Email Interview with Helen Musa March 23-24, 2011
Let's start slowly.
Ta'a was first created in my final year at UNC-G (a small
town University in North Carolina, ) with a Japanese duet partner name Keichi. Greensboro
Then upon returning to KL, I reworked Ta'a with partner Abu Bakar Sulaiman in 1995 for - When We Dance at Actor's Studio.
I think the piece quite simple - my comment on the word “ta'at” especially referring to a Muslim woman's obedience and obligation to her husband and her demanded duties.
I am just questioning the notions of obedience - the whole notion of ta’at az zawj - the requirements of husband's permission to be asked before a woman can make her own decision - the husband's house to which the woman belongs and MUST return to in case of unlawful desertion.
I created Zik'r (1996) basically a reaction to a radio talk show (a counselling session or question and answer session with a man host - not sure pak haji or imam) that I was listening in a very crowded bus that I was taking from PJ to Pudu.
It was a women seeking advice regarding her husband who has decided to have a second wife. And how she was advised to be patient and accept her husband's decision - as that is the “rightful” way to behave and is the duty of the first wife to receive the new wife accordingly. I was very much shocked - to be listening to such discussion - on radio - that everyone on the bus could hear (passenger were mostly Malays - while men smiling and agreeing to what they were hearing)
Which led me on to reflect on the Surah Al Nisa - on women. I was determine that I wasn't going to accept nor abide to such laws regarding this issue, and was taught by my parents at an early age to always question the Quran and not follow blindly. But yet most often feeling guilty for my "rebellious" ways. Zik'r came out from the struggle and dissatisfaction I was experiencing on Islam’s view of women and the fear that I was losing my faith.
And then followed by Berkumandangnya Qasidah in 1998. Just working on the dua [prayer] kalimah syahadat... and what it really means to me.
Email Interview March 23, 2011, continues:
You have explained the ideas behind Ta’a very well, but what was the reaction, both in the press and from audiences? And were the people who saw it mostly men or women? And how did you get your ideas across in movement? It wasn't a story, wasn't it? More a series of situations, movements and reactions?
With Berkumandangnya Qasidah, could you give me your own translation of that? Which aspect of the Kalimah syahadat most caught your attention and how did you deal with that in dance.
Email interview Mar 24, 2011, Aida Redza responds:
We performed Ta'a in 95 at the Dataran Merdeka Actor's Studio, the audiences were people from theater/dance background and a balanced mix of men and women.. The piece was easily accepted and assessable. It was not a story based choreography - thought each section of choreography traces out a “time” scape like scene 1, scene 2 ..Encompassing the larger timeframe of the woman's daily life with her husband. The choreography by itself was narrative -for example I trace out a journey through dream and mobile state, to action drive that involved indulging and fighting effort, and transforming to passion drive, and back to remote state. So that people are able to flow in and out easily from one state to the other of the woman’s effort and struggle.
We had different types of reaction and request depending on where we performed the piece. When we were asked to perform ta'a at ASK (now ASWARA) for the staff and VIP from the Ministry of Culture - I was asked to wear decent under my sarung and requested to adjust the choreography to suit the situation. But I did not bother. They never asked to showcase the piece again.
When performed at the International Women’s Day celebration at KLCC in 99 for the public and The Permaisuri Agung, I was told later that the piece was obscene and disrespectful of the Permaisuri. She stayed on till the 2nd piece after Ta'a and left before the concert was over.
Berkumandangnya Qasidah - an echo of a chant
It was not so much about the different take/aspect of the kalimah that I was exploring. But more about me questioning or rather provoking the “iman” [faith] I should have when reciting the kalimah, if you can say it in that way. in the dance - I represented a character searching herself - one who prays by tongue but does not truly believe in heart - is kufr,... is she that?
And if she was, what then - does she not have heaven to attain where all answers to life and death are answered. Will she not know, will the gates and doors of heaven close on her. Will she be lost without the Kalimah.
“I believe in Allah, his Angels, his Books, his Messengers, on the Day of Judgment, and that goodness and non good things of destiny are all from Allah, and I also believe in being raised from the dead by Allah”.
And so out of fear - this kalimah she recite,... and the echo she creates,... hoping that it will lead her towards the right path.
Email Interview continued March 24, 2011
I don't wear a tudung (hijab). And I try , temporarily now to stay away from being too controversial in my performance and choreography due to my daughter's custody case, and battle with ex in Syariah.
But I hope to get back into action again. Ya, we are lucky here that tudung wearing is not so prevalent in
Penang. Only in government office and organizations, and local university environment. And I stay away from those places - unless if there is a need to be in contact.
My mum was born in Sumatra but raised - in modern city
. Dad was never conventional. We never practised wearing the tudung. Just selendang [long scarf] during occasions where it is required, and of course in masjids, syariah court and cemeteries. Singapore