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Cultural collaboration program

The Australia-Malaysia Institute's (AMI) cultural program develops and supports collaboration initiatives in the arts which foster sustainable institutional and people-to-people links.

With the support of the Australia-Malaysia Institute and Arts QLD, enabled two Australian Performing Arts practitioners - Caitlin Mackenzie and Gabriel Comerford – to spend three months at Rimbun Dahan, Kuang, a rural village just outside of Kuala Lumpur. Their residency gave them the opportunity to embed themselves in Malaysian culture, gain wide exposure to many different types of artwork within the Malaysian art community, and to begin on-going dialogues with the Malaysian arts practitioners.

During this residency, Caitlin and Gabriel performed in three different events - DanceBox (Kuala Lumper), Melaka Art and Performance Festival (Malaka) - and held a work-in-progress showing specifically produced to present their work (Kuala Lumpur). They collaborated with Alubakhan Chen, a local Chinese-Malaysian musician to develop a full-length interdisciplinary performance. They also held a forum to discuss the artistic collaboration and performance outcome during their time in Malaysia.

AMI funding also contributed towards a residency research trip and attendance at the Melaka Arts & Performance Festival for Asialink Arts Residencies Manager with the aim of researching new organisations able to host residency programs in future years.

A pond in the foreground, house and performers on the deck in background
Caitlin and Gabriel dancing for another artist at Rimbun Dahan, Lisa Anderson - Photography by Leo Yeoh.
Dancers performing
Caitlin and Gabriel performing the show of Uncommon Ground - Photography by James Quah.
A man and woman talking, sitting surrounded by instruments.
Collaboration - working with musician Alubahkan Chen in the studio.
Dancers in training
Asia Pacific Impro Workshops - the end of two workshops with artists from the Asia Pacific.

Board Acquittal Report: ONE 2014, formerly known as 'Lyrics of Mass Construction'

  • In February 2014, AMI provided $20,000 through Multicultural Arts Victoria (MAV) to support an Australian Muslim rap crew - The Brothahood – to deliver positive and energetic hip hop performances and workshops in Malaysia promoting contemporary Australian culture.
  • The project, titled ONE 2014, was a 10-day tour during which the group launched their second album 'Onus On Us', featuring local Malaysian artists, Altimet and Seveneightsix. The group performed and collaborated with local artists, hosted open mic sessions, engaged youth on topical issues, visited schools and orphanages and talked to a broad range of media promoting Australia and Australian Music and our multicultural community.
  • The tour successfully exposed young Malay Muslims to Australian Muslims who were born and raised in Australia. Music was used as a tool to build bridges and cultivate understanding. The tour also profiled a strong and inclusive image of Australia and our Multicultural Policies.
  • While on tour, The Brothahood also engaged with local tour promoters, publicists, venues, media, schools, filmmakers and producers and the Australian Embassy - building positive business links and encouraging economic and cultural dialogue and trade between Australia and its neighbours in Malaysia.
Australian Muslim rap crew - The Brothahood
Malaysian Women

Ascent/Naik Naik

The AMI was pleased to support Ascent / Naik Naik, a multi-disciplinary site-specific contemporary performance created collaboratively between Australian and Malaysian dance, music and visual artists which featured at the Melaka Performance and Arts Festival in November 2013.

The performance evoked the spirit of place at Bukit St Paul – the hill and its surrounds that are central to the lives of Melakan residents. Beginning at Fort A Famosa, the audience ascended along candle-lit paths together with the performers and audience guides to arrive at the side of the hill just below St Paul's church. Here a theatrical event evoked memories and stories of times past and present, with the performers finally leading the audience into the ruins of the church in a ritual procession.

A performer thanked the AMI 'for creating this opportunity for (the artists) to come together, to share, to learn and to re-learn. It gave us space and time to uncover creative and heart connections/experiments that otherwise would have been too fleeting to delve into.' This memorable event attracted hundreds of locals and visitors each night and similar collaborations are anticipated for future festivals.

Rimbun Dahan - Cultivating the Garden

Held at the Light Square Gallery, Adelaide College of the Arts, from 27th August to 19th GARDEN exhibition acknowledged and celebrated the Artist Residency Programs which were initiated, and have been supported, by Hijjas Kasturi and Angela Hijjas since commencing in 1994. Hijjas Kasturi is a world renowned architect, who began his career as a Colombo Plan student at Adelaide University in the 1950's. The Residency Programs provide support to Australian and Southeast Asian.

