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


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

Discussing the value of arts and culture is not new. We continue this discourse ad finitum when we are looking for grants or are trying to convince a Corporation to part with a small portion of their billion-ringgit profit.

Why do we have to continually do this?

Have the custodians of arts and culture in this country failed to convince their own colleagues in ministries the importance of arts engagement? Do we lack research on the benefits or impact of the arts on society, any society? Google the subject and there are countless numbers of research done on impact studies etc.

Malaysian society is no different. We are capable of immersing, imbibing, assimilating, improving, appreciating the myriad cultures in our own backyard. So what does it take to move the compass for a grant for a production or a Festival?

Getting a grant in Malaysia is getting more and more difficult in the past few years when a large amount of government money is given to a few non–producers to dispense as they deem fit. In the end, real producers who are not friendly to these so-called arts “movers and shakers”, wanting only to present their case for a production, get no valid reason for their application being turned down. Where is the place for merit then? What are the “extra” criteria?

Governments all over the world offer grants to arts companies but in Malaysia we have to take out a loan! It is laughable but when you cannot break-even it becomes a terrible burden on a theatre/music company to repay. It only goes to show!

Government funding is important in the arts but more important I feel is the road map towards developing art and culture in this country. How long has JKKN been in existence? Why are we still in a “stop-start” situation where arts and culture are concerned?


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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