24 February 2010

Ulasan "Muallaf" Aku dalam Dewan Budaya Mac 2010

Kesian Kak Min, lepas kengkawan kat pejabat baca ulasan filem aku, semuanya bertanya, "Eh, filem ni kan tak dapat tayang di Malaysia?" dan "Kat mana tonton filem ni, Malaysia tak masuk kan? Pinjam DVD?" - haykh...

Baca pengiktirafan Datuk Johan Jaafar di bawah tentang Dewan Budaya:

IT has been around for 31 years. To be exact, the latest issue is the 373rd. Yet not many people are aware of its existence. It was the brainchild of no less than Baharuddin Zainal (better known as Baha Zain) and the late Usman Awang.

Baha was at the helm of Bahagian Pembinaan dan Pengembangan Sastera or BPPS of Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) at the time. The division was responsible for the publication of Dewan Sastera, the only literary magazine in Malay, first published in 1971 and still in existence today. They realised DBP needed a magazine for culture and the arts.

The debate pertaining to kebudayaan kebangsaan (national culture) had been going on for some time. The first Kongres Kebudayaan Melayu (Malay Cultural Congress) in 1971 spelled out the need for a cultural identity for the nation. Dewan Budaya came out in January 1979 as a response to that. The magazine is still around and the influence it has on the nation's cultural scene is, to say the least, overwhelming.

True, its circulation has never been big, but specialised publications like that need funding and subsidy, or else it will die a natural death. DBP has many best-selling magazines in its stable, such as Dewan Masyarakat, Dewan Pelajar and Dewan Siswa, but Dewan Budaya and Dewan Sastera have helped define the nation's intellectual, literary and cultural bearing and orientation.

The people behind Dewan Budaya were clear on what they expected from the magazine. They were adamant that "cultural development" was part and parcel of nation-building and that culture and the arts transcend race and religion. They believed in the cultural diversity of 12 million Malaysians at the time and there was a dire need to promote works and expressions of culture and art from the various races.

They promised to report, portray and evaluate not only fine art, architecture, film, painting and theatre from an aesthetic perspective, but to encourage research, experimentation and innovation to ensure a vibrant cultural realm. It was also about bridging understanding among the people.

Since its early years, Dewan Budaya has lived up to that expectation. No magazine nurtured the concept of 1Malaysia more than this one. Contributors came from various races writing in Malay.

Issues on various other cultures were discussed as passionately as that of Malay culture. In the first issue, Raja Zahabuddin Yaacob introduced Redza Piyadasa and T.K. Sabapathy wrote about Dzulkifli Buyong. All four were respectable painters, art critics and historians in their own right. Piyadasa and Sabapathy became the stalwarts of the early years of Dewan Budaya, introducing painters to readers. They featured Latif Mohiddin, Ismail Zain, Chia Yu-Chian, Jolly Koh, Khoo Sui-ho, Zulkifli Dhalan and Tay Hoi Keat, Patrick Ng Kah Onn, Ismail Mustam, Syed Thajudden and many others.

The magazine has always been instrumental in popularising paintings and painters. For the first 12 issues, the covers were reproduction of paintings by Malaysian artists. The first issue saw "Iqra in Nasakh" and "Tuluth Khat" by Omar Basree, whose feature was written by Ahmad Kamal Abdullah (Kemala). The cover of the second issue was a work by Chua Yu-Chian. Patrick Ng Kah Onn's "Menjemur Kain" was on the cover of the March issue. Ismail Mustam's "Hang Tuah dan Hang Jebat" graced the cover in April.

The magazine has been the vehicle for some of the best minds of the last three decades. Muhammad Naguib al Atas, Khoo Kay Kim, Kamarul Ariffin, Mohd Taib Osman and Zainal Keling wrote interesting pieces. Krishen Jit, Azah Aziz, Mohd Ghaouse Nassruddin, Salleh Joned, Ting Chew Peh, Mahadzhir Mohd Khir, Halim Nasir and Zakaria Ali made their names in the magazine. The magazine featured great men and women in film and traditional theatre. Maria Menado, Haji Mahadi and Zaiton (film stars), Saloma (singer), Jamil Sulong (director), Dollah Baju Merah (wayang kulit), Mat Leh Tapang (dikir barat legend), Bakar M (bangsawan owner and actor) were among those highlighted.

A. Samad Ismail was a contributor in a column "Sudut Pandangan" from January 1989. His last piece was the notorious "Surat Kepada YAB PM" in August 1990, suggesting hardcore trade unionists like V. David and Zainal Rampak be made wakil rakyat. Thanks to Samad's article, I was promoted to head the general book division of DBP. I sat in the editorial board 12 months after the magazine came out and was made deputy editor in May 1982. In August 1988, I was heading DBP's Magazine Division and its chief editor until September 1990.

Dewan Budaya is the best thing that has happened to culture and the arts of this proud nation. It has been at the forefront promoting the best discussion and discourse on matters pertaining to creativity.

For the last 31 years, it has diligently recorded the cultural scene of the country. It has not strayed from the spirit of the founders. The fact that fewer non-Malays are contributing today has nothing to do with policy change. It is a pity that such a magazine has lost much of the glitter of its cultural diversity. Perhaps it is a symptom of our people drifting apart, which is sad.

Dewan Budaya has also been audacious, especially during its early years. The debate on the arts has been nothing less than ferocious -- critics and proponents articulating their positions without fear and favour. The likes of Anuar Noor Arai, Mansor Puteh, Mustapha Noor, Hatta Azad Khan, Krishen Jit, Zakaria Ali, Piyadasa, Kee Thuan Chye, Mana Sikana, Salleh, Dinsman, Zakaria Ariffin, A. Wahab Hamzah -- intellectual firebrands all -- arguing their cases were good enough reasons to subscribe to the magazine.

Back in 1981, I had an idea. What about the magazine doing a piece on the nightlife of Kuala Lumpur? My boss at the time, Baha, did not hesitate to give the green light. I spent many nights in the seedy parts of Kuala Lumpur. I came out with a three-part series on "Bila Malam Bertambah Malam". It was probably too juicy or shocking. The magazine published a truncated version, in one part, in July 1981. Even then we all held our breath. It was the month of Ramadan when most of the articles were on the making of a good ummah and the road to righteousness. My piece was the talk of the puasa month.

Who says Dewan Budaya is conservative?


No comments: