Like never before, the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures in Malaysia have forced us to consider the definition of 'essential' services and the industries that do or do not fall into that category.
Malaysia's arts community has been among the worst hit in 2020 as gatherings were prohibited and shows with live audiences were postponed indefinitely to prevent the spread of infections. A year later, Malaysia's artists, theatre performers, choreographers, directors, composers and many more find themselves once again in an indefinite period of lockdown. This time, they are refusing to keep silent about the unseen struggles to continue their craft despite the odds.
On July 8, co-founders of the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) Dato' Dr Faridah Merican and her husband Joe Hasham released an open letter highlighting the dire struggles of the performing arts sector and calling for the authorities to consider reopening up the arts industry with safeguards and SOPs in place.
"The longer and louder our voice is, the more it will be heard and, hopefully, noticed," says Faridah, who is also executive producer at klpac. "The performing arts and its associated affiliates number in the tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands. The creative industry workforce is one million-strong. The sooner these people can get back to doing what they do best, the better it will be, not only for the economy, but for the well-being of the creative forces that have for many years contributed to the 'rasa' of the country. The arts are an integral part of the heart and soul of the nation."