Malay fest focuses on customs

Malay fest focuses on customs
Visitors to the Malay CultureFest can enjoy a Wayang Kulit Siam performance.

SINGAPORE - On a lush grass lawn at the Malay Heritage Centre, dozens of green-clad teenage scouts are hard at work, putting up a wooden stage from scratch under the supervision of several veteran artisans from Kelantan, Malaysia.

They are constructing a panggung, a traditional performing stage for art forms such as mak yong (a traditional Malay dance-drama) or wayang kulit (shadow puppetry) for the centre's second Malay CultureFest, which will run till Sept 22.

Visitors are welcome to witness the construction of the stage, which is scheduled to be completed on Friday.

This year's festival will focus on adat, or Malay customary practices, of which the panggung is one.

Girl scout Nurfarahin Mohamed, 15, from Swiss Cottage Secondary School, has watched wayang kulit before, but never experienced the art in such a hands-on way. She says: "I'd never thought that I would ever experience learning how to build a panggung. But now that I've learnt something new, we'll definitely try it out for future projects."

Audience members will also get a chance to see a mak yong performance on this stage by respected artists from Malaysia, including Awang Mat Ali, 64, Wan Midin Wan Majid, 67, and his wife Nisah Mamat, 53, all of whom have been practising the art form for decades.

Mak yong was banned in Kelantan by the Islamic Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) in 1991 for a variety of reasons, including supposedly un-Islamic elements.

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