Monday, July 11, 2011

Buka Panggung

On Friday July 9, 2011 I attended the Pahang Art Museum Buka Panggung Exhibition of the Arts of East Coast Malaysia: Tradition and Transformations. The Pahang Art Museum is undergoing extensive restoration and renovation work. The building was originally built in 1910 during the British reign. It was used as offices for many years for local government operations before renovations were completed in 2000 to turn it into the Pahang Heroes museum. After ten years it was decided that it need to be updated to bring more tourists to the area. This was the inaugural exhibition at the museum and the first exhibit as East Coast Arts which they plan on having many more of.  They hope to share many of their cultural riches such as Main Petri, Tarian Gamelan, Makyong, Zapin , and Gasing Pangjah Pahang.

I was told the event started at 8:00p.m., so I showed up slightly before 8:00. I walked through the entrance where they had Gamelan set up. Those are the musical instruments that I saw at the Culutral Exchange day with MRSM in town. They played songs throughout most of the evening. I really like the music those instruments make. I met up with a couple other people that I have recently met and we visited while we waited for the even to start. I was in the second row on the main floor. I could have been in the first but I wanted to maybe take some pictures and I thought it would be better if I sat in the second row. Many people took pictures of the event. The event did not start until 9:00p.m. as that is when members of the Royal family arrived. The Crowned Prince (Sultan's son) was to be in attendance but he was unable to make it, so his son and wife came with their entourage.

 There was a lady who announced their entrance and then we all stood until they had walked across the main area and sat in their special section. After they were seated then the lady gave a speech all in Malay. We watched a video in Malay about the renovation the museum is undergoing. After that,  I think, the director of the Museum made a speech in Malay. After he finished up then the Prince's son made a speech in Malay. When he finished the lady made another short announcement about a video and then we watched a short video in Malay about the history of Silat and and explanation of it. (I also saw Silat at the Culutral exchange day.) Gerak Silan Lian is a type of self-defense that was developed back in 1897 in Peninsular Malaysia. It combines mental (gerak), physical (silat) and spiritual (lian) discipline. There are six levels that the person progresses through when they study. The legend is a young boy copied the agile movements of a green bird to avoid beating as punishment. His mother watched the movements and from those observations created the basis for Gerak Silat Lian.

The curtains that had been drawn over the entrance were pulled back and a group of about 50 adult men entered. They made their sign of respect to the Royal family (they bring their hands together like they are praying with their fingers pointed straight up and then they touched that to their forehead) and then 6 of them came out and did a presentation of Silat. These men were much better than the young men I saw at the exchange day but I am sure they have many more years experience. They all also had weapons that they used in their demonstration. One of the men made this 'hup' sound every time they were to change positions. It was an interesting sound. One of the young men at the cultural exchange day also made some signal but it was different. After those six presented then they showed their respect to the Royals and departed. At the cultural exchange day they all had their turn to demonstrate their skill. Since it was only those six I was wondering if those six were the best out of everyone or how they were chosen.
The next performance was by a group of ladies that did a dance. This looked similar to the Walinung Mayang Sarai and Joget dances that I saw at the Cultural exchange day.  According to the booklet it was Joget Pahang and Tarian Asyik. They only wore white socks on their feet and took very small and slow steps. The movements are very delicate, graceful and slow. Their costumes and hair were very elaborate and beautiful. They all looked very similar, and appeared very beautiful. There must be a set standard that they have to be in order to be in this group.

After they finished there were two fashion shows. The first one I believe was put on by the ladies of the Tenun factory ( I visited there at Christmas). They all wore outfits made out of the woven Tenun factory fabric. Tenun Pahang Diraja is a weaving tradition created over centuries by the people of Pahang. It shows their traditional way of life, religion, taboos, myths, and ceremonies. It has evolved to be a refined textile that is woven for the palace. It has become a potent status symbol and shows power. The Princess has been very involved in making the Tenun Pahang industry into what it is today. She has taken a declining industry and revived it. She is now chairperson of Tenun Pahang Diraja.

On some of the models it looked like instead of making a real skirt that they just took the bolt materials and wrapped it around their waist. The ends were unfinished like they are on the bolts. The tops were all done. The designs were very beautiful. After they finished there was a short video on Bernard Chandran, world renowned Malaysian designer. Some of the video was in English and some in Malay. Bernard Chandran was born in Malaysia and then he was trained in Paris before he returned to Malaysia to set up his label. He is one of the most influential designers of the Far East. It incorporates the traditional lines of his culture with contemporary creations. His designs are worn by members of royal families in the Malaysia and other countries in the region as well as several celebrities and even some American celebrities are fans of his work. He has received many awards for his work.  His models came out in his outfits that he had designed also using the fabric from the Tenun factory along with other fabric. His models all looked European, while the first models looked more local. After they finished and he came out then there was the presentation of gifts. The first was a photo of the Crowned Prince when he was a young boy. The next was from the Silat group. It was in a glass box and I could not see what it was due to the photographers. The last gift was from Bernard Chandran and it was a picture of this man in a Transformers mask with the male sarong on. The Prince's son was very excited about that picture. A similar picture was in our booklet but I am not sure what the significance is of it. After that the Royal family exited to another room while we stood.

Bernard Chandran collection
We left the covered courtyard after that. We were not actually allowed to go in and look at all the exhibits. I guess we have to go back for that. We were going to go out and head to our different places but there was a small dinner waiting for us under the canopies outside. There was fruit, seaweed (looked like jello), a type of pancake that was designed like a fishing net, chicken with curry, a pudding type dish with a sweet green jello substance on the bottom and chocolate looking bean tasting bars. We waited for awhile and visited with other people that we met at the exhibition. Finally, the waitresses came around and started removing the saran wrap from the food so that we could start eating. We ate and visited for quite awhile and then the Royal family came out to their canopy to eat. We had to stand again. While they were eating the ladies who had danced earlier came out in a different costume and did another dance. This dance was quicker than the last one and they wore high heels. Then there was more visiting and eating. A while later the Royal family left and so we all had to stand up while they exited. We could go over and stand so that we could greet them, but I didn't because I don't really know who they are and didn't want to take the spot of someone else. After they left then we were free to leave.

*All factual material about the history of the museum, the Princess, Silat, Bernard Chandran, and Tenun Pahang Diraja is paraphrased from the booklet handed out for the evening. 

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