The Five Arts Centre scores the Bobo Underdog of the Year award for its many years of service

  • Arts
  • Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014

Five Arts Centre member and co-founder Marion D’Cruz presenting Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan with a garland and plastic guitar as a token of gratitude at the Bobo Underdog of the Year award ceremony. — ROHAIZAT MD DARUS/The Star

The Five Arts Centre scores the Bobo Underdog of the Year award for its dedication to local arts.

When it comes to local awards, the Bobo Underdog of the Year award is probably the cutest of them all. It is, after all, in the shape of a little stuffed dog!

Its cute appearance, however, underlies its significance. This award is presented by Leonardo’s Dining Room & Wine Loft to an individual or organisation, who despite adversity and challenge, has contributed significantly to the betterment of Malaysia. It is presented every two years, always on Malaysia Day.

This year, the prestigious prize was bestowed to performing arts collective The Five Arts Centre, in commemoration of 30 years of pioneering work in promoting Malaysian art forms.

“Five Arts Centre is very humbled and very proud to receive this award,” quipped Mark Teh, Five Arts Centre member and actor/director, in his acceptance speech.

Cast members of Something I Wrote, a recent Five Arts Centre production, donned Azmyl Yunor masks while performing songs from the local musical.

“It shows that if you hang around long enough, someone will eventually give you an award and say nice things about you!” he added.

Ivy Josiah, a Five Arts Centre member, also mentions that the collective’s work has always been very tough.

“Since the 1980s, I think a lot of people either loved us or hated us. Some things we did, some people didn’t get it, because Five Arts Centre was always going against the grain. We went through a period where we were struggling, we were censored, we lived in fear. We were the underdogs for many years. But now, we’re more recognised, getting a little more funding. I think it was due to sheer persistence, sheer focus. The creativity drove us. You cannot suppress art or talent,” she added.

Today, the Five Arts Centre collective includes 14 arts activist and practitioners from diverse backgrounds and disciplines.

The award was presented at Leonardo’s Dining Room & Wine Loft in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. Guests were treated to performances by Azmyl Yunor, Yudi Yap and Fahmi Fadzil, among others.

The dinner, which was themed “Celebrating Many Malaysias”, also doubled as a fundraiser, with around RM45,000 ultimately raised for the centre.

Established in 1984, the Five Arts Centre is a collective of artists and producers dedicated to generating alternative art forms and images in the Malaysian creative environment. It was founded by theatre directors Chin San Sooi and Krishen Jit, and dancer-choreographer Marion D’Cruz. The collective’s scope of work includes theatre, dance, visual arts and many more.

Five Arts Centre member Mark Teh delivering his acceptance speech upon receiving the Bobo Underdog of the Year award in Kuala Lumpur.

Leonardo Dining Room and Wine Loft’s owner and Bobo Underdog of the Year organiser Ed Soo said the Five Arts Centre were worthy recipients of the award, which was named after Bobo, the mascot and “local philosophising dog” at Leonardo’s.

“One of the things about the Five Arts Centre is that their productions are all Malaysian. They tell Malaysian stories, which is something very worthy. I think promoting and encouraging Malaysians to write and produce their own creative work is very important,” said Soo.

Also present as guest of honour for the night was lawyer and activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan. As a cast member in the Five Arts Centre’s first ever production The Cord (1984), and the winner of the first Bobo Underdog Award in 2012, Ambiga was probably the most fitting person to present the Five Arts Centre with the award citation.

Describing the members of the Five Arts Centre as “wacky, warm, wonderful and incredibly creative” Ambiga said she was honoured to be presenting the award.

“Bravo for the amazing job you’ve done, making the Five Arts Centre the many Malaysias that Malaysia is,” she added.

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