When creative minds get together

MARCH 4 — Film-making to me is a solitary process. Being a solo-journalist, I write, shoot, edit and do everything as a one-man crew.

To me, it’s almost like writing or painting, whereby the writer or artist produces artwork in solitude, almost like meditation.

I enjoy the process very much as it gives me total control of my work. It is also a form of discovery for me — about the subjects of my films and also about myself.

However, sometimes being in solitude doesn’t do much good for the creative soul. To be a creative artist, one needs to sometimes interact with likeminded souls.

So, when I was invited to the World Islamic Economic Forum’s Marketplace of Creative Arts in Singapore (held for the second year), I jumped at the chance.

The Marketplace’s objective is to gather artists and creative professionals around the region to showcase their work and also to exchange ideas and share policies.

The organisers were kind enough to ask me to screen a few of my films and also be part of a panel discussion along with other creative professionals.

There were all kinds of creative people there such as filmmakers, musicians, photographers, architects and painters from all over the South-east Asian region.

Representing Malaysia was myself, singer-songwriter Otam Abdul Rashid and gambus player, Zulkifli Ramli.

Here were my two fellow countrymen whom I’ve heard about before but never had the chance see perform “live” even though they are right in my own backyard.

Otam, who has such a deep and rich voice, was singing the blues and folk so good and with such spontaneity it seemed like he was just improvising with his lyrics on stage.

Tun Musa Hitam, chairman of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) Foundation, even singled out Otam’s folksy lyrics in his opening speech.

And Zulkifli, one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, was brilliantly improvising throughout his entire 10-minute gambus performance.

The both of them made me so proud to say I’m Malaysian and that we Malaysians are a pretty talented bunch.

The dialogue sessions were another part of the Marketplace that actually opened my eyes to what our neighbours are doing to propagate arts and culture.

I learned that Singapore, so modern and economically fierce, has one of the best programmes to galvanise youths through the arts.

With government backing, tons of grants and other forms of support are provided annually to nurture young talent.

They even have a nominated member of parliament for the arts in the form of the eloquent Audrey Wong to push issues related to it.

The Keelat Theatre Ensemble, a group of bright young Singaporean girls, was proof that everything was in place and working well on the nation island.

They performed a play targeted at kindergarten and lower primary school kids about Utama Parameswara, the founder of ancient Singapore.

And judging by the socio-political subtext in the entire play, I’m convinced that Singapore must have the most intelligent kindergarten and lower primary school kids!

I cannot leave out the arts powerhouse that is Indonesia. The quality of music and films produced in that country is just head over heels over the rest.

Husband and wife duo Endah and Rhesa played the most awesome acoustic set I have ever seen. It was so romantic to see the both of them perform.

It’s obvious that the two funky musicians love each other as much as they love their music. And it shows in their performance.

Indonesian filmmaker, Yosep Anggi, made me cringe at my own films at the screening hall since his was just so rich with cultural content and social commentary.

Anggi’s Cheng Cheng Po, a film about cultural and racial harmony and understanding, filled my heart with so much warmth that I almost wanted to hug him.

Abstract artist Jane Arrieta Ebarle from the Philippines, amazed me with her dedication towards her art. A full-time marketing executive, Jane only has time to paint on the weekends, hence her self-proclaimed title of “weekend artist.”

Even with the little time she has to paint, the prolific Jane has ongoing exhibitions in her home country and is the president of the Philippines  Art Educators Association. She even managed to bring several of her art pieces to Singapore to display and was sold out by noon on the first day!

I met many more amazingly creative and inspiring people. They weren’t just artists but also the organisers, WIEF Foundation, and even members of the public who came. To name each one and describe how they touched me would mean a gazillion-word article.

Creative people need each other to survive and grow. It is an awesome feeling to be surrounded by like-minded people and it does wonders to the spirit.

After a very busy 2010 and surviving the very close call of being diagnosed with creative burn-out, last week’s trip to Singapore for me was an inspiring and motivational experience.

* Visit Zan’s blog at www.fatbidin.com to view photos and videos of the event.

* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.



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