Iskandar Puteri, in the state of Johor, is fast emerging as a bubbling hub for the arts and forward-thinking culture in the heart of South East Asia. With a rich history of trade and cultural exchange, it continues to renew this tradition in exciting, new ways. The utopic, two-day festival that was IP Kreatif ran through the belly of Medini Mall. It sang out as an exclamation of the city’s creative community and an attraction for like minds across the nation.
The space provided by the Medini Mall was expansive and airy with huge entrances from the drop-off area to the plaza on the other side, giving IP Kreatif an outdoor market appeal with all the safety of downpour coverage. The mall reverberated with the echoing thunder of footsteps and chatter as you walked through, immersed in the entertainment coming from the centre stage whilst perusing innovative workshops and local businesses. This joyous and conscious tone was set against the backdrop of lively murals by Donald Abraham and Adeputra Masri; two artists that proclaim an informed social commentary on contemporary Malaysian society, captured in two very bold, distinctive styles.
Artist, Donald Abraham also hosted a watercolour workshop where he showcased some of his latest work. Other standout workshops included Rico Leong teaching his craft of woodcut in your own unique design on small blocks. Tomi Heri, in a similar fashion, was offering lessons in the art of stencils. These latter two artists were situated at the ‘Creative Urbans’ post under Minut Init, an infamous place for upcoming street artists and rebellious, youth culture. This generation of young adults have been growing up under an increasingly policed gaze which expressively, and most concisely, translates into their craft.
Beside them, sat a traditional fishing boat that hosted a small, quiet sanctuary of a library. The collection of books on loan were a protest of their own calibre. It became quickly apparent there was a common thread through the books, weaving together one, unified political voice coming from the heart of Malaysia. The thematic concerns discussed Indigenous rights alongside the wider issues of deforestation and the country’s resources and assets. It could not have been more apt than to contain this knowledge in a traditional vessel of transport, placed in a very public setting; as if to declare these undercurrents of Malaysian culture to the country.
Streaming down the mall were small, local business stalls bringing their homegrown and thoughtfully sourced products. Artfully packaged coffee made with locally farmed milk was definitely a delicious purchase that kept people chugging along throughout the days. Another key feature in keeping spirits high were the various performances thrown at the main stage. Highlights were the dazzling Mirror Men in their head-to-toe disco-ball costumes. They proceeded to own the stage with their coordinated dance moves to popular songs. This was instantly a winner amongst children and families, with the Fire Eaters being hot contenders.
Exciting musical acts such as Pita Hati and The Times brought in thralls of energetic crowds through Medini and into Black Box. As if Publika had teleported to Iskandar Puteri, a great black stage was set up in the back corner, next to the classic White Box space. White Box showcased an array of works from Segaris Art Centre and collectives such as Make It Happen. A prominent showstopper for everyone’s hungry eyes was the Edible Art by Grace. As owner of a bakery, her culinary skills were displayed on canvasses, announcing the recognition of food as art. Together, these two yin yang spaces of originality and imagination culminated in a balanced atmosphere of both pumping vitality and calm poignancy.
Towards the plaza at the very end of the mall, a permaculture workshop brought by Wak Kang tied the whole festival up nicely, in an effort to teach the IP public about simple lifestyle changes like composting and its benefits. In the emergent wake of climate change and global warming, everyone can do their part in helping the planet. If there was a message to be taken by IP Kreatif, it was that thoughtful, individual practice combined with teaching and listening to one another can create awesome vibes and better living for all.
You can read the edited version of my review here as part of the IP portal, complete with photographs! It’s an honour to have my voice and writing recognised in this community.