All for art and art for all

#AskNgaiYuen with Kakiseni director advocates women’s rights, the arts, and more.

EARLIER this week, award-winning Kakiseni director and theatre activist Low Ngai Yuen (@ngaiyuen) joined us for an On The Spot live tweet session.

Despite Low’s busy surroundings and a constantly buzzing phone at hand, she gamely took on every question - moderated by WOMEN:girls project manager Abby Latif - and dished out candid answers during the session, which was held in conjunction with the International Women’s Day celebrations.

“The most challenging part was typing on my iPad mini!” said the 36-year-old.

She enjoyed the session as it made her pause to think about what’s next, beyond the here and now.

“I seldom take stock of my own life - sometimes you just go with the flow so much that you just don’t! It’s good for me, as most of the questions are about what’s in store.”

The questions Low found most interesting were those about how she juggles work demands and family time.

“I’m really humbled that everyone seems to think I do a lot. I really don’t think so - I do what I can and I just try to do my best. That’s all,” said Low of her simple philosophy.

She gestured towards Kakiseni’s meeting room, where her team was gathered for a discussion.

“As you can tell, my team runs the show. I am very lucky that they support most of the things I do.”

As for the topics tackled, Low felt that each needed more in-depth discussions.

“When I reply to something, it’s like a karangan (essay). I have so much to share that I like to tie them with stories, so you understand what I’m getting at. Unfortunately, you can’t do that on Twitter,” she said.

For instance, one question about local award-winning women’s show 3R - Respect, Relax, Respond merited more discussion.

“3R will be on air after this Raya. We did 14 seasons over 12 years, and the topics we discussed are still relevant today,” said Low, saying not enough work is being done to address women’s issues, with more kemajuan (development) needed.

When asked who else should participate, she rattled off a list of recognized names who “see life differently and speak their minds”, including Wardina Safiyyah, Pete Teo, Ida Nerina, Susan Lankester and Datin Sofia Jane.

To her, the live tweet sessions should take place every day as it brings everyone a lot closer to each other.

In the past, you could only admire a personality from afar, or follow their progress through interviews in the mass media.

“Now there is a channel that even allows you to say: I want to work for you, can I do that? Just tweet that person. There is no more excuse to not go out there and make a difference,” said Low, noting that only laziness is to blame for inaction.

Changing lives

When I asked Low what’s next on her plate, inaction was not on the menu.

Low and Ida Nerina’s Ikal Mayang project, released on Friday, aims to tell the stories of women through 15 short films, with women directors behind the lens.

However, she feels that it will take a while before its true potential can be seen, as comprehensive outreach methods are needed to properly impart important messages to Malaysia’s incredibly diverse society.

“I met the stakeholders recently, and we decided to continue the project for another two years so people will fully understand what it’s about,” said the passionate advocate of women’s rights explaining their commitment to producing 15 new movies every year.

“It’s really about getting women’s voices out there. It’s only easy to stereotype us because we’re not heard enough.”

After Ikal Mayang, she will turn to the 10th edition of the Boh Cameronian Arts Awards - “Ida will be directing it again, and her plans are already amazing” - and Kakiseni’s Arts Exchange program, which sees artists around the globe collaborating with Malaysian talent.

Asked what the local arts scene needs, she pinpointed the need for audience development to encourage art consumption.

“Not every piece is good, but it is good to interpret and experience a piece, be it good or bad,” she asserts, stating that when it comes to art, there is something for everyone.

Exposing yourself to different forms of art will also lead to different conversations, as having an opinion on things is how you learn about yourself.

“Even if the art makes you angry, you feel good because you can say something about it,” said Low, citing the need to put on many more shows for the public.

“Kakiseni is lucky to have RM4mil worth of grants to distribute this year, concerning audience development, new work, and production costs, among others. I need everyone to rally each other to come around and apply!” she added.

Low is also excited over their upcoming Dengan Inovasi Yo project, which will visit 65 schools throughout Malaysia to conduct 7-hour workshops for students to drive innovation using creativity.

At every outreach activity, she also provides her complete contact details for the audience to get in touch with her whenever they are ready to embark on a project of their own.

“Write to me with what you want, and I’ll give it to you. It is a challenge and lifetime invitation. Many feel they must have a plan before they come, but I don’t think so,” she asserts, adding that nobody knows what the journey ahead will be like.

Low urged readers to share their dream projects with her so they can realise their ideas with the help of her vast resources and network.

“It is more meaningful than doing stuff born out of my own vision, so I’d like to offer my service to anyone who’d like to take it a step further - whatever I can do, I’ll do,” she concluded.

Visit or search #AskNgaiYuen on Twitter to read the full live tweet session’s exchange. An enhanced version of this story appears in the Star's tablet edition, The Star Editor's Choice March 8, 2013 issue. The app is available free from the App Store or Google Play

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Stories You'll Enjoy