A celebration of music, dance, art, craft, Chinese languages and Chinese cuisine of different dialects was the highlight of the Lunar Festival, which I first participated in 2014. This time the highlight for me was the truly amazing cuisine of every dialect prepared that left me in awe and fascination of which the proceeds would all go to charity.
In 2014, it was the array of artistes that participated in the event, which made it very much an arts festival in the streets of authenticity, and literally art moving coming alive bringing an artistic richness and robust spirit each unique from Butoh to Dance, Chinese Opera to Jazz, Chinese drums to performance art, music orchestra to contemporary dance.
It was truly a feast of which artistes came together for a festival unlike any other and definitely unlike any other commercial, music blasting street performance with rowdy crowds. Yes we had crowds but not in the manner of party alcohol and bikini sort. The generous and big hearts of every being that came and was apart of this festival will never be forgotten.
Unlike 2014, which was a street festival, this one was more of a stage performance set up in the street.
A heritage and cultural area and every part of the local and tourists life of Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Street houses many heritage buildings and architectural references plus art & craft not forgetting cuisine all under one roof with the garish shopping area of migrants that once used to be Chinese sellers haggling all part of the fun.
People have differing opinions including me in the past of distaste when one mentions Petaling Street, but once I visited the Art House of Petaling Street created, owned and painstakingly cultivated by Chong Keat Aun, which is no longer, you will change your mind.
You will start exploring the inner depths beyond the shopping and cheap goods you get and really start to see the heritage side of many old unique shops including photography shops in what could be a an old quaint movie set in old China or Shanghai inspiring black and white or maybe even sepia toned films and women in qipao and cheongsams with jazz music playing in the background and old movies start to linger in your mind of the old days.
Old furniture design from wooden chairs to tables of ‘kopitiams’ and chinaware but most importantly the people that still practice how food and Hainanese coffee are made, prepared and served are still very much alive in this area. I hope.
Old marbles one used to collect and play as a child with the coloured centers in crystal glass, Chinese calendars, historical photographs, vinyl’s, records, even the tiles are the kind you remember seeing in your grandmother’s house and in old movies. Photographers miss out big time for not thinking to ever photograph in such a rich area that is just sparking currents of imagination and triggering so much visually is truly a missed opportunity for great photography if you explore deeper and look beyond the shopping area facade.
But Chong Keat Aun, with his artistic flair and brilliant love for history and preservation of art and languages created a festival like none other.
You can get most about everything here and the sprouting of cafes and speakeasy bars in heritage buildings and shop lots has really become such a thriving business for those that see the value of converting history and creating something beautiful instead of demolishing for the ‘voiceless’ sterile one look fits all buildings you see in modern cities not being to tell apart an identity of the country has done a good job. People throng to Petaling Street now thanks to the buzz of the festival to these hipster, chic and cool cafes though some modernization has taken over for easier transportation but many first buildings are here, the Post Office, the old Cultural Center, the Chinese Assembly Hall, the Church, the Sports Center, Mariammam Temple, art supply shop and many more. You can even see how Kuih Kapit is made the original way over charcoal with the metal engraved patterned utensil like how my grandfather used to make them. One of the biggest fresh flower shops is also here.
We lift our cups in memory of a thrilling artistic street festival amidst the people, cars, roads and all the array of old and new right in the streets of Chong Keat Aun that created this dream of his which was quite a feat!