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


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

Let me tell you my experience last year. I was at a performance at DBKL and there were rows upon rows of mentally challenged kids in the audience. Throughout the show these children sat quietly listening and watching the actor on stage. At the end of it all – their eyes just lit up! It was as if they understood everything that went on on that stage. And indeed they did much to the surprise of their chaperones who have been caring and teaching them for years!

By commissioning local groups to produce works for children, the Festival has not only helped local groups improve their work but brought more works for children which is so lacking in this country. The educational value to children on such shows is immeasurable.

The Festival is also a great way of introducing first timers to the theatre. More often than not their interest is piqued and we must also look at how this has contributed to other sectors of the economic spectrum.

If we do not open people up to arts and culture, the advent of robots in a few years portends dire consequences for any population. Who but actors and people who have been touched by performances will have empathy to provide the humane side of situations so lacking in robots? How can a population survive this inevitable onslaught?

The Festival Director has also got her finger on the pulse of the latest goings-ons in theatre. Last year the Festival introduced healing through theatre in their programme. These talks were invaluable and it opened up new avenues for trained professional theatre activists to consider.

Theatre Therapy is gaining popularity in the US and elsewhere.

As I have said the Festival Director does have her finger on the pulse of the arts and culture scene. And there are many roads to travel from here on.

One – I think we should look into introducing and advocating healing through music and drumming. Challenge our young musicians to produce such works which are the rage around the world now. Healing through music is as old as Aristotle and the Bible but in recent years such music has become popular.

This can also definitely help in healing conflicting communities and refugees.

To keep a record of audience response every year so as to improve and be in touch with what audiences want to watch. But at the same time to be aware of the latest trends.

Continue to encourage the upgrading of local productions by engaging foreign help to increase the creative value of a work.

It cannot be denied that culture and arts engagement help in building a civil society, one that can empathise outside its own culture, develop reflective individuals – you can only help others if you know yourself   – and what better way to do so but via the arts. Our (Masakini’s) work with juvenile delinquents bears this out.

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 1 of this blog post can be found at:


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