Here in Malaysia, we are fortunate to have a flourishing creative scene with a series of yearly festivals that cater to various art forms. Festivals are great platforms that encourage discussion, promote the exchange of ideas and provide artists with avenue to showcase their work. What’s more, the public get to enjoy and develop a more widespread appreciation of the arts.
These festivals, however, are not just fun and games; they strive to educate, fascinate and enlighten. They also foster a sense of community by connecting like-minded individuals.
Here are some of the many (and growing!) festivals, big or small, happening across Malaysia to satisfy your art fix.
Whether you are an ardent arts enthusiast or just looking for a creative way to spend the weekend, you are bound to be welcomed with open arms at these festivals. Mark your calendars!
Pssst! Click on the names of the festivals to go to their official websites!
Initiated in 2011 by the Penang state government, it has since become widely recognised as Malaysia’s pre-eminent literary festival. Bernice Chauly, a renowned author, poet and educator in the local literary scene, has been a director of GTLF for six out of its seven editions. Did you know it was shortlisted for the International Excellence Award for Literary Festival by the London Book Fair last year?
It features a diverse lineup of local and international writers, poets and other personalities working in the creative industry, particularly in the domain of the written word. Every edition of GTLF revolves around a designated theme, upon which its programme of discussions, lectures, workshops and performances is based.
This three-day festival takes place on the last weekend of November annually. This year’s edition of GTLF, themed ‘Monsters and (Im)Mortals’, is in the works and is scheduled to take place from 24 to 26 November 2017.
Dubbed as “the biggest little 10-minute festival in the world”, the Short + Sweet Festival is a prominent event on the local performing arts calendar and takes place consecutively at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre (klpac) and Performing Arts Centre of Penang (penangpac).
True to its name, it comprises an assortment of brief yet engaging performances that are each capped at a 10-minute duration. It encourages the participation of emerging and established performing arts enthusiasts who are keen to exhibit their talents in various categories, such as Theatre, Dance, Musical, Stand-up Comedy and Song.
Aspiring performers are also given the opportunity to hone their craft through workshops organised prior to the Festival. The Festival advocates a spirit of experimentation and supports eager performing arts enthusiasts in expressing their creativity and ingenuity.
The 2017 edition of the Short + Sweet Festival runs from 6 September to 29 October 2017 at klpac, before moving on to penangpac from 1 to 11 November 2017.
SeaShorts Film Festival is relatively new to the local arts festival milieu as its inaugural edition was launched on May this year. It was organised by Next New Wave, an initiative established to nurture Malaysia’s next generation of filmmakers, and was led by Festival Director and local indie filmmaker, Tan Chui Mui.
Cinephiles who attended SeaShorts were treated to a kaleidoscopic selection of independent short films hailing from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries. The films, carefully curated by established Southeast Asian filmmakers including Tan, Amir Muhammad and Yuni Hadi, were divided into segments to facilitate more organised screening sessions.
The highlight of its maiden edition was Fragment, an omnibus film commissioned by the Asian Film Archive (AFA) that demonstrated the diversity of Southeast Asian independent cinema through a collage of ten narratives, each representing a Southeast Asian country.
We’re hoping that the Festival will make a comeback next year for its second run!
Not to be mistaken for its similarly-named counterpart, the George Town Literary Festival, the George Town Festival has earned a prominent reputation for celebrating a multitude of art forms including dance, theatre, film, music and photography.
Initiated by Joe Sidek in 2010 to commemorate George Town’s inauguration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, GTF has remained a steadfast fixture in George Town’s cultural landscape. It displays works from local and international artists from various disciplines, spanning a month-long duration.
In keeping with its ethos of striving to make the arts accessible to all, GTF has been providing a generous number of free student and community tickets, funded by its Arts for Humanity project. This initiative, established since 2015, is supported by public donations.
Currently in its 8th year, this promising showcase of art and culture takes off on 27 July and concludes on 3 September 2017 at various venues across George Town, Penang.
Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF)
Every year, sometime between the months of June and August, the rainforests of Sarawak come to life when our friends in the Land of the Hornbills revel in the Rainforest World Music Festival.
Despite being held in a fairly reclusive region of the lush Borneo rainforest, RWMF attracts music enthusiasts from near and far with its distinctive, diverse programme.
