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Session 4: Barang barang kita

Writer-in-residence

with Lenggang Raya (20 & 21 May 2023)


In our first in-person rehearsal, we were boxed in Montfort Care’s office in Bedok. The Jiwa Galoorez ladies stream in with the show’s intended props—Kak Mazni bringing a red tea pot she thrifted at a market, Kak Rainy strolling in with a wheelchair’s worth of items ranging from silverware, a dayung sampan, and a big bright red radio. Kak Sazlyn carries bags of foldable tikar for the show, and Hasyimah herself has brought a pot and a woven hat that has been used for P7:1SMA’s previous productions.


The team gathered around Hasyimah with the full collection of objects.


P7:1SMA’s collection—a pot, and a woven hat.


It’s an overwhelming amount of objects that make me excited. When everyone brings their items into the room, it’s hard not to notice their own enthusiasm in being able to contribute something so gleefully tangible. The noise that erupts in the tiny office space, and the ladies picking the items up one by one. “This is really zaman kita,” Kak Mazni notes, going through the props, and memories leak out of the conversations surrounding the objects. There is so much history that lives in these personal artefacts that these women have chosen to contribute, timelines that have stopped in the chipped paint of a “vintage” radio.


Hasyimah begins the rehearsal with Kak Sazlyn’s tikar—the score formally begins with this object, where it is to be laid and spread out for the performers’ and audience participation/use. She explains ideas of how P7:1SMA has used items in their previous works, where dance allows an exploration of inanimate objects as an extension of the self. There is so much sejarah in the things that we own and touch, and she feels strongly about this with the tikar being the first visual of the performance score. The ladies echo this sentiment. The idea of an object having a sejarah, denotes that it might have a start and an end once its use has fulfilled its purpose, a sense of “kematian,” articulated by Mazni.


There are also some interesting discussions about the tikar’s history, and how in the ladies’ time, it was a common item used in burial practices. Unlike now, where we commonly associate Muslim burial practices with the pure white of the kain kafan. Graves and practices of after-life practices were commonplace in a kampung setting, but no more currently. Siapa tinggal kampung confirm tau,” they articulate. Not very wistfully, it's said matter-of-factly—it’s true that my generation will never grapple with death the same way my elders have. Modern practices of death are so far removed from the average person, which makes talking about it all the harder. There’s something poetic about how this score in particular has lingering sentiments of the life and death of things, and I wonder if the things that matter to us deserve a formal goodbye too. Materialism is so different in the landscape I live in, but keeping things also becomes relics of time you can’t get back. You can only lose time, and not regain it.


Kak Rainy smiling with all the props that she brought.


After all the enthusiasm and deliberation surrounding these objects, Hasyimah leads the team into bringing the pre-written score into life. The score is as follows:


Performance score

1. Takbir Raya (3 min)

Props:

  • Tikar gulung (Mima)

  • Pelita (Lenny)

  • Radio old school (Rainy)

  • Anyam ketupat

  • Nasi ambeng dulang

2. Terkenang

Props: Tikar

3. (Joget) Seloka Raya - Tarian 1 (5 min)

Swinging hand props:

  • tudung saji

  • Tudung saji plastik

We dive straight into the joget aspect of the piece, where the performers will utilise the objects that they have brought. I think the ladies have mastered the lenggang very well. It comes very naturally to them, even if Hasyimah has the upper hand on a more technical level. There is something about lenggang that fully complements their physiques, the manis swaying motion of their arms and small side steps of the feet.


They start playing with more heavier items, shuffling the props around amongst each other with each time they repeat a set. The office space is definitely a bit more constrained, with the dancers occasionally bumping into each other, but I think it works still, because the dancing has only been birthed into life properly today. They still need time to get used to a score with more objects, even if the actual dancing score is only 5 minutes.


During the Siti Nurhaliza set, Hasyimah demonstrates how to use the umbrella alongside the lenggang set, though her umbrella is definitely a bit more sturdy. It’s definitely a very manis form of expression, femininity oozing out of the simple gesture of using the umbrella and carrying it around delicately. The ladies fawn over this particular movement—it’s delicate and careful, almost like a burst of gender euphoria when the ladies watch Hasyimah demonstrate with her own umbrella.


It’s at this moment when I note Haizad’s absence in the project. Everything surrounding Lenggang Raya has been led by Hasyimah, and put together equally by Jiwa Galoreez as collaborators. Even crew members like Ari and I are feminine/fem adjacent. None of us are left out of the Malay female experience, a small aspect of solidarity that I relish in. There is so much to femininity that we carry—the labour, the clothes, our sense of self and community. Maybe this is something that the Jiwa Galoreez ladies have a right to say—and I’ll be damned if they don’t say it.


 











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