National Day: A Malaysian Milestone

Happy Hari Merdeka! The 31st of August is a hugely important day in the Malaysian calendar.

For anyone in Malaysia this week, Hari Merdeka is a day to remember. A national public holiday, Hari Merdeka (or National Day) marks the Federation of Malaya gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1957. It’s also important to remember that Malaya and the federation of Malaysia are two separate entities, with the latter’s creation being celebrated in September.

Despite focussing more on Malaya that Malaysia, Hari Merdeka is a holiday enthusiastically observed across the country. It’s accompanied by nationwide celebrations, cultural displays, fireworks, an annual parade, and the Malaysian flag displayed far and wide. But what’s perhaps more relevant to our project is that each festival has an overall theme coordinating it, with this year’s theme ‘Single Minded Malaysia.’  What does this mean? What meanings can, or should, we read into a theme as broad as this one?

Hari Merdeka is undoubtedly popular as a day of celebration. But in a country with a legacy of tension, be it racial, religious or political, it’s interesting to consider what part Hari Merdeka has to play in modern Malaysia. Still, broadly speaking we can draw parallels between the holiday and the motivations underpinning Zakii’s work.  Through Zakii’s art, we see many different cultures and beliefs explored, and treated not with fear or suspicion, but with openness and an eagerness to learn. And while Zakii and Hari Merdeka are exploring different cultures, or reacting to them in different ways, the principle of celebration is the same.

Where incidents like the Low Yat Plaza riot are an example of needless anger and destruction, Zakii’s art and Hari Merdeka- at least in theory- are the opposite, an example of unity and celebrating different cultures rather than alienating them. But where else might Zakii’s quest for knowledge take him? That’s something we can’t wait to share with you upon the film’s release, especially as we can identify intriguing difference between the paths Zakii and Hari Merdeka each take.

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#malaysia #nationalday #harimerdeka




Tom GibsonNational Day: A Malaysian Milestone

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