Pangkor Island Festival celebrates arts, culture, boat-building

The Pangkor Fish Dance features fish flags handcrafted by Pangkorians, performed to an upbeat tempo to showcase the vitality and liveliness of fish swimming in the ocean. -- Pangkor Island Festival

Pangkor island in Perak will be welcoming the Mid-Autumn Festival this year in style – combining tradition, culture and heritage – at the upcoming 5th Pangkor Island Festival. This biennial festival, organised by Oriental Art And Cultural Center, runs from Sept 13-15.

On the first day of the Pangkor Island Festival, which coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival, there will be a big steamboat feast by the seaside deck overlooking the Straits of Malacca.

When the glasses have been drained and the belly filled, participants will embark on a lantern night walk, and head to the Pangkor Island Festival opening ceremony venue.

“The lantern night walk is a tradition that seems to be slowly forgotten by many, so we hope this will bring back some nice memories. With all these activities planned for the festival, we would like to invite young Pangkorians who are based in other cities to return for a reunion,” says Eric Ch’ng, Pangkor Island Festival director.

This is a space and time where family and friends unite, and the festival thrives on this very spirit of togetherness and cultural exchange.

When it held its first edition in 2013, it was a modest gathering of local artists who wanted to share the love for arts and culture. Over the years, it has gained traction and caught the attention of art festival organisers from abroad.

The folk pop outfit Siva9 Band from Taiwan. Photo: Pangkor Island Festival

“Local performance group Pangkor Fish Dance, formed by local youths, and Orang Orang Drum Theatre, were invited to perform in art festivals in Taiwan and Macau. This connected us to other artists and led to today’s collaborations with Taiwan, Macau, Japan and South Korea cultural groups,” says Ch’ng.

“This is also how the ‘Island Dialogue’ theme for this year’s festival came about and there will be exhibitions and forums that showcase the richness of island culture from these countries.”

At the festival, Japanese artist Takuji Kamio will be presenting his award-winning installation work titled Paper Dancer, while exhibitions featuring Taiwanese artists Mei-Yi Liou (a clay series) and Anchi Lin (contemporary video performance/installation) add to the international names.

Lee Mok Yee's incense and cork series, Kim Teoh's photographic installation (about Pangkor) and veteran artist Yap Hong Ngee's watercolour paintings are the homegrown art highlights.

Where music is concerned, don't miss performances by Taiwanese folk group Siva9 Band, Theatre Troupe Getdol from South Korea and Jun Sakima, a Sanshin musician from Japan.

How are fishing boats made? Find out at the Pangkor Island Festival! Pangkor island has five traditional shipyards still operating. Photo: Pangkor Island Festival

Of course, the local Pangkor Fish Dance group, adding hometown colour and flavour, will be a treat for festival-goers. The foreign content involves a total of 40 artists, including five groups.

Film screenings, a cultural bazaar, fishing competitions, and various art workshops are also a part of the activities. There will be crossover events from the local and foreign artists, such as the drum and dance workshops, which are open to the public. Registration is required and can be done on the Pangkor Island Festival Facebook page.

“The programme and content of this festival is strongly inspired by the island elements and its nature. To encourage people to get to know the area better, we are collaborating with community tour group Go Kaki on exhibitions and guided walking tours,” adds Ch’ng.

Paper Dancer installation art by Japanese artist Takuji Kamio. Photo: Pangkor Island Festival

“Local guides will share the stories behind popular tourist spots, such as the ancient well and the old Happy Cinema, or the history behind the local industries like ship building or the anchovy and ice-making business.

“Local non-profit organisation Hello Pangkor will also be organising a beach clean-up. And of course, there is no shortage of street food that one can find from the shops along Jalan Sungai Pinang Kechil.”

The activities of Pangkor Island Festival are centred in the Sungai Pinang Kecil, which means that it is easy to get around on foot from one event to another.

“Everyone should come to this festival and get to know the uniqueness of this island ... its culture, its beaches, its food and its art. Pangkor island is more than you think it is. Through this festival, we hope that visitors will discover the beauty of this fishing island and rejuvenate themselves through the experience,” he says.

The closing celebration will be a beach party with a bonfire, fireworks and good company. With a bit of luck, the sunset will be beautiful.

More info: FB: Pangkor Island Festival.

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