Ahad, 13 Mac 2011

Standing Together In Defense of the Arts

Sharon Chin, 11 March 2011


I’m often asked this question: ‘what do you do, exactly?’ I answer: ‘I make art, I am a cultural producer, and I show my work to the public.’

Cultural producer – it doesn’t mean that we make culture. Culture is not something you can create, like biscuits, or cheese. Culture exists in the hearts and minds of a society of people. What artists do is express culture in a tangible form, so that it can be experienced – touched, seen and heard – by its people.

Some artists do this in isolation, for example, painters. Others do this by working together with many different people. Arts-Ed is a group of artists and cultural workers who have collaborated with members of the Balik Pulau community to produce a record of the history, heritage and culture of that area.

What we must understand is that any cultural product is a result of a process. Although the myBalikPulau newsletter is published by Arts-Ed, it has been touched by many hands in the making. Behind that printed newsletter lies hundreds of hours of negotiation and conversation – with children, parents, school teachers, fellow artists, community leaders, shopkeepers and yes, politicians.

In 2008, I had the opportunity to work with Arts-Ed conducting workshops for Balik Pulau kids. It was a defining experience in my career as an artist. I learnt what it means to create something together with others – people who are different from you, who speak another language, who have different backgrounds and values. It was challenging, uncomfortable. I realized that even though Malaysians have been told all our lives that we must live together in peace and harmony, we have not been taught HOW to do it.

The work that Arts-Ed does fills that gaping hole. The agenda is as clear as its name: education through the arts. Taking part in Arts-Ed taught me what 12 years of public schooling failed to do – that living and working as part of a mixed society is not easy, but when people come together to express their collective culture, they lose their fear of others and gain self-confidence. I use these lessons everyday. They make me a better Malaysian and a better artist.

All artists know that when their work is presented before the public, they have little or no control over how people will respond. Criticism and disagreement is inevitable. Any artist who expects universal praise is hopelessly deluded; the more so in this country where everyone is so different and there are a million sensitivities ready to be offended.

But when responses come in the form of violence, harassment and censorship (myBalikPulau now has 15 police reports lodged against it. On Feb 9, a coalition known as Gabungan Bela Hak Islam set fire to copies of the newsletter and have called for it to be banned) – we must stand together to defend our colleagues and their work. It is not only the myBalikPulau newsletter that is stake, but the entire process of its making and what that represents.

To see the work of Arts-Ed besmirched and twisted beyond all recognition for the sake of political gain is to witness a terrible injustice. The arts is a more or less silent force in this country, yet without it we would lose touch utterly with what keeps us human and connected to each other. As peace-loving Malaysians, it is our duty to condemn this attack on the arts by irresponsible individuals intent on spreading fear and misunderstanding for their own self-interest.

There is a saying: ‘Ars longa, vita brevis’. Art is long, life short. When the last corrupt politician has burned our hopes to the ground, artists will still be here – building bridges, making meaning. If that’s not worth defending, what is?
Arteri endorses the joint statement by calling for an immediate halt to the harassment of The Penang Arts and Education Society (Arts-Ed). Read a full chronology of the myBalikPulau issue here.

Sharon Chin is co-founder and managing editor of Arteri.


Khamis, 10 Mac 2011

Joint Statement by 32 Civil Society Organizations 32 个公民社会组织联署

Respect and Celebrate Differing Histories 
As civil society organisations, we are extremely disturbed by the increasing racism and communal politics in the country with the recent harassment of a community based organisation, the Penang Arts Education Society (Arts-Ed).

The systematic intimidation and attack on Arts-Ed , whose sole purpose is to promote arts education, especially among Penang children and youths , have alarmed Penangites in particular as well as fellow Malaysians.

A number of us and our children have attended the arts and crafts exhibitions; enjoyed music, dance and dramatic performances; and appreciated the workshops and showcases that Arts-Ed has conducted over the past decade to make Penangites more aware of its cultural heritage and local history.

It is disturbing to note how Arts-Ed's recently published newsletter myBalikpulau has been politicised and used for racial-mongering by unscrupulous politicians and irresponsible NGOs.

