A Malay art makes a play for US folk

By StoryPhotos
Photos By StoryPhotos

New Yorkers are more familiar with Broadway shows, but then they may just warm themselves up to the wayang kulit.  

At least that is what those from the Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations, Ladies Association of the Permanent Mission of Malaysia in New York , the Arts, Culture and Heritage Ministry, Tourism Malaysia and the National Arts Academy are hoping for when the shadow play is shown at various venues in New York and New Jersey soon. 

Besides craftingthe puppets,Pak Nasir playsthe role of ‘tokdalang’ or storyteller and playsseveral of theinstruments,too.

A team comprising 10 performers from the academy has left for the United States and will stage their first play at the United Nations International School tomorrow.  

They will return on May 4. 

The group, led by internationally acclaimed master puppeteer Mohd Nasir Yusoff, better known as Pak Nasir, will also stage traditional Malay music performances. 

They will do these at various venues in the Big Apple including the Dag Hammarkjold Auditorium at the UN headquarters and the Malaysian Mission Hall. 

This is a maiden attempt at introducing traditional Malaysian theatre and music to the Americans. It would also be Pak Nasir’s first trip to the United States although the 51-year-old from Tumpat, Kelantan, has been to countries like Spain, Geneva, Germany, Japan, Brazil and Sweden, to show off his skills at wayang kulit

The wayang kulit played by Pak Nasirand his teams has incorporated Malayand Thai elements.

Pak Nasir studied under the tutelage of the late National Laureate Hamzah Awang, who taught him the traditions behind wayang kulit Siam. He has since carried on the responsibility of keeping it alive by teaching students in schools.  

“Although the original version of the shadow play was based on the Hindu Ramayana and Mahabarata epics, ours uses Hikayat Seri Rama, which is a Malay version of the popular epic,” said Pak Nasir. 

“For the shows in the United States, we are promoting world peace.”  

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