Headed by Leading Artists Adib Kosnan and Moli Mohter, alongside Both Sides, Now Artistic Director Kok Heng Leun, Drama Box and ArtsWok Collaborative continue to delve into issues surrounding the end-of-life with the Malay-Muslim community, with the return of Both Sides, Now: Mengukir Harapan, as a full-fledged community engagement at Heartbeat@Bedok Atrium this September.
What is it that we want to say to someone we lost, but have never had the chance to? What if we knew when the last time we spent together with our loved ones would be? The last words shared with one another; the last meal eaten together…. How would that change the way we talk, the way we treat one another?
Death leaves us with many questions, some go unanswered, and some develop into difficult emotions, such as regret, that we carry with us into the future. Contained in the theme Lepaskan Sesalan – which means to release your regrets, Both Sides, Now embarks on an investigation into how one may process regrets, and perhaps avoid them in future by having conversations with our loved ones before it is too late.
Foundational to the shaping of these spaces is the idea of Rewang: in reference to the way in which Malay families and friends gather together to prepare for occasions, to lighten the burden of the hosts. Leading Artists Adib Kosnan and Moli Mohter explain this theme: “In the past, we have seen our grandparents and parents ‘rewang’ to help in the preparation of a wedding or a kenduri. This idea contained in ‘rewang’, of getting together and helping one another, makes it a perfect metaphor for our goal of encouraging the community to get together and share their stories, in the hope that it will alleviate what might have been sitting heavy on their shoulders.”
Hence, they’ve worked together for several months with members of the community, from different backgrounds and generations, whose voices and stories may be heard through the resulting co-created works. In Kembali, co-created with dance company P7:1SMA, community elders from Montfort Care – Good Life! Bedok will be reflecting on their life experiences and ageing through dance.
Rainy, one of the elders, shares on how she has been able to express herself through this process: “Whatever in our life that we cannot let out verbally, we can tell through our bodies in Kembali, through our movement and music. Personally, I went through a hard yet interesting life, and I want to show others through the dance that you are not alone. This has been an opportunity to participate and show my talents and share what l’ve gone through in a good way.”
Another response to loss, sourced from the community, will be found in the exhibition of life and legacy, in which community art-makers led by and together with multi-disciplinary artist Dahlia Osman, reflect on the lives lived of those they have lost, and their own so far, through various visual media. Participant Mahathir Rahim, who is attending the workshops with his wife, reflects on his experience: “The art exercises during the of life and legacy workshop helped me realise there are times where we tend to assess or over-assess what the end-of-life could be for someone, while not talking about the facts of the situation. If I were to pass and someone were to arrange things for me, I would want them to know the facts of who lam and how I want to be remembered.”
In the same spirit of communality, the spatial design of the Heartbeat@Bedok Atrium will resemble familial abodes, shaped to create comfortable spaces in which people may feel at home to share and learn from one another about dealing with death and loss. While Kata-Kata Kita was mainly theatre-based, this year, visitors will be able to choose different ways to participate with an array of art processes: among them, the three interactive drama performances Waktu, Sukar (Melepaskan) Mendakap Kenangan Forum Theatre, and DJ Dukacita.
Waktu explores the regrets of a widow, Ayu, as she processes the recent death of her husband. Alongside her, audiences will be able to participate in her story through various activities. Sukar (Melepaskan) – Mendakap Kenangan continues the story of three siblings who were introduced last year in Kata-Kata Kita, but this time, audiences will be invited to intervene in their story with suggestions.
In continuation from last year as well, DJ Dukacita will return to read letters by people who have lost loved ones, with invitations to the audience to join in. There will also be Public Talks held each day on all one needs to know about topics related to end-of-life such as Advance Care Planning, Legal Matters, Palliative Care and Muslim Funerals. Ending each day will be facilitated Conversations where the audience can share their perspectives, and related stories on what they have seen and heard during Lepaskan Sesalan.
All members of the public are welcome to join in any of our programmes. Admission is free, with programming largely in English, and some Malay. Join Drama Box and ArtsWok Collaborative, and learn to process grief in a safe space, in the presence of friends and the community, with Both Sides, Now – Lepaskan Sesalan.
Photo Credit: Zinkie Aw
Both Sides, Now – Lepaskan Sesalan runs from 21st to 24th September 2022 at Heartbeat@BedokAtrium. More information available here