MyBalikpulau is an oral history project that showcases the collective efforts of children and Arts-Ed facilitators who interviewed the elders in Balik Pulau, Penang and presented their version of the history of Balik Pulau and its residents in a most interesting manner.

Anyone who has read myBalikpulau would be impressed by the achievements of the team who must have worked hard to unearth such important historical facts about the local community. For us, this newsletter makes history come alive unlike most History text books.

We are therefore appalled that some politicians have stooped so low as to racialise a children's project into a political tool so as to cause divisions in our community.Pulau Betong assemblyman Muhammad Farid Saad had accused Arts Ed of deliberately twisting history and insulting the Malays in Penang. Worse, the issue was quickly politicised resulting in acrimonious exchanges, unnecessarily heightening ethnic tensions for many who had not even seen or read myBalikpulau.

In the heat of these exchanges, several NGOs have accused Arts-Ed of insulting Malays, and have since lodged 15 police reports against the organisation. The accusations range from the use of particular words to the appropriateness of the drawings in the newsletter.

From our viewpoint, these are minute details in a newsletter which is very inclusive and multiethnic in its overall content and presentation. myBalikpulau, should be regarded as a praiseworthy effort on the part of young people in Penang to recover Balik Pulau's historical and cultural heritage.

In this regard, it is disappointing that the Penang State government was more concerned about clarifying that it was the previous State government and even the federal Ministry of Tourism that had sponsored the project.
It should have taken the time to read myBalikpulau and discover what a commendable and inclusive product it is and come to the defense of Penang's children and youths.

We regret that myBalikpulau has been politicised and appeal for the immediate halt of harassment of Arts-Ed. Leaders and politicians must be working towards promoting harmony and multi-ethnicity for all Malaysians instead of inciting racialised politics.
There must be respect for the civil society organisations who are doing their best to celebrate the diversity of our history and heritage through varying artistic expressions of histories.


Hormati dan Raikan Kepelbagaian Sejarah

Sebagai organisasi-organisasi masyarakat sivil, kami berasa sangat terganggu dengan politik racisme yang sedang meningkat baru-baru ini dengan berlakunya serangan yang bersifat perkauman tehadap sebuah pertubuhan komuniti, Persatuan Pendidikan Seni Pulau Pinang (Arts-Ed).

Penghinaan dan serangan terhadap Arts-Ed, sebuah pertubuhan yang mempromosikan pendidikan seni, khususnya kepada kanak-kanak dan belia, telah membimbangkan semua rakyat Malaysia khususnya rakyat Negeri Pulau Pinang.

Pameran kesenian dan kraftangan, menikmati muzik, tarian, dan persembahan drama, serta bengkel-bengkel yang dianjurkan oleh Arts-Ed untuk rakyat Negeri Pulau Pinang adalah bertujuan untuk meningkatkan kesedaran terhadap warisan budaya dan sejarah tempatan sejak tahun 1999 ini. 

Risalah “myBalikpulau” yang diterbit oleh Arts-Ed telah dipolitikkan dan digunakan oleh ahli politik yang tidak prihatin dan organisasi-organisasi yang tidak bertanggungjawab. “myBalikpulauadalah sebuah projek sejarah lisan yang memaparkan usaha kolektif daripada kanak-kanak yang telah mewawancara warga tua di Balik Pulau, Pulau Pinang. Kanak-kanak muda ini telah membentangkan sejarah Balik Pulau versi mereka dengan cara yang lebih menarik. Sesiapa yang pernah membaca “myBalikpulau” akan berasa kagum dengan pencapaian kanak-kanak di mana mereka telah bekerja kuat untuk mendapatkan fakta-fakta sejarah yang penting tentang komuniti tempatan mereka. Bagi pihak kami, risalah ini telah menjadikan sejarah lebih menarik berbanding dengan buku teks sejarah.

Oleh itu, kami amat terkilan dengan tindakan beberapa ahli politik yang sanggup menggunakan projek anak-anak muda ini sebagai alat politik, serta bertujuan menimbulkan perbalahan dalam masyarakat kita. Ahli Dewan Undangan Negeri (ADUN) Pulau Betong Muhammad Farid Saad menuduh Arts-Ed sengaja memutarbelitkan sejarah dan menghina orang Melayu di Pulau Pinang. Lebih membimbangkan ialah tindakan-tindakan ini dengan cepatnya meningkatkan ketegangan etnik antara mereka yang belum pernah melihat atau membaca “myBalikpulau”.

