Sasaran International Art Festival

Artist: Ng Bee, Ng Kim Heoh
Location: Jeram, Kuala Selangor, Malaysia
Year: 2011
Researcher: Stella Prasetya

Sasaran is a small fishing village situated in Kuala Selangor, the name Sasaran in Malay language means ”target”, it was associated with the village name after a shooting range that was set up on the nearby hill.

Ng Bee, the artist as well as the chairman of Sasaran Art Association was born and raised in Sasaran. As someone who was born in Sasaran Ng Bee has a desire to help to develop his village hometown through art as his professional background. After he finished his education, he had a chance to travel abroad to art exhibitions, festivals, and workshops. Hence he was convinced that his home town can be a perfect place to hold such event. Together with his fellow peers Ng Bee attempted to create an art event titled “Sasaran Art Workshop” in 2008, by inviting 35 artist both from Malaysia and from abroad. The background of this project was to ask the artists participation for an enriching experience towards the cultural tradition of a small town.

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They had used local school, S.R.J.K (Chung Wah) the only school in Sasaran, as their significant venue for their activities. During the event, the classes were used by the artists as their studio in developing their art work. Another significant feature of this event is how the community members were able to accommodate the artists involved to stay at their properties without charges. Furthermore, it has become some sort of basic module of the Sasaran Festival. At the beginning, local community members were paying little attention even sceptical with the event. They consider that Sasaran were not a place for art and that art are belong to the big cities such as Kuala Lumpur. In order to socialise and nurture the appreciation towards art amongst the community member, Ng Bee created an educative workshop to introduce the basic of art within 2 months’ time. Their responses towards the festival began to change as the artists started to prepare their work, which they develop the curiosity about the artists working process. Later the community member began to develop their interest in assisting the artists by providing their manpower, material, event they suggest the artists to use recycle material found in Sasaran. Ng Bee saw this experience as a potential of the community further engagement towards the festival. The community themselves have their own pride by getting involve in the art making in particular, as it served a good way in promoting their hometown. They even voluntarily contribute their power and working hours in order to assist the artists without expecting material benefit in return. Other contribution they made including skills in logistical preparation, art assistant, handlers, material sourcing and assisting in fundraising activities. For the 2011 festival, they appoint a shop house space owned by a community member to become a meeting space and formed team role that divided into each leading area such as media, programme and logistic. Later each leading team working with smaller project teams from the community member which consist of 100 people in total. As for the artists that get involved in the festival, it is an opportunity for them to associate and see different artistic development from other part of the world. During the festivals visitors were also able to interact with the artists and their practice, which is another way of using art in reaching people that were foreign with art before.

By the end of the festival, each artists contributed one of their work to the association to raise funds for future festivals. Through the festivals, now the village landscape has transformed with the existence of public art around village area and they achieved a new sense of pride for the village to be associated with art.

Sasaran is one of the interesting model of community engagement for art festival, which supporting the local community to actively participate in the festival creation process. At the beginning Ng Bee was not focusing on the community. But through the community curiosity and their voluntarily attempts in assisting the artist, Ng Bee noticed those as a potential of community participation in the festival. Their participation was later became significant as it has given positive influences towards their village branding from a simple fishing village. The media coverage has also contribute to introduce their village to wider range of public outside Sasaran. For the people in Sasaran, they consider their participation in the festival to be important because they have grown sense of ownership throughout the festival and by assisting the artists they have promoting their hometown. One of the interesting aspect of their contribution is that people from different background, regardless their age and gender all together participate in the festivals. Moreover, the community were then collaborating with the artists in creating art work. It was accommodated by Ng Bee and friends in their creativity process with sketches and 3D modelling. This type of collaboration were becoming interesting as community were voluntarily involved and fully supported the event. Not only for event, the community also benefited by having the positive influence from the arts involvement for the young community member in overcoming social problem such as drug abuse and social troubles. With their meeting and festival experiences, the place has become a safely and positive place for young people to interact. In 2015, Sasaran has a Community Centre that was approved by the City Council to become a centre/the heart of the community to gather and receive art education. Moreover it is also enabling people to access previous works and information regarding with Sasaran International Arts Festival. For Ng Bee himself, it is one step further in pursuing his aim to makeSasaran as an International art village.

The idea of Sasaran International Arts Festival came from Ng Bee to present an international art event at small fishing village of Sasaran. After spending his time abroad, Ng Bee decided to settle and developed his birth and hometown, Sasaran. Before, he saw Sasaran as a place that was getting neglect and left behind by their community due to its environmental issue and better career opportunity outside Sasaran.

Together with his fellow peers from Sasaran, they created an idea to develop Sasaran as an alternative place to run a festival other than at big cities such as Kuala Lumpur. Later on Ng Bee invited international artists to participate by highlighting enriching cultural traditions aspect from Sasaran village. Within 3 years’ time, Ng Bee incubate and prepare this festival idea, he had experiencing numbers of other arts festivals, exhibitions and workshops by participating as well as organising exchange art event between neighbour country such as Indonesia and Vietnam. The festival itself was not funded by certain authority and it was one of the issue faced during the early festival. However with the generous hand of Sasaran community they are able to fund the festival by providing the artists accommodation at their houses, man power, material resource, and fund raising. Following the implemented event of 2008 – 2014, National Gallery Malaysia and Local City Council started to notice and give their appreciation of what Sasaran International Arts Festival has achieved. Particularly in approving the establishment of Community Centre in 2015 and become a centre of creative activities for the community and a place to access artworks from previous events.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency