‘Lets Talk with Sharaad Kuttan’ – Datuk Ramli Ibrahim shares the trials & tribulations and sometimes joy of creating dance in a culturally unsympathetic atmosphere of Malaysia Baru!

Dear Friends,

Time flies. Soon enough it will be a year since the historic 9th May, 2018 General Election when Malaysians voted for a new government. We remember the euphoric hope for change, which could lift the country from the impasse of inefficiency, corruption and bigoted mindset that had infected the essential policies and machinery of governance. The people hankered for a new government with a fresh vision of nation building.

The euphoria has unfortunately dissipated and in its place there is a sense of impatience, frustration, anger and cynicism that changes are not taking place fast enough and things are hopelessly reverting to the old boring inept sameness. Soon a sense of negativity and doldrums pervade the nation’s mood. Time, money and energy are wasted arguing, backbiting and fire-fighting. A dark cloud hung over the community as our energy is sapped from going back-and-forth and getting nowhere. Drained of optimism, creativity, let alone the satisfaction of good work and seeing the result, the rakyat are tired out and concerned that the flicker of light at the end of the tunnel seems to be fading.

I am reminded of the above scenario as similar to that of the realm of Dewa Pecil (Dewa Terpencil), a mythic character of a potent Malay makyong story (used in traditional psycho- therapeutic healing of main ‘teri), when he is ordered to leave his kingdom. Dewa Pecil represents a sensitive character – an introvert archetype of the Malay psyche. The artist-incarnate, attractive but slightly temperamental, Dewa Pecil can be a bit lazy and has to be coaxed to work hard. However, he has a curious presence. He brings forth the glow or ‘seri’ (auspiciousness) and the inherent grace of divinity animates the space with his presence. When he leaves, this blessed glow seems to leave with him.

Dewa Pecil is the metaphor of the presence of Arts and Culture in this country. When makyong, menora, wayang kulit and other precious indigenous performing arts were banned in the state of Kelantan, once known as the ‘Gedung Seni’ of this Golden Chersonese (Malay Peninsular), the ‘seri’ also left with him depriving the land of the creative juice, leaving it listless and bereft of creativity.

Arts and Culture attracts the good life. It helps to educate the population to be rasikas and civilised. It brings in the therapy of laughter and infectious creativity; the habit to reflect on Life’s trials and tribulations; pondering on the wonder of the miracle of the human civilization. It sensitises the vision to conceive fresh policies in education, sustainable environment and town planning. As such it enhances the quality of life of the people. AND, verily it is the soft power, which is able to attract business!

This is the open secret of the efficacious effect of Arts and Culture to the land and it’s people, which the government did not and could not comprehend nor use to help itself. Arts/Culture is a potent but subtle catalyst for change and a major reason at present why the new government is failing abysmally to instill that change! Our new leaders have travelled extensively. Yet, they are unable to realise that the business hubs of the world are also culture centres of the region.

Arts and Culture can be likened to the trace elements and vitamins we take in our diet. They are vital to ensure the healthy coordination in the process of digestion and assimilation of the rest of our food intake. Without the presence of these elements, bodily functions and coordination are affected. We easily become ill. So it is with the presence of Arts and Culture – it tempers positively with the psychical evolution and physical growth of the people.
Ramli Ibrahim
Sutra Foundation
29 March, 2019

Astro Awani

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