A case for culture: The Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival goes local

  • Arts
  • Thursday, 05 Jun 2014

Upcoming Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival to highlight local traditions and more.

Fancy a traditional arts festival in an urban setting? A chance to Instagram a traditional puppet theatre group instead of manufactured pop acts on stage? Well that would be a refreshing change from the usual pop-centred festivals in the Klang Valley.

The upcoming Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival on Sept 13–14 promises to shift the spotlight to traditional folk art forms and culture.

The inaugural event will take place at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac), with the core focus of reinvigorating artistic traditions.

At the festival’s launch in KLPac recently, Yayasan Sime Darby chairman Tun Musa Hitam said the event gives the public the rare opportunity to witness the depth and diversity of Malaysian culture in one place. He lamented the fact that not much attention is given to local tradition, arts and heritage.

“We hope that through this arts festival, we can invoke interest and support of the masses. Plus, give recognition to those who put their heart and soul into the arts,” said Tun Musa.

The arts festival will showcase an array of performances like kuda kepang dance performances and wayang kulit. Visitors will also be delighted to know that several workshops and activities will be open to public at the event. Other highlights include a traditional showcase curated by not-for-profit cultural organisation Pusaka.

Yayasan Sime Darby chairman Tun Musa Hitam is aiming for more public awareness from a broad spread of traditional Malaysian arts at the inaugural Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival in September.

According to Eddin Khoo, founder/director of Pusaka, this festival is timely in bringing a broader awareness of cultural art forms to the masses.

“Pusaka has been commissioned to curate the traditional arts component of this festival. We will be building a traditional panggung (theatre) on the festival grounds to showcase performances over two days,” said Khoo.

Nineteen performances have been handpicked by Pusaka for the Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival, which includes traditional masters and folk art groups.

“From the Indian Temple Drummers and a Hokkien puppet theatre troupe from Penang to dikir barat, mak yong and wayang kulit groups from Kelantan, we are working to create an awareness – through demonstration and conversation – of traditional Malaysian arts. In fact, at this festival, every Malaysian state is represented through traditional arts,” he added.

From the bottom to the top of the programming, Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival aims to bring diverse people together to celebrate, inspire and be inspired.

And the best part? There is no admission fee. The heart of the festival might be tied to traditional arts. But there will also be crossover contemporary stirrings on stage.

“Imagine, you can watch a band on the main stage, head over to the experimental arena to catch an avant garde dance piece and also witness authentic traditional performances in a ‘kampung’ house,” said festival director Callen Tham.

“KLPac is an ideal setting for such a festival. You have a nice park to wander about as you catch the shows,” he added.

The family-friendly festival also starts at 10am and ends at 5pm, with a host of fringe activities to keep the masses occupied.

“There will be film screenings, a folk art market, a photo exhibition and a line of buskers to keep the festival upbeat and fun,” said Tham, who mentioned more surprises ahead as the festival programming is being fine-tuned at the moment.

Prior to the event, other activites are also being planned to get everyone into the festival spirit, including an art competition for schoolchildren and a drum painting project.

University students are also encouraged to participate in a photography contest as well as a mask-making project. Theatre workshops for trainee teachers and the chance for senior citizens to participate in a dance project are also on the cards. Tun Musa believes the Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival has the potential to send a positive message about “culture and its meaning to all Malaysians.”

“There is nothing more attractive than culture,” he said.

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