KL arts festival opens doors to B40 group

For the Wolfe Bowart show, 3,000 seats have been reserved for the B40 income group, says Rajakumar


The arts and culture ecosystem in Malaysia may not be huge, with its main hub hardly holding up its income.

Nevertheless, the city is cultivating more and more communities of independent artists and opening the path for new generations of art lovers.

This year, the KL International Arts Festival 2018 — presented by DiverseCity, is anticipated to foster this appreciation to the bottom 40% (B40) income group in hopes of developing the scene, as well as exposing them to the arts.

The B40 have their own dignity and pride, which we can utilise the arts and culture to gain their trust, say Rajakumar (Pic by Muhd Amin Naharul/TMR)

According to festival director Datin Sunita Mei-Lin Rajakumar, 3,000 seats have been reserved for the B40 income group, as well as differently-abled children for a family oriented show by Wolfe Bowart, which will be held at Menara Ken TTDI, titled “Cloud Soup”.

“We have a lot of initiatives going on this year, as we are taking arts and design into low-cost housing communities, and have been working with Perumahan Awam and Bank Negara Malaysia’s Asia School of Business with its two MBA (Master of Business Administration) interns to assess our works in bringing it to the underprivileged,” she said at the media briefing last Tuesday.

Originated from Australia, the “Cloud Soup” is about a tailor who discovers that the adventure he’s been searching for lays in his laundry pile all along. In the play, fabrics morphed and objects turned into strange beings.

Rajakumar said with seats allocated for the underprivileged, the festival is hoping to receive 33 thousand attendees, 10% of which would be from 20 other countries.

“Currently, the grant funding from the government for this festival has decreased by a large number, so aiming for similar statistics as last year would be the most ideal,” she said.

According to Rajakumar, she is also looking into the maturity of the per- forming arts’ ecosystem — and if it is able to successfully develop performers similar to the pace of developed countries.

“We have made a breakthrough and found out with the MBA interns, that the country has always bench-marked the success of theatre in developed countries, overlooking that the intervention required in Malaysiamay be different,” she said. Rajakumar said based on their current economic impact report, introducing the B40 income group to arts and culture will lead to a better understanding among the arts and culture communities in Malaysia.

“Take for example, when we asked someone in the B40 income group, they haven’t applied for BR1M (1Malaysia People’s Aid). And the amazing thing is that they said they don’t want to be a burden to the government,” she said.

She said there are people in that income group who wish to be self-sufficient and refuses to borrow money, or ask for them at all, which is an interesting narrative that needs to be heard.

“They have their own dignity and pride, which is why if we utilise the arts and culture to gain their trust, they will start sharing and we as people begin to understand better the

challenges they are facing,” she said. Rajakumar added that the yearly festival’s themes and shows featured were never continuous or related to each other and each year she would make sure the main performance would be different and distinct.

“This year’s festival will feature 50 activities and also a 90-day exhibition, which includes visual arts on the road. There will also be activities that will be held at Seri Tioman 1, the low- cost housing community we’re focusing on this year,” she said.

The international event will be independent from its three-months long exhibition, and will run from Sept 1-30, 2018, throughout the city and feature “Cloud Soup” for its world premiere.

Three shows will be making its Asian premiere throughout the festival, namely “I am Ravana”, a joint Australian-Malaysian dance theatre based on The Ramayana, “Eggsistentialism” by Joanne Ryan and “Giselle” by Akram Khan, which the English National Ballet hailed as “a master- piece of 21st century dance”.

Humans of Kuala Lumpur (KL) will also be debuting in the exhibition ecosystem through the festival’s launch.

Other local acts include “Anak Raja Tangkai Hati” by Makyong Kijang Emas, which will be showcased alongside “Kenyalang Alive” — Sape Musica Expression that is expected to play new compositions and world music based on the traditional music instrument from Borneo.


Similarly, music concerts titled the “Spectrum series” will be performing at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre which gathers local musicians for an interpretation of oriental classical instruments such as the gamelan, zhongruan, guqin and erhu, accompanied by the piano and the cello.

Inaugurated in 2015, the KL International Arts Festival aims to make Malaysia’s capital city the main stage of a month-long celebration the arts through arts which comprises of dance, tradition, comedy, literature and visuals.

Last year, the festival featured “Once Upon a Time” by 16 Strings, “Che Malambo” by the 12 gauchos and “Letter’s End”, also by Bowart, among 50 other music, dance, theatre, visual arts and literature events.