Youth In Expression

25 February 2016

Arts making can be an intimidating, solitary affair – even more so if you’re young and just starting out. With arts collectives, young practitioners find a support system of likeminded fellows that help nourish their talent. We speak to four youth arts collectives across Malaysia.


Arts making can be an intimidating, solitary affair. But that is not always the case. Sometimes, artists band together and form collectives in order to overcome logistical, financial, and even creative obstacles. While arts collectives are not new in Malaysia (among the oldest being Five Arts Centre, which began in 1984), we look at some relatively new groups that are beginning to make waves in the local arts scene.


ASWARA Dance Group

Established in 2011 with the support of Yayasan Sime Darby, the ASWARA Dance Group aims to provide a space for graduates of the National Arts, Culture and Heritage Academy (ASWARA) to continue being artists after completing their degrees. 

“There was and still is a gap in the arts ecosystem where the very gifted, well-trained dancers have no place to work besides being freelance artists,” explains Dr Joseph Gonzales, a lecturer at ASWARA and the primary mover of the dance group. “Currently, the only organisations that employ dancers on full-time contracts are government-based organisations.”

With 16 dancers and a growing repertoire that includes up to three new productions a year, the ASWARA Dance Group is focused on cultivating, nurturing and educating everyone from audiences to dancers and choreographers.

“The most satisfying project has been our Get Malaysia Dancing program in Limbang, Sarawak; Kota Kinabalu, Sabah; Penang and Johor Bahru,” says Dr Gonzales. “We had around 400 super-enthusiastic participants at each location.”

The year 2016 will see the collective putting out four productions, including a joint double bill with Japanese dance company Un Yamada at the end of January.


Pangrok Sulap

It began six years ago when some friends began drawing cartoons telling the lives of ordinary Sabahans in Ranau, at the foot of Mount Kinabalu. Today, Pangrok Sulap (meaning “punk rock” and “a farmer’s hut”) has nine members engaged in various community-related arts activities.

“We believe that everyone is an artist,” explains Jerome Manjat, a key member. “We want to invite everybody to do art as a communications tool in our everyday lives. Together we fight for our rights, do charity work, share knowledge and be a driver for change at all levels of society.”

With a core membership that includes a graphic designer, tattoo artist, T-shirt printer, crafts worker and more, Pangrok Sulap focuses on themes of community and capitalism. “We try to help oppressed groups and those whose rights are not respected by using art to speak out, besides helping these groups more directly on the ground,” says Jerome.

While it is difficult to really pin down what the group will be up to next, we can be sure that it will be fun. “We will try new ways to rope more friends in, and our slogan will always be: ‘DON’T BUY! D-I-Y!’”


Projek Rabak

A loose movement comprising arts practitioners aged 15 to 40, Projek Rabak began as a means for Ipoh-based youths to showcase their creativity. 

“We realised that Ipoh youths had all this talent that wasn’t just about music,” shares Mohd Jayzuan, a musician and the public face of the collective. “Before Projek Rabak, there were no serious collectives that created a space like this for youths around Ipoh.”

One of their key projects, Ipoh Kreative, was conceived after performing at a music festival in Manila. “The festival took place over four days in four different venues; we were intrigued with that concept and wanted to find a form that fitted Ipoh. Ipoh Kreative not just about entertainment; we also have workshops and forums. We believe that for a culture to progress, it begins with the way we think.”

With a membership comprising writers, poets, musicians, singer-songwriters, visual artists and filmmakers, Projek Rabak hopes to work on some exciting projects in 2016. “We may be going to the Dada 100 festival in Zurich, and possibly a project with the producer of Paris Je t’aime. We’ll see!”



After completing their studies at Dasein Academy of Art in 2015, five friends came together to form a collective to further their artistic interests. “We decided to form a group as we think that being in a group is better than struggling in isolation,” says Chok Yue Zan, a contiNew spokesperson.

While the collective itself is quite new, it hasn’t stopped people from noticing their presence. “We only started this group in July 2015 and have organised a group exhibition at Artemis Art Gallery in Publika, but more and more people have gotten to know about us,” explains Zan.

As most of them were classmates, it appears easier to work together. “Each of us has a unique style and you can see this in our artworks. We also divide the job of communicating, locating a suitable exhibition venue, and other tasks between us.”

This year will see the contiNew team broaden their work. “We plan to visit orphanages or nursing homes, or even doing some activities to allow people to gain more knowledge about art. We feel that art is not just about staying at home and doing some paintings - art surrounds our daily life.”


By Burhanuddin Usman


off the beat

From KL With Love

FRI, 02 MAR 2018

The Kuala Lumpur art scene stepped up its game recently by staging an ambitious international arts festival, the KL Biennale. A b...

off the beat

Remembering A Cultural Icon

TUE, 15 AUG 2017

The life of the first Sabah Cultural Icon, Tina Rimmer is celebrated with a three-month long retrospective exhibition at Sabah Art Ga...