Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The Aficionado of the Arts
No, I'm not about to poke fun at the Aficionado of the Arts. Instead, I'd like this chapter included as a special tribute to the smallest - though by no means the least significant - minority group in Malaysia.
Members of this extremely rare subspecies constantly risk being ridiculed by the vulgar each time they take the trouble to attend a book launch or a live performance. They have to suffer the raucous jeers of the hoi polloi who call them rude names like 'culture vulture' and 'arty-farty.' They must undergo the ignominy of being dismissed as 'a boring bunch of elitist snobs' by obscurantist slobs who spend their evenings slouched in front of the TV gawping at Romanian wrestlers.
And that isn't the only price Aficionados of the Arts must pay. They must learn to enjoy, or at least endure, the inevitable small talk around the refreshment table at art exhibitions or during intermissions in theatre lobbies. No easy task, since it is not uncommon - in such an esoteric and incestuous circle - for the same old faces to show up at five different events in the course of a week.
Harder still, they have to applaud with sincere generosity when amateur thespians insist on a third curtain call. As official funding of the arts is all but non-existent (except for the well-connected), the true Aficionado is duty-bound to express a wholesome optimism, to rejoice at every single shred of artistic promise. Who else will accept responsibility for the fostering of authentic culture within these shores? Who else will shoulder the financial burden of aesthetic development?
Certainly not the Ministry of Culture & Tourism* whose officers are perpetually abroad trying to figure out what tourists want. Go fly a Kelantan kite, I say! No self-respecting artist should become a performing monkey for a busload of American Express cardholders.
At least the Aficionado of the Arts is not a tourist - and at this point I'm tempted to append a name list of all certified Aficionados of the Arts in the Klang Valley (it takes only two pages) - but let's not embarrass ourselves more than necessary.
*In 2004 the Ministry of Culture & Tourism was reconfigured as the Ministry of Culture, Arts & Heritage. Tourism had become significant enough a source of revenue to warrant its own ministry.