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You, Me + The Arts: Yayasan Sime Darby’s Art Festival emphasizes unity between society and the arts
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You, Me + The Arts: Yayasan Sime Darby’s Art Festival emphasizes unity between society and the arts

by Aishwarya AdaikalarajJune 27, 2018

Art is not measured by the greatness of the individual. It’s easy enough to look at someone you admire and wish you were as bright or creative or incredible as them, without realising we are capable of that same strange power. All of us from all walks of life, are good enough to create something meaningful from our weirdest and innermost places. If we’re lucky, sometimes we are healed in the process.

This is the message of 2018’s highly anticipated Yayasan Sime Darby Arts Festival (YSDAF), “You, Me + The Arts”. The free-for-all event is a giant effort to bring Malaysia’s different communities, from the underprivileged to society’s most marginalised groups, under one roof and communicate the thoughts and feelings of those we rarely hear through art. From the 18th – 19th August, the festival aims to inspire participants to explore their inner artist and tell their stories to the world. To take on this big responsibility, Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD) and KLPAC have come back for their third year with some stellar creative showcases and educational workshops.

The middle of the conference was an abstract and captivating performance by the KLPAC’s Theatre for Young People (T4YP), whose play ‘Teenage Dream’ is directed by Mark Beau de Silva and Ho Lee Ching and will be a showcase during the festival itself.

Their recent press conference on the 21st of June teased some of the fine workshops and installations that would be happening during the festival. In what can definitely be called an unconventional conference, guests were led down a touchable museum designed for the visually and hearing impaired and forcing the guests to have a taste of life without being able to see. It was designed by winner of the YSDAF Pitch Start grant, Chin Wen Yen, and will be another main feature of the festival itself.

Chin Wen Yen created a marvellous exhibition on living while visually impaired and guests had themselves quite the challenge of guessing which famous building each figurine was modelled out of, just by touching it.

The activities are exciting because they are definitely made by artists, for artists, and are sure to present only the most quality of events. One of these was the screening of Ineza Rousille’s “My Life, My Story: Moon”, winner of the Indivior Red Ribbon Short Film Competition, which documents the real stories of people living with HIV/AIDS and remain happy in face of dire adversity while Fuad Alhabshi of Kyoto Protocol and Aina Abdul performed ‘Dollar’, a tribute song to the cause.

Pictured here are Fuad Alhabshi of Kyoto Protocol and Aina Abdul performing their original song ‘Dollar’, inspired by one of the many stories in “My Life, My Story: Moon”.

These installations and performances that we’ve glimpsed will be one of many during the festival that serve to not only enhance our awareness about lives beyond our own, but also empower people from disadvantaged groups to learn and grow as artists themselves. Some of these include an author talk by Andi Miranti, the teenage boy author/wonder diagnosed with autism who wrote the fabulous ‘Ned Dickens’ novels.

There will also be workshops by Women’s Aid Organisation, the Malaysian AIDS Council, IDEAS Academy, HumanKind, UNICEF, YMCA Deafbeat and The National Autism Society. The diversity of their programmes is a reflection of the diversity in our community, and nowhere does the YSDAF Arts Festival propose to forget that. There will also be two indoor exhibits catering to differently abled people that focus on their lives called ‘Barrier’ and ‘Seeing Through My Songs’ by Peter Tan and Victor Chin.

These efforts to create a platform to reach the community have had a long history under both YSD and KLPAC. As an extension of YSD’s work under its Community & Health Pillar, it seeks to use the festival as center of knowledge for all parts of the community and to share voices among one another, unlike any other arts festival before it. KLPAC has always had its own longstanding track record of collaborations with NGOs and charities and have always seen the arts as a place to give back to the world. Thus, the theme of “You, Me + the Arts” was born.

Pictured from left to right are some of the acclaimed names from KLPAC and YSDAF that are responsible for the festival’s birth, including Joe Hasham OAM, Dato’ Dr Faridah Merican, Datin Paduka Zaitoon and Pn Hajjah Yatela.

Even if you aren’t the charity type, there are events here sure to keep you interested even before it’s two-day finale in August. Music lovers will be astounded by the dozens of bands curated by Soundscape Records that comprise of Malaysian indie rock musicians like Bittersweet, Azmyl Yunor & Orkes Padu and experimental acts like Pastel Lite.

There will also be throwbacks to more traditional music pieces like workshops on learning the traditional instrument of Sape from the masterful Mathew Ngau Jau from Sarawak. The ‘Sounds and Sights of Orang Ulu’ performance hosted by The Tuyang Initiative, that fight for the inclusion and cultural preservation of the Dayak peoples. So even if you’re NOT the charity type, you’ll find yourself being exposed to worlds and cultures way different than what you could be used to.

The emphasis on building a better community is prevalent through all the festival’s activities. While they are different and perhaps unfamiliar to many of us, they encourage us to be wholesome and inclusive of others’ feelings. What is important is this is where the great art comes from: the hearts each person has poured out to you. Visitors have a great opportunity to learn, from wonderful artists and incredible human beings as well. Keep watching this space for updates because You, Me and the Arts are sure to have a great time this August.

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Aishwarya Adaikalaraj
Arts & culture, corporate & government, lifestyle, health, non-fiction and fan-fiction - you name it, there's a story in all of them. Allow me to be the one to write it!

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