysian History (George Town Festival)


2014 WAN IFRA Asia (Best Online Video)
2018 INXO Arts Fund
2019 SeaShorts Film Festival (Best Cinematography)


Postcards from the South (2018)
ISBN: 9789672165163

Judge’s Tips:
  1. A good photograph/photo essay is an invitation to the viewer to enter a different world. We may all look at the same things within the same environment, but each person will see and feel something different.
  2. A good photograph/photo essay has a sense of purpose. Pick a subject or issue that is closest to you and explore it together with the people around you. A good story will always have a life of its own.
  3. A good photograph/photo essay is one that is honest, and conveys a truth that is beyond itself.
  4. The subject is more important than the image itself.