KUALA LUMPUR: Cendana, Malaysia’s new arts and culture agency, will launch its first arts funding programme in November.
Its founding chief executive officer Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin said that this came about because 80% of the queries from artists, since Cendana set up shop in June, had been about funding.
“Many artists have to focus on raising funds for their projects instead of the research and creation of their work,” she said in an interview. Izan added that many artists now spent months on their work with little pay “and although there are many people who are doing it for the love of the arts, that is not fair on them”.
Cendana will also work on a collaboration between artists from Peninsular Malaysia and those from Sabah and Sarawak.
“We need to share our stories,” she said.
There is also a need for collaborations between Malaysian and international artists, she said. Other funding programmes will be rolled out in stages, including one next year for emerging artists to enhance their knowledge and techniques at arts conferences, workshops and festivals.
Cendana has also signed an MoU with the Adelaide Festival Centre for arts and cultural exchanges between Malaysia and Australia, including participation in the 2017 OzAsia Festival.
“The OzAsia Fest is a gateway to the Asia-Pacific arts scene for Malaysian artists as it is attended by festival directors of the region.”
Izan said Malaysia should review its policies to foster stronger arts networks worldwide.
“A blanket policy will not work to catalyse arts and culture in the country.
“For example, licensing fees for arts cannot be the same as that for international entertainment acts, or big commercial shows,” she said.
“A promoter who brings in Disney on Ice or Alicia Keys will not have a problem of paying RM30,000 deposit, they can recoup the amount in their ticket sales. But if you are a dancer collaborating with a dancer from the UK, or if you bring in an international dance troupe, no matter how critically acclaimed they are, there is no way you can recoup that amount because the audience is smaller.”
There is also a need to improve arts literacy in the country, she said.
“We need to have arts education and arts appreciation, especially for the young.
“It is a question of how we can get the public to see art. How can we get a concert goer, who can fork out RM600 to see a concert, to spend RM50 for a theatre show?” she added.
Arts and culture will not be able to grow without the support from the corporate sector, she said.
“Bursa Malaysia has more than 900 companies listed. Can you imagine if it invests in the arts?”
At the end of the day, she said: “If we don’t support our own arts, how can we sell it to the outside world?”