Beberapa pertubuhan ekstremis telah menuduh Arts-Ed menghina Melayu, dan telah membuat 15 laporan polis terhadap organisasi tersebut. Tuduhan-tuduhan  termasuk kesesuaian perkataan-perkataan yang telah digunapakai dalam gambar-gambar risalah tersebut. Pada pandangan kami, kesemua tuduhan tersebut hanyalah butiran-butiran kecil dalam isi kandungan risalah yang sememangnya menyeluruh dan mencerminkan masyarakat yang pelbagai etnik. “myBalikpulau” harus dianggap sebagai usaha terpuji bagi kanak-kanak dan belia untuk memulihkan sejarah dan budaya warisan Balik Pulau.

Mengenai perkara ini, kami amat kecewa terhadap Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang yang lebih cenderung untuk menjelaskan projek ini ditaja oleh bekas Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang dan Kementerian Pelancongan. Kerajaan Negeri Pulau Pinang sepatutnya meluangkan masa membaca dan meneliti risalah “myBalikpulau” yang sememangnya satu produk menyeluruh yang patut dipuji serta turut mempertahankan anak-anak muda dan kanak-kanak Negeri Pulau Pinang. 

Kami kesal “myBalikpulau” telah dipolitikkan dan ingin gangguan terhadap Arts-Ed dihentikan. Para pemimpin dan ahli politik seharusnya bekerja ke arah mempromosikan keharmonian dan multi-etnik untuk semua rakyat Malaysia dan bukan memainkan politik perkauman. Kita haruslah menghormati organisasi masyarakat sivil yang berusaha meraikan budaya warisan dan sejarah kita melalui pelbagai medium seni dalam pembentangan sejarah. 



槟城艺术教育协会(Arts-Ed)一个以促进艺术教育为主的组织, 尤其是对槟城青少年儿童 然而,近日该组织所受到的恐吓和骚扰,让槟州人民,甚至马来西亚大众敲响了警钟。

过去十年来,槟城艺术教育协会(Arts-Ed) 不停地在提升槟城人对文化古迹 和本地历 了解和醒觉方面耕耘,其中更曾举办多场的艺术和手工艺品展览、音乐、舞蹈、戏剧表演、


对于某些政客竟然利用儿童的计划为政治工具,鼓吹仇外心里的手段,的确为我们投了一枚震撼弹。浮罗勿洞区州议员莫哈末法力指控槟城艺术教育协会 (Arts-Ed) 有意图地扭曲历史及侮辱槟州巫裔。这个指控迅速地被政治化和掀起激烈的舆论,造成种族紧张,进一步误导不曾翻阅《我的浮罗山背》的人士。

紧接着,几个极端的非政府组织同样指控槟城艺术教育协会(Arts-Ed)侮辱巫裔,更向警方  举报15宗相关警报。至于举报的内容,则从针对用词,插图方面着手。对我们而言,《我的浮罗山背》是一本具包容性和多元种族性的刊物, 因此大众更应该儿童与青年还原浮罗山背的历史及文化古迹上的努力表示赞扬。



The following are 32 civil society organisations and arts groups which have endorsed the above statement:
Berikut adalah 32 organisasi-organisasi yang menyokong kenyataan di atas:
联署的32 公民社会组织如下:

