How to Celebrate Merdeka by Fahmi Fadzil

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FAHMI FADZIL is no stranger to the Malaysian arts, activism and civil society scene. Besides being a prolific writer and performer, he’s the host of The Fairly Current Show on PopTeeVee and the principal coordinator of the Project Wayang experimentation group, amongst others. He’s also an award-winning talent, having taken home the Boh Cameronian Arts Award for Most Promising Artist in 2006. A cerebral being with always something interesting to say, JUICE gets this dynamic denizen to help us celebrate Merdeka Day the right way. Here’s what he suggests…


Every year, the government tries to find new ways to celebrate Merdeka, that annual occasion when we’re made to remember Malaya’s independence from Great Britain. And every year, we find it harder and harder to remember that, technically, only Malaya (ie. Peninsular Malaysia) celebrates “Merdeka Day”-Sabah and Sarawak really only joined in 1963, ingat? And so, technically, we should be putting more importance on Malaysia Day, no? In the spirit of ke-seMalaysia-an (I made that up) and in no particular order, here are some suggestions on how JUICE readers can celebrate 31 August:

– Buy some damn good food from a Pasar Ramadan (since it will be fasting month, kan?), get some friends together and eat dinner beramai-ramai! What better way to remember and appreciate the idea of independence than with your friends. Muslims will remember that the long day’s fast is a reminder to be occasionally independent of one’s desires too. Plus points for remembering to ajak your Sabah and Sarawakian friends.

– Send a “Merdeka-kan Sabah Dari Coal Plant!” postcard to the PM. Not sure if you’ve heard but last I checked, they were planning to build a damn big 300MW coal plant on the eastern-most tip of Sabah, barely some 20km from where the Tabin Wildlife Reserve is located. At stake is the future of the marine and wildlife in that area as well as increased pollution and rising sea temperatures-according to documents seen by reporters at online news site The Malaysian Insider. Tak payah lah!

– Flashmobs are passe, or are they? If you think there’s still life for viral get-togethers after that Oprah-Black Eyed Peas mashup, maybe this Hari Merdeka, you can bundle a group of friends together, tweet a location and time, and simultaneously appear to do some flag-waving to the tune of Sudirman Hj Arshad’s ‘Tanggal 31’. Super plus points for decking out in an awesome Bendera Malaysia costume, head to toe!

– Hold an alternative Merdeka Day Parade. Or better still, an alternative Merdeka Day Hari Sukan! Is this possible?? Sure! There’s a small community in Selayang led by one Sister Bertha that’s been celebrating Malaya’s independence with its own independent shindig, often involving the entire flat-living community in some Hari Sukan action, siap dengan theatre and dance performances lagi. You don’t need a lot of money, but this sure shows you’ve got a lot of love-not just for this country, but for your community.

– Make your own Merdeka video! We’re all familiar with them sappy Petronas ads (with due respect to the late Kak Yasmin, al-fatihah), but maybe it’s time to outsource the work. I mean, how much money does Petronas have left pun? And don’t get me started on Felda… Aaaanyway, with just a handphone camera and some basic video editing software, you could show the nation some love with your own homemade depictions recalling how our country was first “born”. Then upload it to YouTube, let it spread like hawt butter and next thing you know, Petronas calls you to direct their next video! At which point you can say, “Terima kasih, Petronas, tapi gunalah duit itu untuk pertingkatkan taraf hidup rakyat Malaysia.” Skema gila, but che-wah.

– Better than making your own Merdeka video, make a crowd-sourced one! Think of a theme, get a whole bunch of friends together, decide how you can pull it off in the cheapest way possible and DO IT! This kind of makes more sense, and it really reminds me of Liew Seng Tat’s fantastic Projek Angkat Rumah that happened recently at Urbanscapes 2010. I think crowds are fun, and getting crowds to make a piece of work together is a helluva lot of fun. Getting crowds who are having a lot of fun on the streets to run away from the FRU, though, opens up a whole new canister of gas. Umm, yeah, on to the next point.

(Source: SillyJellie, DeviantArt)

– Since I’m nearly all out of ideas, my last suggestion is more of a cop-out: let’s make some kind of FB note, or tweet hashtag like #merdekaideas so that more ideas can come together. And so that more Malaysians can make Merdeka meaningful for themselves instead of being told to what to think by whoever thinks they’re running (or about to run) the country.

Which brings me to my final point: that Merdeka was the start for us; the birth of Malaysia in 1963 was the next step. Today, after some 47 years of being a nation and going through innumerable troubles together, how shall we re-imagine our independence? What shall we be independent from today? How can these 13 independent, federated states that make up Malaysia be a better place for us all?

Any ideas? The country’s listening.

Get to know Fahmi Fadzil’s inner workings at Take a stroll down Malaysian pop culture’s memory lane here.

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