(From left) Shahira, Siti Saleha, and Izan Satrina demonstrating the digital passport and how simple it is to use the QR code during the launch of the BAS KL school holiday campaign.

THE school holidays are nearing its end and by the time this article is published, children everywhere will already be gearing for the start of the school term again. Some may just be on their way home from that week away to ‘balik kampung’, others are probably just exhausted from the week that was and wishing for another week of respite.

There may be those among you who may have been lucky enough to catch the BAS KL campaign, also known as the Bandar Aktiviti Seni Kuala Lumpur campaign, an initiative launched during the school holidays and ends on April 1, which urges families and individuals to escape to the arts, at 14 select venues around the capital to promote the importance of arts and culture.

The venues include the National Visual Arts Gallery, Jadi Batek, Lost in Chinatown, Illusion 3D Art Museum, KL City Gallery, Petronas Philharmonic Hall, KLPac, Ilham Gallery, Petronas Gallery, R!UH, Bank Negara Malaysia Museum and Gallery, Carcosa Seri Negara, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia and Malaysia Tourism Centre.

This campaign, an effort to encourage the love for arts and culture in Malaysia, is the brainchild of the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana), an agency launched in September last year by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Cendana positions itself as an umbrella body with enough resources and expertise to reach and improve the cultural sector of the creative economy.


Islamic Arts Museum.

Today I’m at the National Visual Arts Gallery in Jalan Temerloh, Kuala Lumpur to meet the founding CEO of Cendana, Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin; Cendana’s exco member and managing director of Hasanah Foundation Shahira Ahmed Bazari; and campaign ambassador, actress Siti Saleha Mohd Baharum.

It’s slightly after lunch hour and the heat from the midday sun is merciless. Having parked my car, I quicken my pace, making a beeline for the lobby where I’m to meet the lovely Izan Satrina and company. Fortunately, I don’t have too long to wait as my eyes rest on a woman, clad in a soft blue baju kurung, making her way across the main lobby, her smile wide.

“Thanks so much for coming!” she exclaims in delight before proceeding to introduce herself as Izan Satrina. Settling into our seats in one corner of the lobby, Izan Satrina wastes no time before launching into an explanation about the campaign, which incidentally is Cendana’s first (of many).

Enthusiastically, she shares that this BAS KL campaign is in line with Cendana’s “Energising the Arts” strategic pillar which aims to contribute to the sustainability of the arts and culture sector. Says Izan Satrina: “I really want people to be aware of how great our art and culture are. I bet not many people know that even in Kuala Lumpur there’s so much to soak in.”

Her brows furrowing, she laments: “Our generation wants more parks and not shopping malls. They want more places where they can spend quality time with the family. Art, I believe, is an area where one can really experience different things.”

Nodding her agreement, Shahira, Cendana’s exco member who had been listening in rapt attention, chips in: “We really hope we’ll get all the support we can for this programme. Art galleries need more visitors. I feel that we have wonderful content in our art galleries but they’re not being appreciated enough. We’re also hoping that this good initiative can instil a creative passion within young children and adults alike.”


Carcosa Seri Negara.

HITTING THE STREETS OF KL

Malaysians who are keen to explore the BAS KL can do so by obtaining a digital passport and scanning a QR code which can be found at any of the 14 attractions during the campaign period. The passport is a way to keep track of all the locations visited.

With the digital passport, participants will receive an e-stamp at every participating attraction and they can later redeem for rewards such as free beverages from Tealive, KFC food voucher and also have the chance to win a one night stay at the stylish KL Journal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

“There are different experiences in each place for participants to explore,” assures Izan Satrina. Visitors can join a batik-making class or watch experienced batik artisans create beautiful Malaysian batik masterpieces at Jadi Batek, or explore Malaysia’s first cultural maze in Lost in Chinatown.

At Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, visitors can sign up for a wide range of theatre courses suitable for children and adults at The Actors Studio Academy. According to The Edvocate (www.theedadvocate.org), a website which advocates education equity, reform and innovation, when studying music, theatre, and dance, pupils inevitably take an in-depth look at history. And in doing so, they develop an awareness of culture and learn how cultures change from region to region and across time.


KL City Gallery

When it comes to the arts, campaign ambassador Siti Saleha, who rose to fame through the TV drama Nora Elena, believes that Malaysians need to take an active role in educating themselves on what Kuala Lumpur has to offer.

The actress, looking stylish in a silky maroon blouse over a pair of dark pants, believes that these courses at KLPac, a venue where she herself has performed at, could help bring forth a passion for acting, just like how it did for her. “Acting is an art as well and my passion for it started when I was 14,” shares the attractive 28-year-old.

With a significant number of “followers” behind her, this popular actress is probably well-placed to help drive the campaign and spread awareness on the importance of the arts and culture, especially among children and the younger generation.


Dewan Filharmonik Petronas.

IMPORTANCE OF ART AND CULTURE

So how important is the arts in child’s development? Very! According to PBSparents (www.pbs.org), learning to create and appreciate visual aesthetics may be more important than ever to the development of the next generation of children as they grow up.

“If they’re exploring and thinking and experimenting and trying new ideas, then creativity has a chance to blossom,” says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books on children’s art education.

Kohl’s view is seconded by Dr Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University in the United States. “Parents need to be aware that children learn a lot more from graphic sources now than in the past,” says Freedman, adding: “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticise, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.”


Malaysian Tourism Centre

Suffice to say, Izan Satrina couldn’t agree more. “It’s important to let children use their imagination. My 8-year-old son loves sketching. I always bring him to art galleries and he’ll draw. I also have teachers coming to our house to teach him arts and craft,” shares the soft-spoken single mother, adding that she will definitely take her son to participate in the campaign.

“Cendana is a team of only six people and we’re doing all these things. Hopefully, we’ll expand, and at the same time, we’ll expand this campaign to other cities,” says Izan Satrina.

As I prepare to take my leave, she confides that moving forward, Cendana will continue to deliver what was mandated by our Prime Minister in his speech during the agency’s launch — that cultural values must not only be preserved, but also be continuously developed as a source of our strength and pride as Malaysians.

And that’s something I’ll happily vote for.

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Siti Saleha, the ambassador for BAS KL campaign.

Bandar Aktiviti Seni Kuala Lumpur (BAS KL)

WHEN Until April 1

WEBSITE www.cendana.com.my