1. 528 Media Action Group
2. Aliran
3. All Women's Action Society (AWAM)
4. Badan Warisan Malaysia
5. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) Malaysia
6. Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI)
7. Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (CRC-KLSCAH)
8. Coalition of Good Governance, Penang
9. Community Action Network (CAN)
10. Diskopi Penang
11. Friends of Penang Botanic Gardens Society
13. Kumpulan Daya Tindakan Wanita Sabah (SAWO)
14. LLG Cultural Development Centre, Penang
15. Lost Generation Gallery
16. Ombak ombak ARTStudio
17. Penang Chinese Independent Schools' Education Society
18. Penang Heritage Trust
19. Persatuan Penduduk Taman Desa Baru
20. Persatuan Bahasa Tionghua USM
21. Persatuan Belia Graduan Pulau Pinang
22. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
23. Pertubuhan Wartawan dan Jurugambar Akhbar Cina Pulau Pinang (Pewaju)
24. Project Connect
25. Reka Art Space
26. Sembang-Sembang
27. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
28. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
29. Tanjong Bunga Residents' Association
30. Tenaganita
31. Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)
32. Women's Centre for Change (WCC), Penang

This statement came in as Letter to Editor in

MALAYSIAKINI on 9 March 2011

Rabu, 2 Mac 2011

Joint Statement by 61 Organizations and Groups 多达61个团体与组织联署支持浮罗刊物 (dated 4 March)

See the Press Conference in video HERE



The Arts, Heritage and Civil Society organizations and community of Kuala Lumpur and Penang condemn the harassment and politicking around a community arts project in Penang. The Penang Arts Education Society (Arts-ED) which published the myBalikpulau booklet-cum-newsletter as a “showcase of the collective efforts” of Balik Pulau children and Arts-ED facilitators, are now accused of deliberately twisting history and insulting the Malays in Penang. 
Arts-ED is not just well known for its myBalikpulau project but has worked on street theatrical performances, musicals, photography exhibitions and appreciation of history through heritage trails and oral history. In short it is dedicated towards facilitating young people in safeguarding and promoting their natural, social, cultural and built heritage through the medium of art.   

The myBalikpulau project is similar to the numerous creative outputs of the Malaysian arts community which offer alternative and refreshing viewpoints so that we can truly appreciate the rich heritage of Malaysia. Arts-ED and the children involved in the myBalikpulau project should be praised and supported, but instead they are being ridiculed and threatened. Lodging 15 police reports is systematic harassment amounting to bullying.

We the undersigned must point out that the real threat here is divisive race politics and irresponsible politicians who do not care for freedom of expression, social justice and democracy in Malaysia.



Kumpulan kumpulan seni, warisan dan organisasi-organisasi sivil dari Kuala Lumpur dan Pulau Pinang membantah kuat gangguan dan hasutan bersifat perkauman terhadap risalah myBALIKpulau yang diterbitkan oleh Persatuan Pendidikan Seni Pulau Pinang (Arts-ED). Risalah myBALIKpulau yang merupai usaha koleftif kanak-kanak Balik Pulau bersama fasilitator/ pemudah cara Arts-ED, telah dituduh mempermainkan sejarah dan menghina Melayu di Pulau Pinang.

Arts-ED dikenali dalam bidang pendidikan seni dan telah menjalankan projek-projek seni seperti persembahan teater jalanan, muzikal, pameran fotografi dan apresiasi terhadap sejarah melalui jejak warisan dan sejarah lisan. Ringkasnya, Arts-ED berdedikasi memudahkan generasi muda untuk memahami, memelihara dan mempromosikan alam semulajadi, sosial, budaya dan warisan ketara mereka melalui medium seni.

Projek myBALIKpulau serupa dengan pelbagai karya seni kreatif yang dihasilkan oleh kumpulan-kumpulan seni yang lain yang menawarkan pandangan alternatif dan pandangan baru supaya kita boleh benar-benar menghargai warisan kaya Malaysia. 

Arts-ED dan kanak-kanak yang terlibat dalam projek myBALIKpulau harus dipuji dan disokong, tetapi mereka diejek dan diancam. 15 laporan polis yang dilaporkan adalah gangguan sistematik seerti dengan niat membuli.

Kami yang memberi tandatangan di sini ingin menekankan bahawa ancaman ini sebenarnya adalah ahli politik yang tidak bertanggungjawab yang menggunakan politik perkauman dan tidak peduli kebebasan berekspresi, keadilan sosial dan demokrasi di Malaysia.


