St Paul’s Hill is certainly one of the most well-known landmarks in Melaka. It is home to St Paul’s Church, the oldest church building in South-East Asia. Later this month, culture lovers and tourists will have even more reason to visit St Paul’s Hill as it returns to host the Melaka Art and Performance Festival (MAPFest).
The three-day MAPFest, starts on Nov 24. St Paul’s Church will host the bulk of the festival’s activities, while the other supporting venues include the fort of Porta De Santiago (A Famosa), Dataran Cendol, Baboon House, 8 Heeren Street and Wayfarer House.
“The festival’s theme is art for everyone. It’s a free festival to engage the masses,” says Suen Kar Nee, MAPFest manager.
The proximity of the venues also makes it a very walkable festival, with MAPFest also holding morning yoga classics and workshops daily before the festival performances begin at noon.
The ninth edition of MAPFest will involve 45 theatre practitioners, dancers and artistes from places like Australia, Russia, Indonesia, United States, Japan, Spain, Malaysia, Netherlands, Belgium and El Salvador.
“This festival has grown tremendously, and we now get a daily crowd of over 10,000 across all our sites. Everything adds up because we have several venues involved and multiple programmes going on,” says Andrew Ching, MAPFest producer.
This year, one of the festival’s highlights is the Mapping programme, which features improvised site-specific performances (dance and multi-media presentations) on St Paul’s Hill.
The bebop-inspired Parameswara Boogie, by American group Peter B. High and The Infest Circus Train, is all about jazzing up a local legend on Nov 25, while Indonesia’s Breathing Forest Dance Theatre will present Songkrek 2 on Nov 25, a dance performance inspired by scarecrows and informed by today’s environmental issues. Elsewhere, Malaysian duo Kien Faye and Sim Theng Kiat are set to engage the masses with Coffee Settlement on Nov 24, a dance work stained by memories and the past. The list of performers is a diverse one.
“This year, a space will be reserved for special performances for the day,” says Ching.
Ching admits that the St Paul’s Church venue has been a big attraction during the festival and there is a need for crowd control.
“It’s a Unesco World Heritage site. That makes it special. We also need to take care of it and not overcrowd the area. At present, especially during the evening sessions, we have to cap the crowd to 400 people,” he adds.
A large-scale performance titled Eulogy For The Living, featuring all the festival artistes in collaboration, will close the festival on Nov 26.
“Eulogy For The Living is a kind of devotional work for making our way in the world and internal journey into the memory of body and soul.” says Tony Yap, who will direct Eulogy For The Living.
For a dash of spontaneity, the Cerita Pendik sessions, a programme collecting short works under 10 minutes, will be a casual crowd-friendly segment of the fest. It will be performed by various artistes in the evening at the top of St Paul’s Hill.
MAPFest will take place at St Paul’s Hill in Melaka on Nov 24-26 from 10am to 10pm. For more information and the full programme, visit www.melakafestival.com. Free admission for all events.