Elements of Malaysian culture on display at daylong festival

Members of the Malaysian community in Athens rehearse a song for their upcoming festival. The first-ever Malaysian Festival will start at 9 a.m Wednesday and will feature events such as a fashion show (Jason Chow | Staff Photographer)

Southeast Asian fashions, films and food will be showcased at Ohio University’s first Malaysian Festival Wednesday.

Habibah Ashari, the Tun Abdul Razak Chair and a professor for the Center for International Studies, must sponsor a conference as part of her two-year stay as Tun Abdul Razak Chair.

The Tun Abdul Razak Chair is a professor from a Malaysian university who is chosen to teach, conduct research and perform outreach for Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Ashari arrived at Ohio University in September.

Rather than sponsor a basic conference, Ashari decided to put together a Malaysian Festival in an effort to incorporate the culture, songs and academia into one day of fun.

“For the most part, students don’t know about Malaysian culture, as it is sort of bypassed,” Ashari said. “But it is a very interesting country and we have many groups of people that live harmoniously together, which gives us a diversity and richness that is very interesting.”

A fashion show will display the multicultural fashion of Malaysia. There will also be four performances showcasing traditional and folk music, Ashari said.

There are 11 Malaysian students on campus and one Malaysian professor, which doesn’t present enough students for a formal Malaysian student organization to support the event, Ashari said. However, ARTS for Ohio, Center

For International Studies, Tourism Malaysia New York and KRU Studios Malaysia are helping to sponsor the event.

Because of the small number of Malaysian students, those from other countries are also involved, said Fatimah Hani Hassan, a graduate student studying speech-language pathology.

“Our performances include students from other countries, such as Indonesia and China,” she said. “It’s like experiencing other cultures even though you don’t have an opportunity to go.”

There will also be two keynote speakers: Associate Professor Mohd Adnan Hashim, the dean of the faculty of communication and media studies at the Universiti Teknologi MARA; and Associate Professor Abdul Razak Mohaideen, the dean of the faculty of film, theatre and animation at UiTM.

Hashim will focus on the impact of social media on the Malaysian political landscape, and Mohaideen will speak about challenges and prospects in Malaysian cinema and feature his film Duyung, which translates to Mermaid.

“Mermaid can help students understand about their environmental impact,” Mohaideen said. “But they will also learn about foreign film and how production methods could be different.”

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