About the Show
The BAWAKALI: An Atypical Journey is an experimental production by Lee Swee Keong and a group of artists and performers from Penang and Kuala Lumpur. The production invites participants to examine the relationship between meditation, creativity and knowledge exchange framed by the notion of mindfulness. Here, Swee Keong and the artists will lead a process of conversations and interactions between participants to facilitate the exchange and development of ideas and suggestions. These are expressed with actions like retreating, watching, listening and paying attention - strategic tools to enhance creativity. The production proposes to blur the separation between performance and non-performance, encouraging participants to nurture a more profound and sustainable use of body and mind for creative outcomes.
The Theatre of Mindfulness is devised and produced by the 'BAKAWALI artists' exchange', an initiative curated by Lee Swee Keong which brings artists from various disciplines together to explore meditation techniques in performance and art-making.
Kuala Lumpur and Penang are two cities where most Malaysian arts activities occur, yet collaborative opportunities are limited. BAKAWALI was formed to bridge the gap by creating spaces for exchange and promoting sustainable artistic and creative partnerships among some of the most promising arts practitioners across both cities. At a recent production, Lee Swee Keong, the artistic director, conducted ‘The Speaking Body’, a workshop where actors came together to share their experiences and learn techniques to integrate performance and the body.
Lee Swee Keong (Artistic Director, Curator and Performer, Kuala Lumpur)
Swee Keong is a name deeply etched in the Malaysian performing arts scene, having an artistic career spanning over thirty years in the industry. He is an artistic director, curator, performer and the founder of Nyoba Kan, Malaysia’s premier Butoh dance group combining various techniques and disciplines with Butoh philosophy. Based in KL, Swee Keong has performed across the globe, with his art progressing from contemporary dance, ballet, theatre and a diverse range of traditional martial arts and forms of physical training, including Qigong, Taichi and Butoh.
Tan Eng Heng (Producer, Lighting Designer, Kuala Lumpur)
One of Malaysia’s most renowned lighting designer, Tan Eng Heng is no stranger to the Malaysian performing arts scene. The highly-awarded producer and lighting designer is an avid supporter of community theatre, grounded in developing and promoting community-based theatre across different states and townships, building on forms of theatre-making for different communities in Malaysia. Grounded in widening accessibility to the arts, he hopes that people in these communities can also enjoy and be inspired by the beauty of the performing arts.
Alongside his lighting design profession, Eng Heng has also worked as a drama lecturer, consultant and theatre manager. He is the recipient of numerous accolades, including the Most Outstanding Production Professional Award in the Ada Awards (2000) and several BOH Cameronian Arts Awards, including its 2023 iteration. His extensive involvement in theatrical productions have brought him to Singapore, Philippines, Macau, Taiwan, Korea, China, India, Qatar (The Doha Games), Australia, Canada and South Africa.
Chin Wai Kong (Writer, Penang)
A pillar of the Penang arts scene, Chin Wai Kong is a veteran theatre practitioner, theatre manager, drama tutor and writer. He is also the founder of The Razors Experimental Theatre which promotes alternative and original theatre performances, and Soundmaker Studio, an independent music base in Penang. Wai Kong has been teaching children’s theatre since 2002 and has taught classes in Penang Island, Butterworth, Bukit Mertajam and Sungai Petani. He has produced more than 100 children's sketch performances and more than 50 large and small-scale drama camps. He is now active in theatre as an avid supporter and writes thought-provoking articles.
Mei Chee Siong (Architect, Penang)
Mei Chee Siong is an architect and the co-founder of aLM Architects, an award-winning architectural firm based in Penang. His practice and perspectives are grounded in the knowledge that life is a constantly changing journey with no visible or tangible final outcome. He refuses to remain in a comfort zone and is continuously exploring ways to experience life in all its fullness. Mei’s approach to life is to “keep going” as a way to engage with the now.
Lai Thiem Wah (Journalist, Penang)
Lai Thiem Wah is an award-wining journalist and the recipient of over 80 news awards both in Malaysia and abroad such as the Overseas Chinese Media Report Award and the Chinese Writing Award. In Malaysia, he has won the Best Tourism Report and the Best Education Report for 5 consecutive years and the Best Financial Report and Industry Report for 4 consecutive years.
Koh Eng Keat (Paper effigies Craftsman & guitarist, Penang)
For his day-job, Koh Eng Keat runs the 358 Custom Effigies workshop in Maccallum together with his father, Koh Ah Ba. Both are traditional paper effigies craftsmen and act as custodians of the intangible cultural heritage in Penang. Part of his role entails being a mortician, handling funeral rites and making paper effigies for ritual funeral burning.
Endorsed by Centent Cymbals, Eng Keat is also the drummer for several underground bands in Penang and is the guitarist for the post-rock/space-doom band ‘Coma’.
Chow Xin Tong (Massage Therapist, Penang)
Xin Tong is a medicine woman who connects with people through healing touch and massage therapy. She grows her own herbs, makes her own medicine and combines Thai and Chinese traditions to her practice, both of which are closely related to herbalism. She first learned ethnobotany in Australia and lived with aboriginal tribes to reconnect with Mother Earth. She then returned to Kedah, Malaysia, where she worked on her family’s land to grow organic herbs. Xin Tong is also the founder of ‘Sama Sama Wellness’, created as a space to encourage collective healing.
Ahmad Syadzwan bin Nasruddin
Syadzwan is a passionate individual who has embarked on a remarkable journey of self-discovery and personal growth. Diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome in his late 20s, he sees the world through a unique lens, finding his place beyond the structured society back in his hometown city. Guided by an unwavering connection with nature, he embraced his enthusiasm and joined a local NGO dedicated to practising conservation and preservation. It was within the close-knit community that he discovered profound wisdom and invaluable life lessons. Today, he pursues his passion as a carpenter, where he has found the perfect outlet for his creativity and a deep sense of fulfilment in his work.