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Rumah Fest – Celebrating diversity from food to sewing, spoken word, music, rapping, and comedy as emerging artists take talent online…

Rumah Fest – Celebrating diversity from food to sewing, spoken word, music, rapping, and comedy as emerging artists take talent online…

New collaborations, scratch works and cultural commentary reflect London’s creative scene for one special night as the creative producer tells us…

Nur Khairiyah

IT’S AN ECLECTIC festival that aims to reflect the creativity and energy of many of the capital’s Asian creative disapora communities and has moved online for tomorrow (September 26) evening.
The Rumah Festival (means home in Malay) is backed by a number of organisations, including Arts Council England (ACE) and supported digitally by London venue Rich Mix. The two and a half hour evening will be a platform for emerging artists in spoken word, comedy, music, rapping, food culture and even embroidery…
It’s free but you can donate to the #SaveOurVenues fund of which Rich Mix is a part.
Among those you can see tomorrow are Nicole Chui (ThatSewNicole); Camilla Anvar and Zelda Solomon as in ‘Sexy Asians are Around Ur Area’; author Barton Williams and Singapore-Malay theatremaker Mohamad Faizal Abdullah, talking about the world’s largest adoption programme, started in 1975 in Vietnam, as part of the scratch, ‘Precious Cargo’; new collaborations between Filipino poet Troy Cabida and Malaysian spoken word artist Nazreen Mohamad and guitarist Nush of Sri Lankan origin.
Among the others appearing are the ComediAsians (Yiannis Cove; Kelsey Vuhara; Bruce Tang and Tulasi Das), rappers Adeeb ‘Yung Sultan’ Razak and Cuong Pham together with DJ Arya Rinaldo, a resident DJ at Aaja in Deptford and Yuldosh Juraboev, who explores the world of performing arts from Central Asia.
We spoke to Rumah founder, Singapore origin Nur Khairiyah, who was the associate producer for Moongate Productions’ summer ‘WeRNotVirus’ – and asked her what made her want to take this online after initially planning it as a physical festival night bringing different communities and people together… (ACV): How difficult has it been to move this online?
Nur Khairiyah (NK): Really difficult. Honestly, there is so much anxiety because you can’t meet, and the only way to communicate and collaborate is via phone call, whatsapp, and zoom. Physically, you’re not tired, but you need a whole lot of mental strength.
There is a certain expectation for this festival, like it’s all in my head. And the fact that there are no physical rehearsals that I can observe or sit through, gives me a whole lot of anxiety.
Also, it’s not theatre (in the traditional sense). It’s a piece of art, reimagined for a digital audience.
So, it needs to visually engage the audience. It’s something I am still learning about during this pandemic.

One of the acts: ‘Sexy Asians Are Around Ur Area’

ACV: How did you go about curating?
NK: I wanted to work with artists whom i have admired from afar, those I have known through their work on social media.
I took the time to ‘stalk’ during lockdown. Stalk is such a strong word – inspire sounds better. I reflected, and I wanted to be inspired and work with new people. Especially artists from the other Asian Diasporas, like myself.

ACV: What has been the concept behind Rumah in choosing the artists you have?
NK: I have always toyed with the idea of ‘Main-Main’ (which means ‘playing’ in Malay) and ‘Kelab Malam’ (which means nightclub in Malay) as part of a programme for Rumah. The word ‘Main Main’ reminds me so much about how artists rush to present their work.
It’s like you put on your work in progress and get development and monetary support to kick start the idea.
Kelab Malam (Night club) is all about first time collaborations and exploration.
It’s the fun part where I put artists together and kind of force them to work together.

The ComediAsians

ACV: How did you start Rumah?
NK: It was inspired by a survey I conducted previously for Asian artists based in London. As part of the survey, I intended an open-ended question – “What can be done to help Asian artists who are working in London?” There were recurring responses such as development opportunities, networking, finding new audiences, financial support and creating a more inclusive Festival. It’s very special and urgent project for me. I am doing everything on my own – from designing to marketing to editing the material.

ACV: What sort of support has enabled you to continue the festival online?
NK: In March (this year), Rich Mix and Ignite Fund were the main support (for a physical edition).
I had friends and strangers who donated to my crowdfunding too – but when the pandemic happened and I had to postpone the festival, I took the time to really look at what i could do better and really articulate what this festival means to me and what it aims to do.
I am very grateful for support from ACE Project Grant, because now I can remunerate my artists properly. The Society for Theatre Research Covid-19 support grant has helped me to acquired design, captions and video editing apps to help promote it. And the Metroland Cultures Fund, supported me while I focused on curating the festival and didn’t need to worry about everyday bills. I am very, very grateful for the support.

Main picture collage (clockwise): Troy Cabida, Nur Khairiyah, Camilla Anvar and Zelda Solomon, Nush and Nasreen Mohamad


Saturday, September (Youtube) 26 6pm-8.30pm (BST)

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture