Co-published by Kakiseni and MPH Publishing, the Hikayat series of books captures the allure and magic of wayang kulit, teater bangsawan and mak yong, and weaves them into children’s stories in an attempt to kindle interest in traditional Malaysian performing arts among young readers and their parents.
These books were borne out of a promise made by Kakiseni in 2016. In that year, we celebrated the 13th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards by paying tribute to the traditional performing arts and treating the audience at the Gala Night with spectacular performances of wayang kulit, teater bangsawan and mak yong. We also said that we would begin looking into ways to bring these art forms to a wider audience and getting a new generation to participate in keeping these forms of art alive.
With advice and guidance from traditional arts practitioners, Kakiseni worked with local authors and illustrators on the Hikayat series as a way to introduce traditional performing arts to children through stories that would appeal to their sense of wonder and curiosity.
A romp through a wayang kulit world
The first Hikayat book, Shadows, was written by Maya Zaharudin, an up-and-coming writer, and illustrated by Shufitri Shukardi, a professional graphic designer from The Daily Seni, and was inspired by the art of Wayang Kulit Kelantan, a particular strain of wayang kulit found on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
In Shadows, we follow young Adam on a journey through a mysterious land of light and shadow where he encounters a prince with a predicament and two monstrous brothers. To help the prince and outsmart the brothers, Adam uses nothing but his wits and courage, learning something about himself in the process.
Big thank to the Tok Dalangs
To add authenticity to the wayang kulit elements, the creators of Shadows worked closely with Kamarul Baisah Hussin, one of a handful of Tok Dalangs still practicing in Malaysia today. Thanks to his expertise, we now know that the practice of wayang kulit varies from region to region, from subtle differences in puppet design to the musical instruments that accompany the performance.
It is also worth mentioning that Kamarul Baihaqi, Kamarul Baisah Hussin’s five year-old son, is following in his father’s footsteps to become a Tok Dalang in his own right and has even performed in public at the 13th BOH Cameronian Arts Awards. Looking forward, we hope to continue to work with these amazing individuals in bringing wayang kulit to schools so students can participate so that they, like Kamarul Baihaqi, will be able to relate to wayang kulit as more than just as art form to be admired, but a living part of their history.
Get your copy of Shadows at any leading bookstore or at www.mphonline.com.my. Shadows retails at RM19.90.
Stay tuned for the release of Stages, the second book of the Hikayat series, in which we explore the grandeur of teater bangsawan!
Be a part of Hikayat!
If you’re a keen parent, you can help by demanding for more traditional arts performances at schools or organising appreciation classes with teachers. Encourage your children to use elements of traditional performing arts in their own creative project and never stop the conversation about the importance of our traditional arts in Malaysian culture!
At Kakiseni, we’re always looking for support from interested organisations in promoting traditional performing arts or even just getting more Hikayat books to eager young readers. If you’d like to help, drop us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.