|Write something on a ping pong ball and tie it into this wish-tree|
|A scene from one of the performances on first day of the festival|
‘So, you are here for the festival?’ This was the first question Raymond had asked me after filling in my personal details in guest logbook of Riverview Guesthouse in Melaka.
‘What! What festival are you talking about? Is there a festival going on in here?’ I asked Raymond. I was both confused and curious at the same time.
‘The Melakan Art and Performance Festival, of course! So, you are not aware of it,’ Raymond replied. He seemed to guess by now that it had just been a coincidence that I was there on a day when MAP (as this festival is popularly known) was going to start.
Raymond handed me a set of keys and said, ‘So, Ajay, you are staying in a three-bed dormitory and going to share it with two ladies. I think they are going to this festival. Just ask if you can accompany them.’ With this, Raymond also handed me a brochure about MAP festival and a printout of map of Melaka, and started telling me about places and streets pointing them on the map itself.
Raymond was owner of the guesthouse and was first of the nice, humble and welcoming persons I met just after reaching Melaka. Of course, I was going to meet many more on my very first day there. I met Yuko just afterwards…Yuko Kuramochi from Japan. She was getting ready to go out when I entered the room. We introduced ourselves to each other. She asked me if it was for the first time that I was in Melaka. I replied in affirmation. She had been there for many days and just loved the place. She told me that our other room-mate was Sarah Davis from Britain. It was a pleasant co-incidence that all three of us had said good-bye to our respective jobs and were out to explore life (Sarah told me the next day how travelling around the world had transformed her as an individual).
‘There is going to be a festival in Melaka from today. The opening is at 6 pm and the first show will be at 8 pm. Do you wish to watch it? If yes, you can come with me. Sarah must be there already,’ Yuko said candidly. It was already 5 pm. I was already enthusiastic, so I said yes; and within 20 minutes of our conversation we were walking down towards venue- the church at St. Paul’s Hill.
The sun had started setting beyond Melaka Strait when we reached A’Famosa fort which is situated at the foot of the hill. We were to climb up the stairs to be at the venue. On the way up, Yuko indicated towards Dutch graveyard. It is the place where many of the officials of Dutch ancestry lay rested. When we reached at the church, the formal inauguration of MAP was over, and organizers were having tea and snacks (It was there I tasted Baba-Nyonya dish Ondeh Ondeh for first time). The first day performances were to start at 8 PM. So, we had good two hours, and it was a good chance to meet and interact with people over there.
|Yuko Kuramochi with two of the volunteers for MAP festival. They were supporting a local youth cause by painting their faces.|
It was a colourful mood there. I was amazed to see a bunch of young fellows with painted faces. Were they a part of some performance that day? No… I was told. Those fellows were volunteering for the festival; and apart from that, they were supporting a movement in Melaka and thus had painted their faces to show solidarity with its participants. That sounded really great.
Yuko introduced me to Sarah, and Sarah in turn introduced me to two other persons. It was lovely to know all of them. From the conversation that ensued I came to know that annual MAP festival was two years old and it was being organized for third time in a row. It was an effort by Melaka Tourism that has bore fruit in form of success of this festival. The festival gives a common platform to various leading artistes from Malaysia, Australia and other countries to showcase their talent. And audience comes from as far as Singapore, apart from Kuala Lumpur and various states of Malaysia.
|Another performance on first day of the MAP festival|
|A performer on second day of the festival|
The festival started on time; we were seated on carpets inside the now-abandoned church. And within few minutes of the start, I had known why Raymond was particularly asking me about it and why Yuko was sounding so enthusiastic while mentioning it. Everything was superb and technologically equipped. Great themes, stellar performances and great play of lights and sounds! I was so spell-bound at times that I forgot to click photos. General theme for this year’s festival was ‘transformation’. A special thing about this festival is that it draws its themes from Melakan history and tradition.
So enchanting were the first day performances that I decided to go there on all three days; and I did go. Second day was equally plausible. Though, on third day it had been raining since afternoon, so the start was considerably delayed. The performances did take place after the rain stopped, but I had to miss it as I was to board a bus for Kuala Lumpur airport at 12 in night. I also missed another important part of the festival i.e. the films, which are screened everyday of the festival at different venues in Melaka.
Text and Photos by Ajay Garg