Monday, 19 January 2009

I Lost It!

I am proud to say I am no longer a KLPAC virgin. I went to the centre's open day yesterday and boy was it festive. There were events, displays, markets, performances, screenings, workshops and activities packed into every space that could be used, about 10 things were happening every minute. The centre was brimming with people: families, art lovers, volunteers and even a few token celebrities. There were also, I noticed, a disproportionately large number of amateur photographers and expats.

Of course, Datuk Faridah Merican and hubby Joe Hasham were there (in fact they were everywhere) and were very down to earth for 2 people who have contributed so much to Malaysian theatre and artistic culture. Highlights for me included a backstage tour of the main stage, Pentas 1, and a talk by K. Azril Ismail, the driving force behind the Iron Dragons of Malaya exhibition at Pentas 2, a photographic showcase of some of the shots he took at the Sentul train workshop right next to KLPAC, which is about to be phased out and closed within a year (the new facility will be in Perak).

The building, as anyone who's been there would know, is set next to a beautiful man-made lake amidst rolling grenery, and the architecture of the centre is respectful of the area's century old past. It was actually used as a saw mill for Keretapi Tanah Melayu, and the green area around it used to a 9 hole golf course owned by KTM. I was told that Pentas 1 is where the clubhouse used to be. In fact KTMB land used to take up huge parts of Sentul and its workshop staff ran up to a thousand people, now only a small number still work there, and much of the land in Sentul is now owned by the YTL group, which is renewing the area but thankfully keeping the greenery intact.

I'm glad that Mr. Azril took the effort (and trust me, it's no small feat) to document not only the adjacent Sentul train workshop visually, but also record the stories of the lives of the workshop's past and present staff, the train families, a story which may have been lost in time if not for him.Of course it would be nice if they were preserved or converted, it would be a shame if such historic buildings had to be demolished. But I am aware of how expensive conservation is, it would take many millions to preserve all the buildings, and much cheaper to just bulldoze. I suppose we just have to make way sometimes, and at least we have the photos to remind us.

On another note, Gaza sees fragile peace after 3 weeks of mayhem and destruction. I am glad that at least civilians are not dying at such a ghastly rate as they did during the offensive. I just hope the truce will last. There is so, so much to do, so much to overcome.


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