MALAY culture came alive in ‘Kelantan: A Living Heritage’, the opening show of the George Town Festival (GTF) 2018 now ongoing in Penang.
Performed in Dewan Sri Pinang over two nights, it highlighted the rich tapestry of art forms practiced since ancient times on the peninsula’s east coast.
Capacity crowds enjoyed segments featuring Tarian Asyik, a graceful royal court dance, and Mak Yong, a captivating form of dance-drama.
Rumbling traditional drums known as Rebana Ubi, was contrasted by Dikir and Dikir Barat, mesmerising displays of a group singing in moving trance.
The numbers featured renowned performers Raziman Sarbini and Zamzuriah Zahari alongside the ASK Dance Company (ADC), the Dikir Barat group Sunang Detaga Arjunasukma, and Tukang Karut Muslih Sang Saka.
The audience was also charmed by the beauty of Songket during a parade on stage, while prodigious child puppeteer Kamarul Baihaqi thrilled them with a Wayang Kulit or shadow puppet show.
The recent production was co-directed by George Town Festival director Joe Sidek and experimental music specialist Kamal Sabran.
It was created in collaboration with the ADC, Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) and Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara (JKKN), and supported by Yayasan Noor Al Syakur (Yanas).
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy, who was among the dignitaries present, praised the festival for celebrating the arts in many forms.
While this is the event’s 9th edition, this year marks a decade since George Town gained World Heritage listing from UNESCO.
“The importance of being exposed to the arts cannot be underestimated, and this festival solidifies Penang’s position as one of the most culturally diverse in Malaysia,” he highlighted in his speech.
An exhibition titled ‘A French Ethnologist in Kelantan’ is on at the ground floor of Dewan Sri Pinang until Sept 2, and open for viewing from 11am to 9pm daily.
It chronicles the work of young ethnologist Jeanne Cuisinier during her 20-month study of local traditions and customs in Kelantan starting in 1933.
She took notes, snapped photographs, made recordings, interviewed locals, made friends among both the royal family and Sakai tribes, and bought objects which subsequently ended up in Parisian museums.
After returning to France, she published books about Kelantan dance and shadow theatre, thus introducing the state’s traditions to the wider world.
She also did radio conferences highlighting Malay cuisine and culture, and spoke of her experiences befriending the Sakai people.
The exhibition is presented by the Embassy of France in Malaysia.