A new hope for Malaysian artists
IT has been a stressful week for theatre director Azzad Mahdzir whose first show, Kenduri Kendara opened last Thursday in Kuala Lumpur.
His debut work is trying to push the boundary not only in its theme, which is an intimate look at a Malay-Muslim marriage, but also in its form with its use of multimedia for an interactive performance.
It has taken him more than a year to develop the show, a big part of which was focused on raising funds, including through crowdfunding.
Kenduri Kendara is produced by Azzad’s The Keepers Studio, which he started with his old friend Tan Hui Woon, to pursue art in diverse mediums from theatre and video to visual arts.
To support their art, they also take on commercial work including marketing consultancy and graphic designing.
The setting up of arts agencies like Cendana would ease the fear of starting a project without funds, says Azzad.
“Quality work and growing oneself should be the artists’ responsibility. But it (funding) would have given me more room to work on the creative side of the project, rather than business or monetary part.”
June Tan, a theatre producer with Five Arts Centre, says the setting up of an agency to look into the gaps in the art and cultural sector is an exciting step forward.
“It places art and art practitioners concretely within the imagination of national development.”
She says that programmes under the National Creative Industry Policy from 2014 to 2015 had helped generate a range of content, productions and the establishment of new, smaller and more accessible performing arts spaces.
“To try and increase the robustness of what has been initiated, it would be helpful if art practitioners be provided support to rehearse, research and produce performances in these spaces. These can come in the form of grants for creation and eventual staging of work in these venues.”
“We would also like to advocate support for art managers and creative producers, as an important ‘glue’ to help frame, to communicate and to put productions/ projects together,” she says.
Education, too, is another area in which Tan hopes to see more art visibility.
“This would mean support for trainers to go into schools and community groups, and support for children to attend an nd discuss performances they haveh attended.”
Tan is optimistic that with Cendana, , more collaborations and exch hanges with companies and practitioners can be fostered.
“It wou uld be useful to encourage ground-u up and more organic platforms be tween regional and international practitioners. This is only possible withw vigorous support for resources s to network and to spend time to d do research in each other’s commun nities, and eventually the necessary re esources for practitioners to make wo ork together.”
Visual artist Jerome Manjat from Sabah ar rts collective Pangrok Sulap is another w who lauds the creation of Cendana .
“Theree is a lot of potential for arts and cultu ure in Sabah and Sarawak, but a lot of th he funding is focused in the peninsula a,” he says.
Howev ver, Jerome hopes Cendana will not restrictr artists’ freedom in the form and d content of their work.
Cendan na, he says, should look at commun nity arts, which is something that his Ranau-R based group, is increasin ngly involved in. He says that they y get much inspiration from the villag ges throughout Sabah.
To fun d its work, Pangrok Sulap makes an nd prints T-shirts, posters, bags, not tebooks for sale.
For Nik k Jassmin Hew, a producer with inde ependent record label Moro Rec cords, her hope is that Cendana can improve the relationship betweenb the music industry players and policy makers.
“What’ ’s needed is a bridge to link the practitionersp and policy makers.”
Hew points out that in die music act ts and businesses need good ven nues and networks for gigs.
“They alsoa need knowledge about thee music business. Just because theyt are indie doesn’t mean the ey should be ignorant of the leg galities like copyright and roya alty issues.”
Playwr right Zed Adam Idris hopes Ce ndana would spur writers to o produce more original storie es.
“For on ne, there should be as many local original stories as those WesternW adapted ones in MalaysianM theatre.
I’ve seen many theatre productions adapting Westerncentric st tories whose issues are so dis stant to us.”
Labour of love: Like many artists, Azzad had to divide his time between the business and creative side of his stage directorial debut ‘Kenduri Kendara’ which is playing in KL now.