Last Monday, My Performing Arts Agency (MyPAA) handed out the Royal Arts Gala Fund to eligible applicants. Out of 113 individuals and organisations applying for the fund, 18 got through.
Greatly piquing our interest was dance practitioner Bilqis Hijjas of Rimbun Dahan, who received funding to kick-start Critics Republic, an online portal for critical reviews on the local performing arts scene.
So could we be looking forward to Malaysia’s version of Metacritic?
“It’s more like a place to encourage people who aren’t critics to give amateur kind of reviews,” Bilqis clarifies.
“It’s not targeted towards people who are writers, just audience members, really. A lot of time you don’t get a lot of feedback from audience members except when you see them after a show and they’re like, yes, it’s wonderful!”
According to Bilqis, it’s far less threatening and a lot more accessible than what we were making it out to be.
At the moment, there are not many reviews of the local performing arts scene available online or in print. During an appearance at the Cooler Lumpur Festival earlier in the month, British drama critic Kate Bassett noted the scarcity of performing arts reviews in Malaysia.
We asked Bilqis if there were enough reviews available online for the local scene, and she states that she is aware of The Daily Seni, Poskod and Kakiseni‘s efforts at coming up with reviews, but her aim is on audience members.
Bilqis adds, “I think we need to encourage audience members to think of themselves as people who have critical skills and to engage in the arts that way. A lot of the joy of loving art is talking about it afterwards.”
“You don’t just go see a show and then say, now we go and makan. OK, you do do that, but when you makan, you talk about it and you discuss the strengths, weaknesses, what you thought succeeded and what you felt will stay with you forever.”
“That’s all part of appreciation, and appreciation comes from critical thinking.”
Bilqis hopes that Critics Republic will reach out and help people think critically in order to gain understanding of the arts.
“If you can encourage critical thinking in people and also empower them to think that they’re allowed to think critically and not just have to slavishly follow what authorities say, then I think you’d have more people who would have a deeper interest and understanding of the arts and hopefully some kind of audience development as well,” Bilqis concludes.
This article previously stated that Grey Yeoh and June Tan were involved in the project. This is incorrect, and we hope to clarify that Critics Republic will be solely run by Bilqis Hijjas.