Nafas festival brings environmental education and the arts to a virtual audience

Orang Asli group Luhiew Renaweij is part of this year's Nafas festival line-up. It features Alang, in the middle, on a pensol (nose flute), and Herry who plays the kereb (bamboo guitar). The performers hail from the Semai community in Perak. Photo: Luhiew Renaweij

In conjunction with World Rivers Day on Sept 26, the Nature Art Festival (Nafas) is set to return for its second edition with a week-long eco-friendly arts programme.

Happening from Sept 25 to Oct 2, Nafas 2021's hybrid programme will take on a mainly digital form, with free online content that will be streamed via Rakan Segari’s Facebook page. On-site activities will also be held for local communities in the Manjung district (about 60min from Ipoh) in the southwestern part of the state of Perak.

Organised by Rakan Segari (a coalition of community art and environmental NGOs based in Manjung, Perak), Nafas 2021 is supported by the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) and the Global Environment Policy’s Small Grants Programme under the United Nation Development Programme.

The community driven event combines art, music, film, photography, poetry and recycling workshops while building awareness around environmental issues. First launched in 2018, the Nafas festival was postponed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is now gearing up for a series of diverse events for its upcoming edition.

“The festival aims to raise awareness in the local community about environmental issues pertaining to Manjung. We are blessed with a rich biodiversity that exists in Hutan Simpan Segari Melintang dan Pantai Segari. So, it’s important to remind people about preserving the natural habitat,” says Ismardy Radzuan, Rakan Segari’s coordinator.

The artistes featured in Nafas 2021's virtual programme include award-winning Sarawakian sape musician Alena Murang, Johor-based eco-friendly folk band Kicau Bilau, Orang Asli traditional music group Luhiew Renaweij and poets Wang Tao and Ishak Mohamad Hamzah Yazd.

With restrictions on interstate travel, all the performances and poetry sessions are being pre-recorded remotely. The virtual participation from performers from across the nation also shows solidarity and a shared passion around the core mission of bringing ecological awareness, sustainability, and waste management to Manjung and beyond.

Laman Karya Lumut (Lakar), a community arts space and cafe, is part of the festival's organising committee for exhibitions. Galeri Percha, a local hub for visual art and craft, will be hosting the Nafas 2021 art and photography exhibitions.

"Small town arts festivals are a tourist attraction. But the pandemic put all those plans on hold for us. In this area, visitors tend to go straight to Pangkor Island nearby (for their holidays), but with a growing network of arts communities, indie art studios, bookshops and (cabin) cafes scattered around towns like Seri Manjung, Sitiawan and Lumut, we hope more people will start exploring this small corner of Perak. The Nafas festival is a fantastic platform to showcase what we have available," says Suhaila Hashim, Galeri Percha director.

“We also hope that the arts performances will be able to help practitioners who have been financially affected by the pandemic. And not forgetting the local community. They have been stuck at home for a very long time and we hope some of the physical activities can alleviate their stress,” says Ismady, 46.

He also hopes the festival will continue to educate the locals, especially the younger generation, about urban solid waste management, marine ecology, turtle conservation and coastal ecosystems while celebrating World Rivers Day.

The rivers in Manjung are dominated by estuaries that bridge the freshwater and ocean ecosystems and are rich with a diverse population of flora and fauna.

“We hope this festival does not only send a message to the local community but also to the whole country,” concludes Ismady.

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