Singapore-Malaysia art and culture festival heads to Ipoh

Republic Polytechnic students in How Singapore Got Its Name, a sensory- friendly production about the founding of Singapore. It is suitable for children with special needs.
Republic Polytechnic students in How Singapore Got Its Name, a sensory- friendly production about the founding of Singapore. It is suitable for children with special needs.PHOTO: ZAYN HUANG WEI GONG HONG

A Malaysian city with colonial buildings, murals and hipster cafes.

No, it is not George Town in Penang, but Ipoh in Perak - a former tin mining area experiencing a renaissance of sorts.

The organisers of an annual festival, CausewayEXchange, are leveraging the charm and heritage of Ipoh for its upcoming edition.

The festival, which features crossborder cultural exchanges between Singapore and Malaysia, takes place in Ipoh from Aug 24 to 27 and in Kuala Lumpur from Sept 22 to 24.

It was started in 2010 by events organiser DMR Productions and Singapore-based creative nonprofit organisation Global Cultural Alliance. The festival runs on private funding as well as support from the National Arts Council, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Singapore International Foundation.

This is the first time there are activities in Ipoh. The festival has been held in Johor Baru, Kuala Lumpur and George Town. It is also organised in Singapore every other year.

  • BOOK IT / CAUSEWAYEXCHANGE

  • WHEN/WHERE: Aug 24 to 27 in Ipoh, Sept 22 to 24 in Kuala Lumpur

    ADMISSION: Various

    INFO: causewayexchange.com

Festival founder Shawn Lourdusamy of DMR Productions describes Ipoh as the "next new frontier in Malaysia".

"Ipoh is enjoying a reawakening of sorts. The old town of Ipoh has been revitalised - new hipster cafes and outlets are springing up and street art can be seen throughout," he adds.

The festival's programming in Ipoh includes performances by Singapore theatre company Teater Ekamatra, panel discussions by Singapore and Malaysian poets and mural artworks by Singapore artists Ernest Goh and Yip Yew Chong.

Over in Kuala Lumpur, the programming will focus on how the arts can help in therapy and medicine.

For example, a group of Republic Polytechnic students will present a sensory-friendly production titled How Singapore Got Its Name on Sept 23 and 24. The show, about the founding of Singapore, is suitable for children with special needs.

There will also be a concert and exhibition held in the dark to bring about greater awareness of the experiences of the blind.

Mr Lourdusamy hopes that this year's festival will inspire greater collaboration between artists from both sides of the Causeway and expose audiences to Singapore artists.

Singapore poet Yong Shu Hoong, 50, looks forward to learning more about writers from Malaysia.

He is part of a literary panel discussion on Aug 26 that will look at the similarities and differences between Singapore and Malaysia's literary scene, titled Same Same But Different.

The panel includes Singaporean poet Sim Piak How and Malaysian poets Wani Ardy, Paul GnanaSelvam and Bridget Eu Yoke Lin.

"I've always held the belief that we should have more of such interactions. I don't think we know enough of each other's literary scenes," Yong says.

He is also excited about visiting Ipoh as an artist. He was on holiday in Ipoh earlier this year and marvels at its old-world charm.

He says: "I'm curious about how Ipoh can be developed into more of a cultural centre. Going there feels a bit like a group of pioneers going to test the waters and experience the culture - to be there before it gets overdeveloped."

For sitar player Krsna Tan, 28, of Singapore instrumental world music band Flame Of The Forest, performing in Malaysia is not that different from performing for a Singapore audience.

The six-piece band will perform in Ipoh on Aug 24 and 25 and in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 22 and 23.

"We are excited and want to connect with people in Malaysia through our music. Humans are humans. By expressing that true and honest emotion of being human through our music, we share what we love with others."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore-Malaysia art and culture festival heads to Ipoh'. Print Edition | Subscribe