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“Have the Arts been Forgotten?” YES.

“Have the Arts Been Forgotten?” “The short answer is yes.” — Jo Kukathas.

But wait, there is a long answer. According to Jo, since 1969 the arts sector has been tossed around like an orphan from ministry to ministry, for parades and stadium events as proof when proof is needed that Malaysia has culture. The root problem “is not one of finance”, but rather, the failure of imagination or vision to commit fully to funding the arts. “If countries like Germany, Singapore, Brazil, New Zealand, Korea, and Taiwan are coming up with policies to fund and support the arts, why not Malaysia?”

The million-dollar question —

“Why are we so consistently behind everyone?”

Tarinao highlights some key issues surrounding the collapse of the arts sector in the country. Voiced so eloquently by Jo Kukathas, the Artistic Director of The Instant Cafe Theatre Company in Kuala Lumpur and a theatre actor, writer and director. She is also a DDS Fellow of De La Salle University, Manila. The full essay can be found published on Jo’s Facebook and the Arts Equator.

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  • The surprisingly divided response on the support given to the arts sector between the cultural ministers of Malaysia and Germany.

Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dato Sri Nancy Shukri clearly did not see the need to have “aid package to offer nor a plan for any kind of stimulus”. “There was no need”, she said. According to her, arts, are “the quickest to recover”. The only visible and accountable budget for the arts sector under the ministry is the RM57,000 online arts competition. “She didn’t appear to have prepared for the interview [Consider This, Astro Awani] or to have researched her portfolio. She didn’t seem able to imagine the arts except as a form of tourism. After fumbling some questions and ignoring others she concluded by sounding a bit sorry for those in the arts and expressed the hope that 'someone else' would help”.

A major contrast was shown whereby Monika Grütters, Germany’s Culture Minister, said, “The creative courage of creative people can help to overcome the crisis. We should seize every opportunity to create good things for the future. That is why the following applies: artists are not only indispensable but also vital, especially now.” Figuratively speaking, €50 billion aid package was rolled out for small businesses that boost artists and galleries.

  • Where does the budget for the A[rts] in MoTAC go?

Budget 2020 allocated a total of RM1.1 billion to MoTAC, including an allocation of RM960 million to drive awareness, promotions and programmes of the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign. Where will the RM140 million go? 0.04% (RM57,000 out of the RM140 mil) were used on the online arts competition, what happened to the rest of the budget?

Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA) reported 93% of respondents negatively impacted financially in a survey on COVID-19’s impact on the arts. 70% of respondents reported losing all or most income. Would any percentage of the budget be strategically used to distribute to the arts and culture sector?

  • The fact that this crisis [COVID-19 pandemic] can bring the entire arts sector to a complete standstill with no plan for the future points to a deep-seated systemic problem.

Jo suggested that the problem stemmed from having no clear idea of the role and purpose of the arts and the lack of imagination or vision to commit fully to funding the arts. As artists and arts o