Musings: Sabera Shaik on the state of arts and culture in Malaysia – part I


Sabera Shaik, arts practitioner for over 40 years, founder and Artistic Director of Masakini Theatre Company

Why have we not developed into a “cultured” society –where arts and culture thrive beside the many mamak stalls and eateries we refer to as our “culture”?

How can a People who have had theatre since the 14th century be so poor and wanting today?

The case for Mak Yong has been flogged over and over again. Why is there no performance of this world heritage culture to be found in this country? How can we sell productions that have no research value to tourists and falsely claim them to be true to our history?

We need informed people at the top be it DBKL or Ministry to guide this roadmap. By informed I mean being aware of what is acceptable in arts and culture, what is adulteration, how to value our own, how to show off our own arts and culture and the latest methods of doing this – in some countries an on-going video informs, in others, performance and projections, video mapping etc etc  

How do we inform people if they themselves do not travel to see/watch performances- of any kind?

Bring the shows to our shores and this is one simple reason why DiverseCity’s Festival is so important. It should be given the right funding to make Kuala Lumpur a destination every September.

It is not only the image of the country that will be positively portrayed but the human impact of the Festival is often overlooked. Far too often the impact of individual experience, the way people/ audiences experience arts and culture take a back seat to its economic impact upon the country’s GDP.

Here is one festival that has conducted research on the impact of its progamme not only on mature first timers but also school-going kids. By engaging young adults to be part of the administration of the Festival, it has not only given them invaluable experience, also taught them the complexities of putting up a performance – be it local or foreign.

About this Arts Practitioner

Sabera Shaik – is the founder and Artistic Director of Masakini Theatre Company. She has been in theatre for more than 40 years and when not performing her solo works overseas, teaches a group of actors the craft of acting. Through her other arm-Project Cahaya, Shaik uses Theatre Therapy to heal traumatised young adults in Sarawak.


Part II of this blog post can be found at:

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