Malaysian performing arts group builds an art farm in rural Pahang

  • Arts
  • Friday, 10 Sep 2021

An artist rendering of the Orang Orang Art Farm, an ideal spot for creatives to unwind and create art. Photo: Orang Orang Drum Theatre

For performing arts group Orang Orang Drum Theatre (OODT), building its very own art base, surrounded by a lush natural landscape, has always been a dream since its inception in 2013.

Having participated in many community-based arts festivals abroad over the years, OODT’s assistant artistic director Zyee Leow shares that the idea was to have a site away from the concrete jungle.

"We wanted a space where we can get close to nature, play music as we want and create whatever performances that tickles our fancy," says Leow.

It took a global pandemic to hit for the OODT team to finally turn that dream into reality.

Last year in August, the team found a location in Karak, Pahang that exuded “the right energy” according to Leow.

The Orang Orang Art Farm independent project had a place to call home.

Situated 10km from Kampung Baru Karak, the art farm, estimated to be 93sq m in size, sits on land (approximately 0.4ha) surrounded by fruit trees, orchards and rolling hills.

“We took our time to do the (land) research and finally met up with the design team from Haus Studio. We share a lot of the same core values about arts, culture (with Haus Studio) and what we imagine this art base to be, including using recycled materials to build this space,” says Leow.

To fund this project, OOTD launched a crowdfunding campaign in May with a target of RM200,000 to meet the basic construction fees. At press time, RM28,348.40 has been collected.

On-site construction of the Orang Orang Art Farm by KXY Builders started at the end of May this year but it was halted momentarily after the nationwide lockdown was enforced on June 1.

Construction work resumed at the end of July and Leow estimates the first phase will be completed by next month where OODT’s eight full-time members and 10 part timers will join forces with the builders.

Initially, Leow says it was difficult to find a location that met OODT’s criteria for an art farm - close to nature, safe and also nearby to a community.

Construction of the Orang Orang Art Farm is currently ongoing. Photo: Orang Orang Drum TheatreConstruction of the Orang Orang Art Farm is currently ongoing. Photo: Orang Orang Drum Theatre

“This place that we found at Karak has a community of retired people who live in the area. It's a place where you find a calm, peaceful and healthy life. We hope that in the near future, we can connect with this local community through the arts.

“There’s also new villages, small villages, waterfalls, and a forest reserve nearby. It's an ideal eco-tourism spot and most importantly, the area offers the perfect environment for future arts projects that we have planned,” adds Leow.

There are five ways to support this art farm project, namely Tree Friend Forever (RM10,000), 1 Man 1 Tree (RM1,000), 1 Man 1 Brick (RM500), 1 Man 1 Ticket (RM300) and purchasing the Embracing Arts, Preserving Heritage book (RM100).

The funds collected will also be used to save the sick fruit trees onsite and also plant more trees and vegetables.

The Orang Orang Art Farm site is situated 10km from Kampung Baru Karak in Pahang. Photo: Orang Orang Drum TheatreThe Orang Orang Art Farm site is situated 10km from Kampung Baru Karak in Pahang. Photo: Orang Orang Drum Theatre

Once the art farm is up and running, Leow says it would be an ideal space away from the hustle and bustle of the city to organise eco-friendly concerts, and hold arts programmes that have a bit of camping involved and maybe even mini festivals during the fruit seasons.

“We also imagine the art farm to be an ideal arts residency space for international artists, a place to create and have cultural exchange,” says Leow.

She notes that OODT’s base at Bandar Cheras Mahkota in Selangor will still be used as a rehearsal space and store (for the group's theatre props and musical instruments).

“However, in the future, we are not sure yet if we are going to or able to continue with two art bases. We need to consider it carefully and see how things are going to be,” says Leow.

More info here.

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