It has been 10 years since theatre legend Datuk Krishen Jit died of a massive stroke.
His passing had undoubtedly left a void in the world of performing arts here, robbing it of his creative experimentation and vision.
To continue his dreams for the performing arts community, the Krishen Jit-Astro Fund was conceived in 2006. It has since awarded RM296,000 worth of funds to 37 deserving recipients, including seven outstanding arts practitioners this year.
At a ceremony held at Five Arts Centre in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, a total of RM33,000 was given out.
The recipients this year were Yeoh Lian Heng, Sharmini Ratnasingam, Seng Soo Ming, Mohd Shahrul Mizad Ashari, Dhanendran Maheswaran, Jun Ong and TerryAndTheCuz.
They were selected from a pool of 48 applicants for projects in dance, theatre, film, video, music, training and interdisciplinary works.
Interestingly, this year marked the highest number of fund recipients, which over the past nine years ranged between three and five recipients.
Introduced by Astro in 2006 together with Five Arts Centre, the fund has helped realise the artistic vision of many local practitioners. “The very basis of the fund is premised on it being experimental, it being a new way of delivering something and reaching out to the public. That’s what Krishen Jit was all about,” says Ravi Navaratnam, one of the five panellists for the fund.
The other criteria was to look at the impact of the project on the community, if it was pushing boundaries and reflecting Malaysian creativity.
Ravi, a member of Five Arts Centre, has been in the panel since the fund’s inception in 2006 and points out that the applications have gotten more interesting and exciting over the years.
He says “the modality of presentation” has definitely changed, with the projects embracing technology and taking arts beyond the conventional brick-and-mortar performance spaces.
“We have really funky stuff this year!” he adds.
TerryAndTheCuz, which received RM8,000 for SK!N, a contemporary dance performance, brings its audience into custom configured 12m shipping containers.
Based on true stories about human trafficking, three dancers will embody the traumatic cycle of forced migration, detention, deportation and human trafficking.
Watching this performance in shipping containers allows the audience to experience the grim realities of human trafficking.
Now Or Neverland, a collaborative work between the dance and theatre faculties of Aswara, received RM3,000. Mohd Nur Faillul Adam, who is heading this project with Mohd Shahrul Mizad Ashari, says that Now Or Neverland will feature four performers, two each from the dance and theatre faculty and inspired by hit reality TV series Fear Factor.
“Four different phobias will be explored in relation to the feeling of fear faced by most Malaysians nowadays,” explains Mohd Nur.
The 28-year-old dancer says the grant will be used to fund the technical aspects of the production.
“It’s very difficult to get funds for contemporary artistic projects. Not that you don’t get anything from the government but when you apply for traditional projects, there’s a lot more from the government,” he laments.
As for poet-musician Dhanendran, also known as Ksatriya, a fund such as this is important, as “it’s a great investment, not just in the social and cultural aspect, but also in terms of economics. It creates jobs and helps livelihood.”
He also believes it is crucial to invest in the most important resource this country has – young people.
Ksatriya received RM2,000 for the Say It Like You Mean It (SILYMI) mentorship programme based in Penang.
Aimed at young adults, SILYMI aims to help young artists develop new original content, learn skills, experiential training and emotional and financial support.
The other panellists for this year’s fund were National Culture and Arts Department director-general Datuk Norliza Rofli, Sunway University’s Performance and Media Department head Leow Puay Tin, Jolyn Gasper, a representative from Astro and Mac Chan, another representative from Five Arts Centre.