A new life for old art forms


  • Education
  • Sunday, 20 Mar 2011

Animation may be the way to go in garnering wider interest in traditional dances and activities.

GIVEN the choice between a movie ticket and a ticket to traditional performances like makyong or zapin, how many of us would choose the latter?

It would be unfair to lay the blame entirely on the younger generation for the lack of support. The truth is, the older generation is just as unlikely to spend their money on tickets to watch traditional shows.

However it is just as unlikely, for traditional performances to rake in millions of ringgit in ticket sales, as they would not be able to attract huge audiences.

Whether we like it or not, we must admit that these traditional performances or “national heritage activities” are just not interesting enough to pull in the big crowds.

But are these traditional art forms unappealing? Is it true that students are only watching them because it’s a requirement to pass an examination?

Prof Dr Ahmad Rafi Mohamed Eshaq, the vice-rector of Academic Affairs for the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Aswara) said that it is unfair to say that these art forms are unexciting.

He said that with an effective story-telling method, heritage activities like the makyong and zapin can actually be more interesting than movies.

“Heritage activities are actually fun to watch. It is simply our mentality that gets in the way. We tend to think that it must be boring and are therefore not too keen to spend our money or time on them.”

“Try spending some time watching makyong or bangsawan theatre performances. You’ll find it even more exciting than movies. In fact, you’d be curious to know how it all ends,” he said.

However, he said the time was now right to review the traditional story-telling methods as a new approach or media could be used without compromising on its authenticity.

Change the media

He added that the storyline in these traditional art form was excellent, while its actors and dancers were both talented and committed to their art. However these factors alone were not enough to attract the masses, said Prof Ahmad Rafi.

He added that they only way to make these heritage activities reach a bigger audience was to present them through various media, one of which was through animation.

Prof Ahmad Rafi said Aswara was now trying to engage its students from its Faculties of Dance, Music, Acting and Animation, to produce a short animated drama on traditional dance and costumes.

“The government has set aside RM200 mil for the creative industry under the 2011 budget. We would like to have a share of this allocation to produce an animated drama

“We have plans to use the ‘motion capture’ technology where all the traditional dance movements would be recorded and digitalised,” he said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when presenting the 2011 Budget last year announced an allocation of RM200mil for the creative industry to buy from them locally-produced and high quality dramas, films and documentaries.

Today, fans of animations are not only children. Adults are equally entertained and enthralled by it.

Be it cartoons or enchanting computer-generated imagery (CGI) animations, all we need it a good storyline and crowds would be drawn in.

Because of its proven popularity, Dr Ahmad Rafi said that the medium would attract more people towards heritage activities.

“I’m confident we would experience a boom once we present these heritage activities through animation. Just look at the animation Upin dan Ipin which is a current craze not only in our country but outside too.

“I believe that if we turn our traditional dance and bangsawan theatre performances into animations and couple it with an interesting storyline, it would be a mammoth success too,” he said.

A new faculty

Aswara had been planning to come up with its own faculty of animation for some time now. It was tentatively planned for this year with the aim of generating more graduates in the creative industry.

However, Prof Ahmad Rafi said the faculty’s establishment had to be deferred for the time being due to several factors.

“We have to look at our budget. We have worked on the aspects of curriculum and syllabus extensively and the working papers are there ... but there are other aspects that we need to consider and this will take time,” he said.

How would this affect the production of the animation? “We have no idea when the faculty would be set up. But we can still proceed with the animation project because we have animation students from the Film and Video Faculty,” he said.

He added that the short animated drama could help Aswara students and others understand out national heritage activities better.

“We don’t have many artistes of traditional art forms, and those who are around are children or relatives of established practititioners ... most of them are continuing the family tradition and keeping these art forms alive,” he said. — Bernama


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