We speak to the pres­i­dent of the non-profit arts plat­form Kakiseni, Low Ngai Yuen

The charis­matic mul­ti­tasker Low Ngai Yuen takes time off her busy sched­ule to talk about Kakiseni, her non-profit work and most im­por­tantly, be­ing a mum. By Nawaf Rah­man

Time Out Malaysia Kids - - Contents -

LOW NGAI YUEN is an un­flinch­ing artist who has al­ways done some­thing within the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try. From pro­duc­ing and di­rect­ing, to be­com­ing the youngest mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor for Car­refour, she is now the driv­ing force be­hind Kakiseni, a non-profit per­form­ing arts plat­form.

Low be­came a house­hold name as one of the hosts of ‘3R’, a pop­u­lar in­fo­tain­ment pro­gramme that aired lo­cally. ‘3R’ (Re­spect, Re­lax, Re­spond) was a half-hour pro­gramme aimed at em­pow­er­ing young women by fo­cus­ing on is­sues of gen­der dis­crim­i­na­tion, sex­u­al­ity and tech­nol­ogy, and was re­garded as quite a trail­blazer at the time. Low shared the spot­light with two other hosts, Azah Yas­min Yu­sof and Rafi­dah Ab­dul­lah (later Kar­tini Arifin and Celina Khor), and dared to be dif­fer­ent by openly dis­cussing love, sex­u­al­ity and re­la­tion­ships, which many still con­sider taboo sub­jects for TV.

Cur­rently, she’s serv­ing as the pres­i­dent of Kakiseni, essen­tially an in­for­ma­tion hub for artists and their work which was es­tab­lished in 2001. In­for­ma­tion about pro­duc­tions and events, au­di­tions, news, re­views and in­ter­views are just some of what can be found on the site. Low came on­board in 2009 and has since ex­panded its scope, ac­tiv­i­ties and ini­tia­tives; all aimed at in­creas­ing au­di­ence sizes, fos­ter­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions, ex­pand­ing cre­ativ­ity and tal­ent, and to in­cite in­ter­est.

And that’s not all. In 2011 she con­cep­tu­alised and founded a non-profit and cause- driven or­gan­i­sa­tion called WOMEN:girls. Through this ini­tia­tive, Low wants to re­it­er­ate how im­por­tant women are in so­ci­ety and to en­cour­age girls to forge their own iden­ti­ties. She also sits as the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for Global En­trepreneur­ship Move­ment (GEM); a plat­form to help show­case the Malaysian en­tre­pre­neur­ial move­ment and ecosys­tem to the world.

How did you come to be at Kakiseni?

It all started when the founders, Jenny Da­neel and Kathy Row­land, an­nounced its clo­sure back in 2009. I was up­set with the news and of­fered to con­tinue the good work that Kakiseni has been do­ing. Long story short, af­ter much per­sua­sion, we signed the con­tract and voila, Kakiseni was signed over! We turned it into a non-profit in 2011.

You started your ca­reer as an ac­tor. Why did you choose to be on the sup­port­ing side of the arts?

[ Laughs] Well, this is in­deed de­bat­able. I may have thought I wanted to be an ac­tor – my first com­mer­cial stint on the stage was ‘A Flight De­layed’, a sold- out theatre pro­duc­tion di­rected by Dato’ Zahim Al­bakri. I was in the ensem­ble team and I had only one line on stage. Sub­se­quently though, all the jobs that I was of­fered since weren’t act­ing jobs: I hosted ‘3R’, as well as own­ing my own time slot dee­jay­ing or ra­dio host­ing on WOWfm 97.6 back then (circa 2000). Then I be­came heav­ily in­vested in do­ing stuff be­hind the scenes be it di­rect­ing or ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ing. I picked up ad­vo­cacy for women’s is­sues along the way and when Kakiseni hap­pened, I just nat­u­rally filled the shoes. So to a large ex­tent, it’s still pretty much a choice I made, though it must also be clear how the various con­nected se­ries of events also helped me make this de­ci­sion.

Ex­po­sure to the arts and arts ed­u­ca­tion is fun­da­men­tal in build­ing em­pa­thy, cre­ativ­ity and skills in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­pres­sion

What’s the big­gest chal­lenge in ed­u­cat­ing the Malaysian pub­lic about the arts?

That we are start­ing from ground zero ev­ery sin­gle time. The arts ed­u­ca­tions isn’t the pri­or­ity in many schools here, to put it po­litely; fund­ing, re­sources and ac­knowl­edge­ment that it needs to be de­vel­oped are very much lack­ing. So to the pol­i­cy­mak­ers, our lob­by­ing is about in­te­grat­ing the arts into a holis­tic ed­u­ca­tion (crit­i­cal and cre­ative think­ing plus col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing). For the schools, we pi­lot pro­grammes that use arts as a tool to in­crease learn­ing’s

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