With supoprt from the Australia-Malaysia Institute, the exhibition was part of the ozAsia Festival and included the work of eight artists who have all been recipients of the Rimbun Dahan Artist Residencies in Malaysia. This geographical mix of artists reflected the Malaysian Residency Program's, and the AMI's, support of cross cultural interchange and ongoing artistic conversations.

The members of the Instant Cafe Theatre Company brought such vibrancy of Malaysia to their performances, forum and Q&A, as well as their engagement with the festival and audience outside their work schedule, that they have been requested to return with a new piece for World Theatre Festival in 2014.

Lady delivering speech on microphone
Rimbun Dahan opening address
People gathered in a hall, mixing and talking
Rimbun Dahan reception

Contemporary Malaysian theatre comes to Brisbane

Parah, a contemporary Malaysian theatre piece by the Instant Cafe Theatre Company, offers a nuanced exploration of personal identity and racial tension, exploring how identity is comprised, whether it is the concept of home, language spoken, religion practiced, or familial heritage, and to what degree do these aspects of ourselves determine our futures. Five performances and a Q&A session were presented at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the Powerhouse's 2013 World Theatre Festival.

The members of the Instant Cafe Theatre Company brought such vibrancy of Malaysia to their performances, forum and Q&A, as well as their engagement with the festival and audience outside their work schedule, that they have been requested to return with a new piece for World Theatre Festival in 2014.

Actors on set, sitting reading
Set in Kuala Lumpur and performed in Malay with English subtitles, Parah offers a cultural juxtaposition that allows an Australian audience a fresh avenue through which to reflect upon the construction of personal and national selfhood.

The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT)

'The Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art' (APT) is the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art's (QAGOMA) flagship international contemporary art project. APT7 featured new and recent works by 75 established and emerging artists and groups from 27 countries across the region, many of whom had not shown in Australia before. The exhibition was complemented by an extensive free education program and range of public programs featuring lectures, artist talks, tours.'

The exhibition featured a dynamic presentation of contemporary visual arts from Malaysia, with two artists from Malaysia, neither of whom had shown in Australia before. Roslisham Ismail (aka Ise) developed a richly illustrated artist book project based on the unique culture and cuisine of his home state of Kelantan. Drawing upon stories and recipes from families (including his own), he reflected upon the history, culture and society of Kelantan, which shares many traditions with neighbouring southern Thailand. He also developed a project for the Children's Art Centre, introducing Kelantan culture and cuisine to children through the Gallery's Café.

Phuan Thai Meng created his largest painting to date, commissioned especially for APT7. It comprised of a 10-metre mural featuring a photorealist image of city freeways and flyovers. The surface of the canvas was then sliced in parts onsite by the artist, revealing the wooden support beneath, suggesting the constantly changing urban landscape.

Both artists in APT7 were directly involved in education and public programs including, artist talks and panel discussions over the opening weekend.

Roslisham Ismail cooking with a frying pan
Roslisham Ismail
Phuan Thai Meng created his largest painting to date, hanging in a gallery
Phuan Thai Meng

Citra Malaysia 2012

Citra Malaysia is an annual event run by the Malaysian Students Council of Australia to showcase Malaysia's unique cultural diversity through arts and crafts exhibitions, traditional games, sports and costumes and food. The highlight of the festival is a range of traditional dance, music, and theatre performances by Malaysian students.

Group photo of Citra members

Inaugural Collaboration - Queensland Youth Symphony and Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra

Founded in 1966, the 95-member Queensland Youth Symphony (QYS) tours internationally once every four years.

In 2012, as part of a 3-week international tour, QYS undertook its first ever tour to Malaysia. The visit included a joint rehearsal with members of the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (MPYO) and a combined performance by MPYO and QYS of Dukas's "Sorcerer's Apprentice" at the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas Concert Hall in Kuala Lumpur. MPYO undertook a reciprocal visit to Brisbane in December 2012 for rehearsals and performances.

This was the first tour undertaken by the MPYO outside of Malaysia and Singapore. Patricia Kelly, Music Reviewer, said of the Brisbane performance that "these young Malaysian musicians showed how music can be a powerful and vital link across cultural and racial boundaries."

QYO in Concert in Kulala Lumpa
QYO showing off banner
QYO showing off banner
QYO in Concert in Kulala Lumpa

Masterclasses and Lectures at UiTM, Performances at the Malaysian Composer's Series

UiTM's Malaysian Composers' Series Festival at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre aims to promote and nurture new composition works by students and other composers in Malaysia. Performances of works by Australian composers as part of the series enhanced artistic collaboration between the two countries.

