The Star Malaysia - Star2
Everything old is new again
Meet the young people who are preserving Malaysian traditions by re-working them to appeal to a new generation.
MALAYSIAN tradition does not have to be at odds with modernity – with the right approach, it can even thrive and reach a whole new audience.
This is the driving force behind several local initiatives that have reimagined elements of traditional culture with a contemporary twist.
Since 2012, Fusion Wayang Kulit has been reviving Kelantanese wayang kulit (shadow puppetry), but with a healthy infusion of pop culture.
Working closely with accredited tok dalang (master puppeteer) Pak Dain, the group creates traditional shadow puppets inspired by the likes of Star Wars, superheroes, and Japanese anime. It is most popular for its staging of the Star Wars-inspired wayang kulit show, Peperangan Bintang, complete with characters like Sangkala Vedeh (Darth Vader), Tuan Puteri Leia (Princess Leia) and Perantau Langit (Luke Skywalker).
Fusion Wayang Kulit founder Tintoy Chuo says that what began as a bit of fun has become a cohesive effort to preserve and showcase a dying Malaysian art.
“We got a lot of compliments about how we were making this traditional art more accessible, and we realised that it is important for us as Malaysians to find and hold on to our identity,” he says.
A connection to identity was also what led sisters Warda and Wirda Nokman to start Werks & Wit, an online handpainted jewellery business that features traditional Malay accessories like brooches and dokoh (tiered traditional necklaces) in bold, contemporary hues.
Warda, whose family is from Melaka, says that her fondest childhood memory was of her grandmother dressing up in her kebaya, complete with traditional accessories.
“But the current generation tends to think of these accessories as being old-fashioned. So instead of the usual gold or silver, we thought of giving the jewellery a pop of colour to make them more modern and wearable,” she says.
Founded in 2012, Werks & Wit aims to make these pieces a part of daily wear and not just for cultural occasions.
“We don’t want these traditional designs to die out. We want Malaysians to take pride in wearing them, and to be proud of our culture,” says Wirda.
Illustrator Charis Loke’s desire to make Malaysian traditional wear more “cool” led to the Geeky Baju Project, a series of illustrations where traditional outfits like the baju kurung and salwar kameez are reimagined with fantasy and video game themes.
Available for purchase as art prints and postcards, her designs include baju kurung and kebaya inspired by The Lord Of The Rings, salwar kameez with elements from the Watchmen graphic novel, and baju Melayu based on The Hunger Games.
“Cultures evolve and grow, they’re not static. Adapting and improvising traditional elements, when done respectfully and purposefully, is part of that,” says Loke.
“We are best positioned to tell stories about Malaysian culture because we grew up living it. If we don’t tell stories about what we know, well then, who will?” In celebration of what makes us Malaysian and also to strengthen national pride, Star Media Group launched the Raise The Flag campaign on July 24; it will run until Malaysia Day on Sept 16.
You can participate in the campaign by using the cut-out templates published in The Star newspaper to create the Jalur Gemilang and ‘T-shirt’; pose with the flag and decorated paper T-shirt for a photograph and post it on social media with the hashtag #RaiseTheFlagMY. You can also share your photo at facebook.com/ raisetheflagmy.
And if yours is among the best poses, you could win prizes such as staycations and dining vouchers. Submissions with at least 15 people “wearing” the T-shirts and waving the flags in the photo stand to win a RM4,000 buffet for 100 people from Original Kayu Nasi Kandar; winning group school entries will receive Pizza Hut vouchers.
If you missed the templates published in The Star, look out for the paper’s special issue on Sept 14. To bulk order the special issue, contact The Star ’s customer care unit at 1-300-887 827 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).
Thousands of proud Malaysians have already posted photos on the social media wall at thestar.com.my/raisetheflag – check them out! The site also has a video showing you how to cut out the flag and T-shirt.
The Raise The Flag campaign’s main sponsor is Aset Kayamas while Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd is the cosponsor.