~ Annual event encourages community to express through art amidst suffering ~
Kuala Lumpur, 6 May 2017 – The International Medical University (IMU) hosted its sixth “Festival of the Arts” (FOTA) at its Bukit Jalil Campus yesterday. The annual event was a platform to encourage the appreciation of art as a form of therapy and expression that facilitated healing and optimum health and wellness in heart, mind and body. The various programmes for that day brought together an audience of all ages. “We are proud to bring together once again for the sixth year, the delicacy and precision of science and medicine together with creativity in the expression of art,” shared Dr Sheba D. Mani from IMU’s Department of Language, Communication and Culture, also the Chairman of the Festival of The Arts.
“Working with several local and international artists, this year’s Festival of the Arts with the theme “Connecting People, Changing Perspectives” aimed to make the arts more accessible to people and inspire them to take a healthy interest in the arts, be it in music, dance, drama, sketching or craft-making.”
When asked why did the IMU, essentially a science-based institution, advocated for arts, Tan Sri Abu Bakar Suleiman President of IMU Group said “When we talk about the “Arts” it is viewed broadly. The appreciation allows and enables students, doctors, etc., to look at life in an open and non-judgmental manner.” He added, “Hopefully this is carried to their outlook in life and in dealings with patients, their families and the community at large. Learning to express themselves in whatever medium or form they prefer is an opportunity for to be creative and innovative.” He went on to elaborate further on how arts could help patients journey through their sickness and treatment, and the university’s rationale behind championing of the collaboration between art and medicine in this way.
“The brain is a wonderful and complex organ and we are learning new things all the time with research. Just as the “Arts” is an outlet for individuals or patients to express themselves, it can also help in giving meaning to life in ways we may not anticipate,” he said. “If we view modern technology and its application as an extension of the Arts, virtual reality can be so engrossing that patients do not feel pain that they usually have to endure. Research on the brain is bringing new findings like this that is interesting.”
One of the key highlights of the annual art festival was an art exhibition showcasing students’ entries, from the IMU as well as other institutions, that interpreted the theme “Imperfection” through art. Dr Sheba D Mani elaborated that, “The theme was selected to invite young Malaysian artist from colleges and universities to represent their views on imperfection. By doing so, a fresh and relevant perspective on the needs of society may be captured to provide insight to healthcare providers on what services to strengthen.” Three judges, Alena Murang, Poesy Liang and Kenneth Koh were tasked with the responsibility to pick the top three winners among the lot. During the judging process, Alena Murang, a visual artist and ethnic musician from Borneo observed a divide in the interpretation of imperfection among students, “Some people portray imperfection very literally like showing prosthetics, or an albino face. And there were others who dig deeper into the meaning of imperfection, and the emotion behind imperfection. And the two people who did that were the top two.” Poesy Liang, a Taiwanese-Malaysian interdisciplinary artist offered a more philosophical take on imperfection through perfection, “Perfection is really about accepting imperfection and actually seeing imperfection for what it is. And being able to accept imperfection is perfection on its own.” She also commented on how the society should view imperfection, “People should really be embracing their vulnerabilities, there’s power in that. To own it (imperfection) is by merging the inner self, the facade, and the true person for what he/she truly is. It is beautiful when one can be honest that way.”
IMU’s Director of Strategic Planning and Development, Kenneth Koh pulled no punches when come to defining imperfection. “Imperfection is a real burden to society. We all struggle with the need to always accept ourselves and accept others. Society has painted imperfection as something negative. In reality, imperfection is a permanent fixture of society. It will always be there. It’s something to be accepted, and something to be lived with and managed. We will never be perfect in this world and I hope the society will not make it a pain or a chore for everyone to be perfect.”
This year, Mohamad Firdaus bin Mohd Yusof from UiTM Campus Shah Alam stood out as the Grand Prize winner with his illustration titled “Puzzle Me”, which represents the inner imperfections of a person, be it emotional or mental, that trap a person. The competition awarded 15 winners with cash prizes totalling RM 8,200.
IMU Cares, a community engagement project of the university that focuses on the marginalised and underserved communities, refugee children, also took part in the event with children from Dignity for Children Foundation, Rumah Titian Kaseh and Lautu Education Centre. The school-going children were exposed to “Art for Refuge” (AFR) during the FOTA event. AFR served to empower the displaced through art projects, giving them a platform to express themselves as well as regain a sense of self-worth. The AFR this year included a puppet show, games booths, workshops and colouring competitions to integrate art as a form of healing. Various art and craft workshops were conducted including creating mini gardens, clay miniatures, origami, Cosplay, dance, drama and performing arts, as well as children’s art for those between 6 to 10 years of age. Participants were also engaged through a sketch mob facilitated by KL Sketch Nation and a dance mob by I Dance Studio. The Nomadica Art Space also conducted art demonstrations by five local and international artists who were happy to share their experiences in this area to promote not just a greater appreciation for art, but also encourage increased expression through art.