It’s been 13 years of the BOH Cameronian Arts Awards and the gatekeeper — Kakiseni — is taking it beyond the awards show, into schools and universities around the country.
After the main awards show on April 24 (and the Junior Cammies on April 11), Kakiseni will do a nationwide series of workshops at selected educational institutions. The subject of the workshops will be three major traditional art forms — mak yong, bangsawan and wayang kulit.
“This year it’s not just about celebration, but action,” said Kakiseni president Low Ngai Yuen. She was resplendent in a batik-themed dress at the 13th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards Nominees Party at Alexis Bistro, The Gardens Mall, Mid Valley, last week.
This year’s 13th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards, organised by Kakiseni, embodies the theme of “Yesterday for Tomorrow”, symbo-lising a return to simpler, less complicated times, when the arts were home-grown and they emphasised human storytelling, reminding us what’s truly important (the human connection, the human journey together), and why something matters, paying homage to the past and also blending it with contemporary times to reach wider audiences.
The series of workshops planned after the awards show is a testament to Kakiseni’s commitment to taking the theme farther and doing something beneficial with it. The workshops will be in collaboration with experts in each respective disciplines. For mak yong, there will be Rosnan Rahman; Zakaria Ariffin for bangsawan; and Eddin Khoo for wayang kulit. There will be one workshop per week at a different school or college with Low hoping the programme to go to each state.
“We want to make these art forms more relevant to the new generation,” said Low. “We want to expose young people to mak yong, bangsawan and wayang kulit, to encourage them to play with it and enjoy themselves while exploring. The end result could be a school band playing alongside a mak yong performance or wayang kulit — we just want to see young people discussing and perhaps embracing culture and tradition. We want to make culture, mainstream once again. At the same time, we don’t want to shove it to them, but more of showing them what it actually is.”
It’s a noble endeavour — one borne out of necessity. Aside from pushing culture as part of students’ co-curriculum, there is very little hope to include the arts as part of the main syllabus.
“Every time I knocked on doors, be it with the Ministry of Education or other agencies, the answer has always been a No,” said Low. “But you have to understand it from their point of view as well. The current education syllabus is so big, and teachers, the ministries and departments have to teach so many things to the youth.”
Today’s teachers, especially, are burdened with so much workload that it is perhaps unwise to add more on their plates. This is why Low sees the workshops as an initiative that Kakiseni and others can undertake to help bring culture and the arts to the youngsters. Kakiseni is working with various government departments and private sponsors to make this a reality.
A question was raised on why the three art forms are distinctly Malay.
“I see these as Malaysian art forms,” said Low. “The roots are in Malay culture, but they are distinctly Malaysian. In today’s context, everything is made out to be so segmented and racist, but we can leave that out when it comes to culture, arts and tradition.”
Such brave and noble words, but would Low herself accept that such changes to society could take 50 to 100 years in order to take root?
“I hope it’s sooner than that,” she said, with a smile.
The Nominees Party saw the announcement of names vying for the BOH Cameronian Arts Awards in 48 categories — the same number as last year. The theme of “Yesterday for Tomorrow” will be interpreted by Ida Nerina who will direct the show at Restoran D’Saji at Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur, this April.
“The magic touch of Ida will result in a fantastic show,” said Low. She admitted that choosing bangsawan, mak yong and wayang kulit as the main interpretation of “Yesterday for Tomorrow” means a more subdued BOH Cameronian Arts Awards compared to last year’s “80s chic”, for instance.
“It’s a different kind of glitz and glam, and I believe when Ida is done with it, you will see a fabulous show.”
During the press conference, BOH Plantations Sdn Bhd head of marketing and export, Chen Chaw Chang, together with Low, unveiled the limited edition BOH tea canisters which pay tribute to bangsawan, wayang kulit and mak yong art forms.
“BOH is honoured to be part of the 13th edition of the BOH Cameronian Arts Awards. What an interesting and enjoyable journey it has been for us, as we lent our support to Kakiseni to recognise and nurture performing artistes in Malaysia,” said BOH Plantations CEO Caroline Russell in a post-release.
“This year, we are pleased that the awards pay fitting tribute to the bangsawan, wayang kulit and mak yong performing arts. This recognition reiterates the rich cultural heritage they add to our local performing arts. Having held together much of the social fabric of traditional society in the past, it’s important that we acknowledge these art forms. In their honour, BOH has released a limited edition BOH Cameronian Gold Blend packaging.
“We congratulate the nominees of the 13th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards. We urge them to continue to nurture their passion for the performing arts and to share it with future generations.”
For the full list of the nominees for the 48 categories honoured in the 13th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards, please visit awards.kakiseni.com.
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