Bans bound to make unique art fade away

The intricatedance steps ofmenora is said tohave thrilledMalaysianwomen ofSiamese descentin the 1960s and1970s when theart was popular.

KELANTAN’S traditional performances like the mak yong, menora, wayang kulit and main puteri are certain to fade and ultimately become extinct if the state administration continues to impose “controls and restrictions” on these unique cultural shows. 

Since the enactment restricting these performances in public places was introduced in Kelantan in 1998, performers of these shows are forced to migrate elsewhere to earn a living. 

Despite being accorded as one of the world’s cultural heritage by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Culture Organisation (Unesco) in November 2005, mak yong shows are still banned in Kelantan. 

The state government has imposed restrictions on cultural shows like mak yong, menora, wayang kulit, dikir barat and main puteri saying that these performances feature elements that are contrary to Islamic teachings. 

However, the shows are allowed to be performed behind “closed doors” like at the Gelanggang Seni in Kota Baru. 

“There are inconsistencies with regards to the regulation on entertainment shows. Before this, such shows were taboo but now they have invited pop artistes to perform. 

“Snooker has been given the green light although the game was banned previously,'' said Kelantan Umno information chief Datuk Mohd Alwi Che Ahmad. 

Renowned mak yong activist, Saari Abdullah, said he was disappointed when the Kota Baru Municipal Council, at the last minute, cancelled a mak yong show organised for a group of Kolej Universiti Sunway students recently. 

“If we cannot even perform for students who are preparing their thesis, where else can they get to see a mak yong performance if not at the show’s birth place in Kelantan,” asked Saari. 

Despite suffering from diabetes, he continues to be the livewire for his mak yong troupe, Kumpulan Seni Warisan Temenggung II, by recruiting and training new performers. 

The wayang kulit is fascinating andembodies the virtues of life and traditionalknowledge like spiritualism, legends andfolk tales.

Saari, who is the brother-in-law of the legendary mak yong queen, the late Khatijah Awang, said the last time his cultural troupe performed a show at the Gelanggang Seni was in June last year. 

He said mak yong is bound to become extinct if there are no serious efforts to infuse fresh life into this dying cultural show. 

Apart from Kumpulan Seni Warisan Temenggung II, the only other surviving mak yong troupes in Kelantan are Kumpulan Che Mae in Kampung Gabus, Pasir Mas, Kumpulan Agil (Kampung Lepah, Pasir Puteh) and Kumpulan Mak Jenab (Wakaf Baru). 

Tourism Malaysia directors who held a meeting here last March called for mak yong and the other Kelantan cultural shows to be preserved as each of these performances has its own unique features that can be a huge and successful tourism draw. 

Tourism Malaysia director for Negri Sembilan Hishamuddin Mustaffa said mak yong was an entertaining cultural show and the “ban” imposed by the Kelantan administration was inappropriate. 

“We respect the state government’s policy but mak yong is one of the pillars of Kelantan’s tourism assets and a way to prevent it from getting extinct is to bring out the culture and have it performed outside Kelantan,” he said. 

Pahang Tourism Malaysia director Jeffri Munir, who sympathises with the frustration and disappointment felt by Kelantan’s mak yong performers, called for the state administration to exercise some flexibility in allowing them to perform. – Bernama  

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