Malaysian celebrities read folk tales in Hikayat Storytelling online series

In 2016, the theme for the annual Boh Cameronian Arts Awards was "Yesterday For Tomorrow". Three traditional performing art forms – mak yong, wayang kulit and teater bangsawan – were highlighted. During the awards ceremony, arts outfit Kakiseni pledged to help promote these art forms to a new generation.

Four years on, Kakiseni is continuing to work with storytellers and artistes to create Hikayat By Kakiseni, a series of storybooks highlighting such traditional art forms.

The first Hikayat title – Shadows – was written by Maya Zaharudin and illustrated by Shufitri Shukardi. The book, released in 2017, was inspired by wayang kulit in Kelantan. The creators consulted with Kamarul Baisah Hussin, one of the few practising tok dalangs left in Malaysia.

Earlier this month, Kakiseni introduced Hikayat Storytelling, an online book-reading series.

To date, Hikayat Storytelling’s line-up features indie singer-songwriter Zee Avi, actor/writer Anwar Hadi, graphic designer Baydoucet, girl group Senja and actor Ng Choo Seong.

“Kakiseni hopes to rekindle not just children’s, but parents interest in Malaysian traditional performing arts. To spark curiosity and a sense of belonging to make sure we keep the arts and traditions alive,” says Lylatul Qadrina, Kakiseni programme manager.

The final instalment in the Hikayat by Kakiseni series 'Rahman’s Big Break' will be out in July.The final instalment in the Hikayat by Kakiseni series 'Rahman’s Big Break' will be out in July.

“Since 2017, Kakiseni has been running Hikayat workshops that combine storytelling and interactive play at schools around the Klang Valley. But we also want to include everyone, especially Malaysian families overseas which is why we’re providing (virtual) access to these stories beyond its physical copy,” she adds.

The first video features Zee Avi reading The Girl Who Loved To Dance, a book on mak yong, a dance-drama from Kelantan. It was written by Arisha Akhir and illustrated by Serah Boey in 2018.

Zee Avi’s storytelling video was released on Kakiseni’s YouTube page last week. The other videos will released weekly over the next four weeks.

Once the pandemic restrictions ease up further, Lylatul says Kakiseni will look into reintroducing its Hikayat workshops in schools. These sessions will feature Malaysian traditional performing arts practitioners.

On the literature front, Kakiseni is also considering expanding its online book readings to include regional and personalities, a move to get South-East Asian arts and culture to a younger audience.

Lylatul also adds that next month will see the release of the final instalment in the Hikayat by Kakiseni book series. The book, titled Rahman’s Big Break, is based on teater bangsawan in Penang, and written by David Chin and illustrated by Leong Wai Khong.

Sarawak-born Zee Avi says that participating in the video was a rewarding experience, and she now can finally call herself a “storyteller” in the truest sense.

“It really is such an honour to have a read a children’s book based on Malaysia’s traditional arts, which as the saying goes ‘get ‘em while they’re young’. I hope that through the book and video, people will take away any stigmas about Malaysian (traditional) culture. We can educate children about Malaysia’s rich heritage and see how it can easily be enjoyed by everyone, ” says Zee Avi.

Anwar Hadi, who read Shadows, mentions that this project is a wonderful initiative. The wayang kulit story resonated with him. His video came out June 27.

“I was taught about wayang kulit in school a couple of times, but I haven’ been fortunate enough to be able to watch it being performed live. I’m sure the experience would be fantastical, ” says Anwar.

“All forms of storytelling should be celebrated. If I’m not mistaken, it’s one of the oldest art forms to come from Malaysia, and I think preserving it for posterity would be great, ” he added.

Watch Hikayat Storytelling on Kakiseni’s Facebook (mykakiseni), YouTube or Instagram pages (@kakiseni).

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