Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival sticks true to its ground-up, inclusive mission

Mathew Ngau Jau, a sape master from Sarawak, will be on a Tuyang Initiative tour – holding a workshop and performance.

As one of Malaysia’s biggest community-engaged festivals, the Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival (YSDAF) in Kuala Lumpur has exposed the masses to a broad array of theatre, music, dance, art and cultural performances.

The upcoming third edition of the festival is set to take on a more heartfelt approach. It will see various arts-driven outfits collaborating with community-based groups and grassroots causes.

YSDAF 2018, themed “You, Me + The Arts”, aims to serve as a platform to give a voice to the less heard in society.

The festival takes place at KLPac on Aug 18-19, utilising the vast venue's indoor and outdoor spaces.

Hajjah Yatela Zainal Abidin, Yayasan Sime Darby CEO, said the idea of an arts festival with the theme of helping the underprivileged is timely.

“I remember sharing with everyone my experience attending an art conference, the 2016 Borak Arts Series themed ‘Bringing Arts Closer To Home’, where serious social issues all over the region and beyond, were shared and addressed using the powerful medium of the arts,” said Yatela.

“This experience was an eye opener for me to look at the arts in a different light.”

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Mathew Ngau Jau, a sape master from Sarawak, will be part of Tuyang Initiative's workshop and performance series.

This year’s edition has been announced as being “bigger and better’ than the previous two instalments, with over 300 activities and workshops for all age groups, put together by a 500-strong contingent of Malaysian artists, arts activists and volunteers.

According to Yatela, YSDAF will be working with several NGOs such as the Women’s Aid Organisation, the Malaysian AIDS Council, Ideas Academy, Unicef and the National Autism Society of Malaysia to create a series of unique workshops and performances.

The return of theatre show Adam! The Musical, first staged at The Actors Studio Lot 10 in 2010, is an obvious highlight.

The musical is slated as YSDAF 2018’s gala performance and will be performed by an almost brand new cast, with a few returning cast members.

“We are especially excited to bring back Adam! The Musical, which touches on the AIDS epidemic and challenges faced by people with HIV,” said Datuk Faridah Merican, KLPac co-founder and veteran theatre practitioner.

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Hongjiejie Work Station’s interactive all-ages shadow puppet theatre show Hoong Siamang Hooong.

A new edition of the popular Life Sdn Bhd series, themed “Issues”, which will highlight real stories by real people, is also on the programme.

On the subject of fresh faces, don’t forget to check out the Subject Y exhibit by model-making company Cae House Model founder Chin Wen Yen, the winner of YSDAF 2018’s Pitch Start grant. The exhibition is a multi-sensory experience catering to the visually and hearing impaired.

The programme also includes a workshop on disabilty equality by Peter Tan, a disability awareness advocate, and a talk by Andi Miranti, a teenage author and illustrator diagnosed with autism.

Music lovers can catch a line-up of indie bands curated by Mak Wai Hoo, the founder of independent label Soundscape Records. Names on the list include Bittersweet, Pastel Lite, Azmyl Yunor and Orkes Padu. More bands to be announced soon.

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Indie duo Pastel Lite, comprising Eff Hakim and Mohd Faliq (right), is part of the Soundscape Records-curated stage at the festival. Photo: All Is Amazing

Sounds And Sights Of the Orang Ulu, presented by the Tuyang Initiative, is a showcase which aims to highlight these lesser known sub-ethnic groups in Sarawak while creating awareness about their wealth in tradition, art and culture.

“This is a format that Tuyang Initiative hopes to expand and be able to take on tour to showcase in different locations both nationally and internationally,” says Juvita T. Wan, co-founder of Tuyang Initiative, which is a social enterprise based out of Miri, Sarawak.

For this year’s YSDAF, the showcase focuses on the Kayan and Kenyah communities.

The audience can expect a mixed media photo exhibit of Pusau Anak, showcasing a traditional child naming ceremony of the Kenyah. The photo works were taken in 1967 by Howard Koons, an American traveller who was serving in the Peace Corps.

There will also be two workshops – music introduction to sape playing by Mathew Ngau Jau, who will also perform at YSDAF, and a basket weaving and beading session by Rose Belarek, a traditional craftswoman.

A talk on traditional Kayan oral art form Parap And Takna by Adrian Jo Milang is also something to interest language and culture buffs.

Look out for six outdoor installations themed Deria by Inti Centre of Art and Design, as well as Barrier and Seeing Through My Songs, two indoor exhibits by Peter Tan and Victor Chin which focus on the plight of the disabled.

Indie film productions Redha and Adiwiraku are also set for special screenings at the fest. Redha is a film about a family raising a child with autism. Adiwiraku is based on a true story of a determined teacher, stationed in rural Kedah, who found a way to teach her students to speak and write in English.

There will also be a storytelling session and workshop by Anak Rimba Books, a shadow puppet performance by Hongjiejie Work Station, a performance by Orang Orang Drum Theatre and a giant calligraphy performance by Master Tee. Festivalgoers can also enjoy pop-up street performances, batik painting, drum workshops, speech and drama workshops and loads more.

The Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival 2018 will take place KLPac, Jalan Strachan, off Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah in KL on Aug 18-19. Visit www.ysdartsfestival.com.my or www.facebook.com/ysdartsfest.

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