It highlights unique musical talents from home and abroad, culminating in an impressive gathering of world musicians and indigenous musicians alike. Traditional culture and global outlook converge on this world stage as festival-goers are treated to a plethora of refreshing musical offerings.
Apart from musical performances, festival-goers can also anticipate craft bazaars promoting traditional indigenous handicrafts, music workshops as well as talks on indigenous culture and heritage. This year marks the 20th anniversary of RWMF, which was held on 14 to 16 July 2017.
The Cooler Lumpur Festival
Unique to the bustling capital city of Kuala Lumpur, the Cooler Lumpur Festival debuted in 2013 and prides itself as a multidisciplinary festival that celebrates culture and ideas.
Curated by Executive Creative Director Hardesh Singh along with Literary Director Umapagan Ampikaipakan and their team, the festival endeavours to cultivate cultural awareness and creativity, in addition to fostering a stronger sense of community within the city.
Its distinctive urban vibe and fresh approach to pop culture is reflected in the dynamic, innovative themes devised each year, such as #Fast (2014), Dangerous Ideas (2015) and RE: Independence (2016). In its previous editions, it was accompanied by the Poskod Journalism Campus, a peripheral programme that facilitates discussions on various aspects of journalism.
The Cooler Lumpur Festival returns this year from 17 to 20 August with the theme ‘Notes from the Future’ and seeks to explore ‘the social, political, technological and cultural ideas of our present time and tell the story of our collective futures’. Hosted in Publika @ Solaris Dutamas, potential festival-goers can expect the participation of influential personalities from the culture industry including Bernice Chauly, Uthaya Sankar SB and Jian Goh.
Deriving its name from Johor’s administrative centre, Iskandar Puteri, Iskarnival/IP Kreatif is the southern state’s very own ‘festival of ideas’.
Formerly known as Iskarnival, the festival is rebranded this year as IP Kreatif. Nevertheless, its commitment to showcasing local art talents remains. Festival-goers will be spoilt for choice by an eclectic array of gigs, performances and workshops – across disciplines of music, design, visual art, dance and more – to immerse oneself in.
It also accommodates artists in pursuit of various creative endeavours by setting up a creative bazaar, exhibitions and street attractions aplenty, including impressive edible cake art by By Grace and intriguing special effects makeup by FX.CAT !
For a fulfilling dose of creative fodder with a local flavour, head down to Mall of Medini @ Iskandar Puteri from 22 to 23 July 2017 and witness awe-inspiring creations by our home talents. Do visit IP Kreatif 2017’s Facebook event page for more details and updates!
Freedom Film Fest (FFF)
If you’re looking for a film festival with a subversive edge, the Freedom Film Fest is for you.
Not your conventional film festival, FFF charts less-ventured and even precarious territory to raise awareness on pressing societal issues by screening original documentaries that address human rights concerns and the predicament of marginalised communities.
It refuses to be content with superficial coverage on social issues; instead, it encourages filmmakers to delve deep below the proverbial surface to divulge and unravel critical, comprehensive insights into current affairs.
A testament to its fervent dedication to uphold human rights, FFF extends its outreach beyond Kuala Lumpur by travelling to Penang, Johor, Perak, Sabah, Sarawak and even across the Causeway, thus enabling its profound, socially-conscious films to generate a greater impact on a wider audience.
Happening from 2 to 9 September at PJ Live Arts @ Jaya One, FFF 2017 will be exhibiting over 30 human rights documentaries from Malaysia and abroad, accompanied by hands-on workshops and discussions with filmmakers.
Animation fans rejoice!
Organised by the Persatuan Animasi Malaysia or Animation Society of Malaysia (ANIMAS), Anifest is a three-day festival that caters to animation buffs by highlighting local animation, comics, cartoons and other animation-related hobbies.
Besides introducing newbies to animation to the intricacies and wonders of animation, comics and cartoons, it also serves as a platform for local animation enthusiasts and professionals to interact, mingle and share their experiences in the craft.
This year’s edition promises to be a fun-filled event with mascot appearances, games, cosplay sessions, exhibitions/demonstrations, forums and a bazaar lined up for festival-goers. Do drop by Summit USJ @ Petaling Jaya from 25 to 27 August to support our local animation scene or pick up a new hobby!
Think we missed out any artsy festivals? Drop us a comment or email us at email@example.com