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The United Nations has called on the Kelantan government to lift its ban on cultural art forms to prevent them from disappearing.

IN many parts of the world, arts, cultural heritage and even languages are disappearing. Arts and culture are becoming extinct.

At the 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture in Kuala Lumpur recently, United Nations (UN) special rapporteur Dr Karima Bennoune urged the Kelantan government to lift its ban on the Mak Yong dance, wayang kulit and other Malay art forms.

This brings to mind the state of affairs of our cultural appreciation, preservation and promotion in states that could benefit from tourism. Who are we, if not defined by our culture?

Imagine letting our culture dry up. Is it any wonder that civilisations with the strongest culture and sense of identity are among the richest and most powerful?

Look at China today. Their movies and cultural appreciation move in tandem with their technological prowess.

This year’s Chinese blockbuster movie, The Wandering Earth, directed by Frank Guo, is a case in point. Based on the Hugo award winning novella by Liu Cixin, it is a sci-fi movie that celebrates culture as an anchor for humanity. 

When we say culture, we think movies, theatre and craft. These alone are billion-dollar industries. The truth is, culture-impacted industries are so much more.

Is there a connection between culture and economic strength and wealth?  UN believes there is and its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) prioritise culture.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) champions the safeguarding and promotion of culture as a worthy goal. Culture contributes to many SDGs: safe and sustainable cities, decent work and economic growth, reduced inequalities, the environment, promoting gender equality, as well as peaceful and inclusive societies.

I’m championing   Malay culture because this is our legacy and is intrinsic to our customs and norms. Unesco states that culture is who we are and what shapes our identity. People with a strong identity will be more united and peaceful.

Cultural heritage must be true to the roots of the land. I believe the Malay Nusantara heritage can bring our children together.

Next, culture is required for sustainable development. It is a pre-condition to globalisation.

Third, art and culture contribute more to the economy than growth and jobs. They bring long-lasting exponential income and wealth when managed properly.

Fourth, culturally-rich cities are sustainable cities. They are more attractive for businesses.

What we need is a ministry dedicated to arts and culture to promote the two. Let’s prove to the world we are a nation steeped in culture and tradition.


Kuala Lumpur

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