UN urges Kelantan to lift ban on wayang kulit, Mak Yong


Kelantan-based Kumpulan Mak Yong Cahaya Matahari performing at the Pusaka Evenings series in Kuala Lumpur in 2014. Photo: Ahmad Fikry Anwar

A United Nations (UN) special rapporteur urged the Kelantan state government to lift the ban on the Mak Yong dance, wayang kulit and other traditional artistic Malay art forms.

Karima Bennoune, who is UN's special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, said it will be a shame if these arts forms were left to die, for with its death, Malaysians especially the Kelantanese would lose a part of their culture.

“Malaysia is renowned for these wonderful traditional performances and practices ... I think it's a terrible shame that these arts are banned in the state where they were actually born," said Karima at the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture Kuala Lumpur 2019 on March 12.

“Instead these cultures with rich tradition should be celebrated and appreciated as it is one of the oldest performing arts in the world, thus I hope that the ban will be lifted as soon possible,” she added.

The Kelantan state government has banned cultural performances such as the Mak Yong under the Entertainment and Entertainment Premises Enactment 1998 on grounds that they contain elements that run contrary to Islam and only allow such shows to be performed in closed venues.

Karima said the ban was in violation of cultural rights of the Malaysians in enjoying their own rich cultural heritage, thus it's very essential for Malaysia to respond effectively.

“These artistes need support to keep their art form alive and they should also receive some compensation for the ban,” she said.

She said she was pleased that recently bans had been lifted on some books and some charges had been dropped which also involved a very prominent cartoonist, however, more had to be done to guarantee the freedom of artistic expression of all Malaysians which was critical to a vibrant cultural democracy.

However, Karima believed that Malaysia had wonderful opportunities to develop a plan of freedom for artistic expression throughout the country and not only in Kelantan.

The 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture Kuala Lumpur 2019 is being held at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (KLPac) from March 11-14 with the theme "Mobile Minds: Culture, Knowledge and Change", co-hosted by International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) and the National Department for Culture and Arts.

With the participation of more than 60 countries, the summit will be an opportunity to strengthen the civil society, promote collaboration between non-profit organisations and government sectors as well as allow arts organisations and institutions to interact. - Bernama

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