Living Arts Culture Festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Traditional Theatre Mak Yong (Malaysia) ⓒ PUSAKA, Cheryl Hoffmann

The inaugural Living Arts Culture Festival took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from 9 to 11 November 2018. Organized by the National Department for Culture and Arts (JKKN), Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, and co-curated by the cultural organization PUSAKA, the inaugural Living Arts Culture Festival is a celebration of Malaysian and the Southeast Asian cultural heritage.

The Living Arts Culture Festival 2018 took place at the Malaysia Tourism Centre (MaTiC), with satellite events hosted by other partner venues Galeri Petronas, Central Market, and Sogo Shopping Mall. Visitors to the Living Arts Culture Festival 2018 were impressed by the richness of cultural heritage of Malaysia and the region and delighted in the rare opportunity to experience diverse traditions gathered in one festival.

This festival featured four UNESCO-recognized intangible cultural heritage traditions—Mak Yong (Malaysia), Classical Khmer Dance (Cambodia), Saman Dance (Aceh, Indonesia), and Ca Tru Singing (Vietnam). There was also a special exhibition of Australian Aboriginal Dot Painting as well as a live demonstration and workshops by aboriginal artist Otto Jungarrayi Sims.

Other highlights were the diverse cultural traditions of Malaysia such as the Malay opera Bangsawan; the storytelling traditions of Awang Batil, Isun Isun, and Tarik Selampit; east coast dances of Joget Gamelan and Tari Inai; traditional Chinese music; Wayang Kulit; Dikir Barat; Dhol drumming, arts & craft of the indigenous Mah Meri people; Asli music and Dondang Sayang; and the northern Malay Jikey theatre. Alongside the performances, the festival offered a variety of workshops, conversations and discussions, and craft demonstrations to invite visitors to participate and learn more about cultural heritage.

A small exhibition of artworks by indigenous Temuan artist Shaq Koyok was organized by the National Art Gallery while the National Department of Heritage offered traditional games and heritage food.

“Due to the overwhelming response and good reviewed by the public, JKKN, Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia, is planning to make this auspicious event annual. Safeguarding our cultural heritage is a social obligation. Indeed for the sustainable growth of this intangible cultural heritage, we are getting strong support from communities from all walks of life. Various government agencies, corporations, arts foundations, and foreign high commissions and embassies in Malaysia are willing to engage in this art form in the near future” said Salehhuddin Md Salleh, Director of Policy and Research Division, JKKN.