吉隆坡与槟城的艺术,  古迹文教公民社会团体/组织齐声谴责种族主义滋事份子骚扰和恶意政治化的行径。由槟城艺术教育协会(Arts-ED) 所出版,集合浮罗山背青少年和Arts-ED协调员们心血的《我的浮罗山背》刊物,日前被指责扭曲历史,以及侮辱槟城马来人。

 《我的浮罗山背》并非Arts-ED 唯一被广泛认识的艺术计划,Arts-ED长期经营街头戏剧表演、音乐、摄影,及通过古迹路径和口述历史去促进对历史的领会。他们以艺术作为媒介教育青少年,维护和推广自然、社会、文化以及古迹建筑。

 《我的浮罗山背》计划,和其他许多马来西亚艺术工作者的创意杰作一样,提供非一般和新鲜的视角,让我们真正领会马来西亚丰富的历史遗产。Arts-ED 团队和参与《我的浮罗山背》计划的青少年应该被赞许和支持,而非像现在那般被奚落和威胁。15个报案行径是系统性的骚扰,形同欺压。


Endorsed by/ Berikut adalah kumpulan-kumpulan yang menyokong kenyataan di atas/ 我们是
Arts and Heritage Groups/Organization/Company

1)            Five Arts Centre
2)            Reka Art Space
3)            Ombak Ombak ARTStudio (Persatuan Seni Ombak-Ombak)
4)            Penang Heritage Trust 槟城古迹信托会
5)            Lost Generation Gallery
6)            KaKi Creative
7)            Fifth July
8)            Tugu Drum Circle
9)            Re-cap
10)          Tan Yeow Wooi Culture Research Studio陈耀威文史建筑研究室
11)          Nanyang Folk Culture Society 南洋民间文化
12)          The North Theatre Penang
13)          a2 Gallery
14)          yNot Music Studio
15)          ZaoXinChang Theatre Troupe
16)          Matahari Books
17)          RAP (Persatuan Seni Rumah Air Panas)
18)          Findars Art Collective
19)          The Annexe Gallery
20)          Sumunda
21)          Kuali Works
22)          The Instant Cafe Theatre Company 
23)          The Jumping JellyBeans
24)          Pentas Project Theatre Production
25)          Masakini Theatre Company 
26)          Random Alphabets
27)          Rimbun Dahan
28)          Sungai Lembing Community Art Project
29)          Chow Kit Kita Community Mapping Project
30)          Logamaya
31)          Angkatan Budaya Balik Pulau (ABAD)
32)          Save Valley of Hope Solidarity Group 搶救希望之谷支援小組
33)          Neighborhood Performing Group     
34)          Soundmaker Studio
35)         Project Connect     
36)          Ayam Fared from Rumah Anak Teater (RAT)
37)          Persatuan Angkatan Seni Lakon Interaksi, Kuala Lumpur dan Selangor (ASLI) 隆雪戏剧联盟

Civil Society Organizations

1)                   528 Media Action Group
2)                   All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
3)                   Center for Orang Asli Concerns
4)                   Centre for Independent Journalism Malaysia
5)                   Civil Rights Committee of KL & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
6)                   Civil Society Committee of LLG Cultural Development Centre, KL
7)                   Friends of Penang Botanic Gardens Society
8)                   Gerakan Mahasiswa Maju Universiti Putra Malaysia (GMMUPM) 
9)                   Kumpulan Daya Tindakan Wanita Sabah (SAWO)
10)               LLG Cultural Development Centre, Penang
11)               Malaysia Youth And Student Democratic Movement (DEMA)
12)               Persatuan Kesedaran Komuniti Selangor
13)               Persatuan Sahabat Wanita, Selangor
14)               Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia  
15)               Student Progressive Front New Era College (SPFNEC)
16)               Student Progressive Front University Sains Malaysia (SPFUSM)
17)               Student Progressive Front University Utara Malaysia (SPFUUM)
18)               Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
19)               The Penang Chinese Independent Schools' Education Society
20)               WAMI - Writers Alliance for Media Independence
21)               Women's Aid Organisation (WAO)
22)               Youth Section of The Kuala Lumpur & Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall 
23)               PUSAT KOMAS
24)               Persatuan Masyarakat Selangor & Wilayah Persekutuan (PERMAS)

Total of 61 groups and organizations endorsed for this statement on 5 March 2011