Istana Budaya pays tribute to early Chinese migrants in new production

The cast of Tanah Akhirku' (from left) Nina Nadira, Lim Mei Fen, Erma Fatima and Izzue Islam. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
The cast of Tanah Akhirku' (from left) Nina Nadira, Lim Mei Fen, Erma Fatima and Izzue Islam. — Picture by Azneal Ishak

KUALA LUMPUR, July 13 — In conjunction with next month’s Merdeka celebrations, Istana Budaya takes a closer look at the early arrival of Chinese immigrants in Malaysia in an upcoming theatre production.

Tanah Akhirku is told through the lens of a young woman named Yin Feng who flees mainland China after civil war erupts and arrives in British Malaya with her mother and younger sibling to work as tin miners.

Soon enough, political instability ensues, but Yin Feng finds herself drawn to her new home as love blossoms between her and a nobleman.

A collaborative effort between Gold Ray Sdn Bhd, Istana Budaya and The National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage (Aswara), the upcoming production is directed by Ashraf Zainal and stars Lim Mei Fen, Erma Fatima, Izzue Islam, Nina Nadira, Nave VJ and Angeline Tan.

Tanah Akhirku provides audiences a glimpse of the formation of Malaysia through a different perspective, one that highlights the significant role of migrants in shaping the country’s economy and culture.

“Although it’s a love story between a Chinese woman and a Malay man, it’s a story that all Malaysians can relate to.

“Let’s just say the conclusion of the performance hints at the rakyat’s power to change the destiny of the country,” teased Lim, who plays Yin Feng.

Lim, who is also the producer, confessed at a press conference yesterday that the story was inspired by her own relationship with her country.

“I never felt I belong in this country and wanted to migrate to the US after I studied acting for a semester there,” she said.

She initially staged Tanah Akhirku in January for her final-year project but expanded it with added scenes for the upcoming production. 

The 31-year-old actress, who is in her final year as a theatre major in Aswara, could not speak a word of Bahasa Malaysia despite being Malaysian.

“As the only Chinese student in my course, it was tough but I had to learn to adapt,” she said.

“I had to learn to become Malaysian.”

Acknowledging a divide that many prefer not to discuss, Lim wants to change things through the arts, starting with her own story.

“It sounds clichéd but I want to show the love we have for this land and the multiracial bond that glues us all together,” she said.

After the May 9 general election, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to stage Tanah Akhirku and even penned a letter to Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali to seek her patronage.

“Tun Siti Hasmah responded the day after that she will be attending the performance with her husband, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad,” said Lim.

* Tanah Akhirku will be performed in Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and English with surtitles from August 28 until September 2. Tickets go on sale today at airasiaredtix.com, priced at RM40, RM60, RM110, RM150, RM200 and RM350.

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