Student participation in a series of master classes and lectures regarding music performance, cello technique, anatomy, and music composition for cello, also enhanced educational and social links. Months of preparation and private rehearsal prior to the project ensured that the Australian participants were able to tailor the level of the content to the specific needs of the students in these contexts, providing opportunities for artistic and technical development outside of the normal tuition received in Malaysia.

Lachlan Dent taking master classes with local students and composers
Lachlan Dent taking master classes with local students and composers
Lachlan Dent taking master classes with local students and composers
Lachlan Dent taking master classes with local students and composers

Storyology: Ideas write now! (Journalism in the Asian Century stream)

Malaysian journalist Steven Gan, co-founder of Malaysia's independent publication participated in the "Journalism in the Asian Century" stream at the Walkley Foundation's Storyology conference in Sydney in August 2013.

ournalists from Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, and India a panel discussion with other visiting journalists, including the head of Al Jazeera English Al Anstey, and Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Bob Carr participated in an exchange of ideas and discussions with Australian journalists exploring, the critical role the media plays in reporting on international relations, big picture issues in the Asia Pacific region and issues common to journalists across the region.

More than 200 people attended the Stories in the Asian Century Day that opened the conference. All discussions from the Asian Century day were live streamed and just under 2200 people tuned in over the webcast from around Australia, the UK, USA, Canada, NZ, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Japan, Spain, and Portugal.

Steven Gan
Steven Gan

Asialink Artists' Residencies in Malaysia

In 2012–2013 the AMI was delighted to be involved in co-sponsoring two artists residencies for two Australians in the areas of dance, sound and music, and visual arts. Visual Artist Bec Stevens completed a major body of site-specific photographs during her residency at Rimbun Dahan, Kuang.

Kath Papas participated in the curation and programming of the Melaka Arts and Performance Festival and at an Indonesian based festival. Both residents have ongoing contact with the arts community in which they were based.

Bec Stevens completed a major body of site-specific photographs during her residency at Rimbun Dahan, Kuang
Bec Stevens completed a major body of site-specific photographs during her residency at Rimbun Dahan, Kuang
Kath Papas participated in the curation and programming of the Melaka Arts and Performance Festival
Kath Papas participated in the curation and programming of the Melaka Arts and Performance Festival

Australian Boys Choir Malaysian Tour 2013

The Australian Boys Choir and The Vocal Consort presented two major concerts of Australian choral music in Kuala Lumpur in July 2013 as part of a two week performance and educational tour. Entitled "Whispering Winds", the concert program included Malaysian premieres and works that reflect the choir's enthusiasm for Australian composers, including works by Percy Grainger, Joseph Twist and Matthew Orlovich.

The Choir performed together with Malaysian choristers in joint concerts throughout Malaysia and took part in music education workshops with schools and community groups in Penang, Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, including the KL Children's Choir (Young Choral Academy), Sam Tet Secondary School, Seafield Secondary School and Kian Kok Middle School. The tour also included the exploration of a 'sister choir' arrangement in Kuala Lumpur with the KL Children's Choir for future sharing of compositions, performances and the touring of a Malaysian choir in Australia.

Rehearsal with the Kia Kok Bell Choir
Rehearsal with the Kia Kok Bell Choir
The Australian Boys Choir at the Australian High Commission, Kuala Lumpa
At the Australian High Commission, Kuala Lumpa

Inspire South East Asia (SEA)

The Inspire SEA camp aimed to inspire underprivileged lower-secondary-school students to strive for personal and academic excellence and to improve their English language skills, to enhance their capacity as self-reliant, responsible, committed and action-oriented future leaders of the country. The camp introduced modules of different school subjects including Biology, Physics, Chemistry and general knowledge. These were in the form of interactive games that would instil an interest in learning and encourage the students to become critical thinkers. Inspire also incorporated sports and health talks to impart on the students the importance of the balance of life apart from academics. Throughout the camp, the students were encouraged to speak and express themselves in English

The program also encouraged greater compassion towards the local community by Malaysian students studying overseas. The organisers reported that they had also gained many new skills and experienced new insights into the life of rural school children in Malaysia which will enable them to undertake more projects of this kind in the future.

girls sitting cross legged on the floor while writing
In the classroom at Inspire South East Asia
Inspire group photo
Inspire South East Asia
Last Updated: 3 July 2014
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