Popular art in Malaysia. Is it good enough? I’m talking about our music, movies and street graffiti really.
A fair number of people would point out if you have to grade art then you have a limited understanding of art. Fair enough, however my thesis here is that art in Malaysia is failing artists themselves.
The asphyxiating culture prevalent in the regulating of artistic expression in the country has resulted in artistic endeavours haemorrhaging under the guise of producing culturally appropriate expression.
Welcome to Malaysia, where rock stars don’t show tattoos on their biceps, where divas singing dance tracks put on layers of clothes and pretend like never seen a miniskirt before, movies with people speaking like they have a common affliction of dead and profanities missing in rap music.
An almost perverted sense of restructuring the ‘us’ in every Malaysian.
Artistic expression is loud, quiet, strange, troubling, mind-bending, emotional or a whole list of liberating feelings, but it is not sterile.
And that is what the BN government has endeavoured to build in the last 30 years is a sterile nation.
Popular culture reflects the passions of the people, and based on what I see around me, they’ve done a good job in removing the personality of the country.
Popular culture is always going to be rebellion. Progress of ideas is the rebellion of the past and present, but here only sycophants are regarded and perched on top of the altar of acceptability.
And since everything which is remotely counter to ‘cara kita‘ is a no no, mindless pieces of entertainment like Anak mami and senario become the staple of a nation. I don’t oppose them having space, just like I don’t mind silly films like Epic Movie or Meet the spartans, but what’s to happen when that is all that you allow.
Since the elections have set off a whole set of reactions within Umno where there are shedding their heavy cumbersome look, perhaps the time has come for relaxation on the nilai-nilai murni baloney.
Let art imitate life in Malaysia for a change.
Let our rockers write about the sex, drugs and their death wishes. Our dancers should gyrate like they are in heat, and not parade like square dancers trying to lambada. Our movies would have dysfunctional relationships and not all stories ending with repentance and yes, nilai-nilai murni. People are conflicted about the faith, their loved ones, their unloved ones and they do think about sex an awful amount.
And in expressing, maybe the art will become more colourful, and connects with people on the ground.
We could start by KL City Hall, or any of the Selangor local councils allowing graffiti walls. The inner city kids would like to start to celebrate the type of cultures emanating from their corner of their world, and let the rest of Malaysia come to terms with it, rather than them imitating what is nationally prescribed for them.