WHEN vibrant performing arts meet some of Malaysia’s most scenic locations, the results can be truly breathtaking.
See it for yourself at the “Cultural Diplomacy: Connecting Diversity” outdoor photography exhibition in Penang, featuring a unique collection of works by Joie Koo.
Through 15 large prints displayed at Gurney Paragon Mall, visitors will be taken on a journey that traverses the country’s rich history, traditions and landscapes.
Koo juxtaposed lion dance and wayang kulit against Penang’s Town Hall, wushu and zapin at Esen Beach, and Mak Yong and Chinese puppetry in the Pinang Peranakan Museum.
Performers of Odissi and Ngajat pose at the Saloma Bridge while silat and classical ballet play out against the old FMS Survey Office, both in Kuala Lumpur.
Magunatip and bharatanatyam practitioners enliven Kelantan’s Guillemard Bridge, while Mah Meri and contemporary dance come face-to-face on Selangor’s Carey Island.
“It had always been my dream to show the beauty, depth and unique personality of Malaysia to the world, as well as highlight the importance of artisans and performing artists.
“These art forms are more than mere entertainment and represent the very essence of our heritage and identity, communicating stories, skills and knowledge passed down through generations and reflecting the wisdom of our forefathers.
“I hope this fosters a deeper appreciation for performing arts and acknowledges its role in promoting cultural understanding, harmony and unity,” Koo said at the show’s launch.
He travelled to 20 locations across nine states over a six-month period in 2022 to capture the images, working with many different groups.
He visualised how each performer looked in full regalia and paired them with the natural landscapes, urban cityscapes or heritage sites that he felt resulted in the best composition.
“As the photographer, each image was a conversation between me, the performance artists and the environment.
“Malaysia’s rich culture can sometimes be detached. Different groups tend to perform separately.
“My goal was to bring them all together,” said Koo.
Penang tourism and creative economy committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said Koo’s works were testament to the country’s diverse heritage and highlighted the unity that could be found in diversity.
“These stunning images go beyond mere aesthetics. They exemplify the power of art in promoting tourism and fostering understanding among different communities,” Yeoh added. Also present was the mall’s chief operating officer Koay Bee Fong.
The exhibition is a collaboration between ZXC Theatre Troupe and Allspire Picsmedia.
It runs until June 14 and is held at the mall’s Festive Square, an open-air public space facing Gurney Drive.