DiGi students put on first ever Kristang musical
'Wedding on the Beach' marks end of The Kristang Poet of Melaka project
Melaka, 24 November 2007 - The Portuguese Settlement resounded with the kind of song and dance that used to be commonplace among this musical community not so long ago. For the first time ever, children of Melaka put on a Kristang musical, Kazamintu la Praiya (Wedding on the Beach), for the entire Portuguese community here to enjoy.
The 60 children involved in the musical - based on a traditional Kristang wedding - were all participants of a DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd cultural project, called The Kristang Poet of Melaka. Led by retired schoolteacher Joan Marbeck, this project aimed at reviving interest in the language and culture of the Portuguese, who settled in Melaka in the 16 th century.
"The language and culture of the Portuguese in Melaka have evolved over 500 years, and are now quite distinct from what you will find in Portugal," said Kjersti Wiklund, DiGi's Chief Technology Officer, who led the Technology team in charge of this DiGi's Amazing Malaysians project. "In fact, it cannot be found anywhere in the world. It is unique, which is why we felt it was so important to preserve this culture."
Launched on 7 July, The Kristang Poet of Melaka has seen the participating primary and secondary schoolchildren gather almost every weekend at the SMK Canossa Convent in the Portuguese Settlement, learning music, dance and language. In addition, they also practised for the musical, which Marbeck had written specially for this project.
"I chose a wedding theme because it is something that all Malaysians can relate to. A traditional Kristang marriage is match-made, like it is traditionally for the Malays, Chinese and Indians. But some of the customs are particular to the Kristang, and I thought it would be interesting to reenact some of these," Marbeck said.
Although a teacher by profession, Marbeck has always had a passion for the theatre. She has done drama at the Hitchen Priory, Hertfordshire, London; and co-founded The Malacca Theatre Group in 1984, directing the company's first stage production, Love's a Luxury. She is also passionate about Kristang. She has written two books on Kristang, plus also a monodrama in the language. Through this project, she has been able to couple her passion for theatre with her passion for Kristang culture, and share these with the youths of Melaka.
The children in the project come from three schools in Melaka - SMK Canossa Convent, SMK Bukit Baru and SMK Infant Jesus Convent. Although some of them are not Kristang, they have still enjoyed the experience of learning about the culture, and how to speak the language. Some of them said that they have Portuguese friends and loved the fact they were being given the opportunity to learn more about their friends' culture.
"There was a time when even Chinese shopkeepers in Melaka could speak Kristang. That's how popular it was, how commonly spoken," said Marbeck, recalling incidents from her childhood. "My hope is that children show an interest in the language and start speaking it at home again, the way they used to."
That is DiGi's hope too. "Showcasing the unique Kristang heritage is an important step in bringing much-needed attention to this 'dying' culture, and with the children's help, we can instill a sense of pride and ownership in the community to continue preserving it for generations to come," explained Wiklund.
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About DiGi's Amazing Malaysians
DiGi's Amazing Malaysians is a corporate responsibility (CR) programme, launched in January 2005, which identifies passionate individuals who, quietly but with dedication, work towards preserving Malaysia's natural, social, art, cultural or built heritage. DiGi provides resources for these ordinary people doing extraordinary things to share their knowledge and skills with groups of 50-100 children or youth. Most of the projects are centred in rural locations, and the children involved come from the surrounding areas. This way, DiGi is able both to support commendable heritage work, and to introduce children to the rich tapestry of culture and tradition that makes up Malaysia's unique heritage.
For more info, go to www.digi.com.my/aboutdigi/community/amazing.jsp
Corporate Communications Department
DiGi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd