Monday night, the Malaysian Student Association hosted Malaysian Culture Night, during which MSA members showcased various aspects of their heritage through a stage performance featuring traditional Malaysian songs and dances.
The performance took place in the Lydia Mendelssohn Theater in front of approximately 500 people, featuring a play that focused on dreams and their significance in the Malaysian community.
LSA sophomore Zaryff Razali, who directed the play, said perceptions surrounding his concentration in history at the University of Michigan was the motivation for the show’s theme.
“I’m a history major, and in Malaysia, that’s something that people often look down upon. I wanted to show people, especially Malaysians, that there was a part of our history that we were ignoring,” he said. “A lot of it was my own historical introspection. I’m looking at all these facts that I just found out and how much I want to show it to everyone else as well.”
The play, written by students, focused on what happens when traditional values and modern society clash through the perspective of a typical Malaysian family. Event organizers said it aimed to highlight how characters’ thoughts, aspirations and goals in life are shaped by circumstances around them, using dream scenes as contrasting elements throughout the performance.
Dances performed during the event included the Lion Dance, which symbolizes the arrival of good fortune and the expulsion of darker forces and spirits. Another dance, The Bamboo “Buluh” Dance, is traditionally used to celebrate success in battle, but currently performed during festivities. It was adapted for the play to symbolize conflict and struggle.
LSA senior Muhammad Farqani Mohd Noor, who acted as an emcee for the event and performed in one of the dances during the play, said after the event that MSA plays an important part in his life.
“While we’re studying abroad, we’re also ambassadors of our country in a way, and in that sense we’re trying to showcase our culture,” he said. “I think this event helps to make sure that I’m not detached from my Malaysian society, and I’m not forgetting my culture and my roots. It makes U of M feel like home, and I have a Malaysian family that I can rely on.”
LSA senior Yu Jun Soh, who also danced in the performance, said she thought the show has a positive impact on the Malaysian students on campus.
“We’re showing Malaysian culture, and showing the campus what our community is about,” Soh said. “I think that’s really important because we do have a significant Malaysian community, so this is the one time we can really share our culture and share our background with everyone on campus.”
The event also featured a mini-banquet with various Malaysian foods, including Mee Goreng, a spicy fried noodle dish, and Kuih Bingka, mini tapioca cakes. Organizers also prepared Milo Ais, an iced chocolate and malt powder drink.
LSA sophomore Mariam Hjaige said she attended the show to gain insight on a new culture and learn more about what diversity means on campus.
“There are a lot of culture shows that happen on campus, and I try to go to as many as I can,” she said. “We live on such a diverse campus that I feel like it would be wrong if I didn’t go to these events because I have this opportunity to learn about these different cultures.”
MSA president Ili Anuar, an LSA junior, said she hoped the event inspired other students to learn more about Malaysian heritage and history.
“We’ve been thinking about opening up more — we’ve never promoted our organization in Festifall or anything, so we feel like it’s really important to put ourselves out there and make it easier for Malaysians to find us,” she said. “I think the Malaysian Culture Night is really important because it helps us bond, and it helps promote our culture to the community.”