A new hope for Malaysian artists

The Star Malaysia - - Focus -

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.

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