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Session 11 - Art and Creation

Writer-in-residence, Kembali: Dia Hakim Khaeri

Engagement date: 25 August 2022


When I enter the room today, the makciks had already gathered. They are gossiping about a certain Ustaz's physical appearance, which is not unusual. Whenever there is a male presence in the room, something consistently shifts. They’ll not pass the moment to point out the inherent male-ness of a person, digging into a stranger’s masculinity.

Hasyimah briefing makciks on rehearsal agenda.

Today is photo day. Haizad makes it clear that the session will be focused on the choreography, largely for photo purposes. The team is at full capacity today. There are the faces I remember, and some that I don’t. The cacophony of voices and bodies in space is a little overwhelming, especially packed in a limited, mosque space that isn’t usually housed for large rehearsals.

There is something about the awareness of the photographers, and the addition to the team, Lenny. New stimuli is being introduced into the space today, and it’s the point of the rehearsal where even as a bystander, things start to feel a little more real. The safety net of closed rehearsals has worn slightly, and the participants are feeling it just a little bit today.

However, none of that deters the spirit the makciks always have.

Haizad leads them into a more technical rehearsal today. There will always be murmurs emanating from the room when they are in the performance space. The uncertainty of a routine you’ve already grown comfortable with, a feeling I’m too acquainted with in my own practice.

Kembali’s practice space always feels very judgement free. They embrace the fact that there will always be mistakes that happen. Even with the fuss of photos, new props, phone calls in the middle of rehearsal, they seem to be one step ahead of everyone. They sense the misstep before me, and catch each other with a warm smile.

There is an absolute certainty to me, that they’re perfectly capable of executing the work.

Hasyimah and the makciks in the middle of a start-stop run. The photographer gets her close up for publicity photos.

By the end of the first run, they already lapse back into their normal selves. There is something extremely charming about that. I feel a little envious of that feeling. To be able to be yourself throughout a performance is a skill. Even when you are playing someone else. For these makciks, they don’t see a pressing need to act, or put up a front so jarring no one can recognise them anymore.

I always appreciate that making art that is community based always means that the experts are the ones who have to accommodate the community. Even when everyone gets equal privilege of a professional production. Particularly today, when everyone in the room is granted headshots, the realisation of an audience and a budget.

Even as an artist, I always manage to rediscover my own art form in a new way. The transformative experience of simply being involved allows one to relook at their passions, at the form itself. What they’re capable of doing, and what they want to do.


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