This is the final segment of a two-part feature on the National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage Academy (Aswara).
KUALA LUMPUR, June 11 (Bernama) -- The National Academy of Arts, Culture and Heritage which is also known as Aswara, is the country's only public institution of higher learning with university status that offers formal training in performing arts.
Aswara comes under the auspices of the Information Communication and Culture Ministry. Formerly known as the National Arts Academy, the institution offers three-year degree or diploma programmes and has six faculties - Theatre, Dance, Fine Arts, Film & Video, Music and Writing at its campus in Jalan Tun Ismail here.
Its population of students now stands at 1,806.
Aswara Rector Datuk Dr Mohamed Najib Ahmad Dawa said the institution plans to set up the Animation Centre which in turn would be a centre of excellence.
"We will turn the Animation Centre into a centre of excellence. With the infusion of state-of-the-art technology, Aswara will ensure that this technology to give the maximum benefit to the students.
"Therefore we will introduce a compulsory course for all students in the creative and animation industry," he said.
The agenda is to transform Aswara into a 'boutique' university. This is the 'niche' that Aswara is looking for since its inception in 2006, one year after the Cabinet had given the nod to turn the National Arts Academy (ASK) into university status.
Dr Mohamed Najib voiced this aspiration at his maiden meeting with Aswara's academic staff after his appointment as Rector last January.
This transformation is based on Aswara's capability of creating a difference in offering quality programmes.
The Rector said this also encourages the creation of the niche required by the industry in line with the paradigm shift that is occuring locally and abroad.
He also mentioned the three elements that move in tandem with this shift, which are innovation, leadership and entrepreneurism.
Dr Mohamed Najib said he has always focused on the discipline of Aswara's academic staff and students.
Despite being allowed freedom in their creations, the students should have discipline in framing out the projects besides looking for their own resources to come out with quality productions.
Hence, they should be able to come out with working papers, presentation of the idea and concept apart from being tidy and orderly physically and academically.
With the presence of these 'tools', the students performing arts presentation would be systematic, professional as well as appreciated and respected by the audience.
Take the PeTA festival as an example. Even though its primary objective is the students' Final Year Assessment, it also focuses on bringing the products direct to the 'market' by making the festival public.
Visitors to the festival were given manuals on each of the projects apart from the respective student's biodata and other particulars. They were also provided with brochures that contain detailed information on the festival's programmes and booths apart from the full information on Aswara.
According to Dr Mohamed Najib, so far Aswara's graduates have no problems in getting jobs as musicians, dance choreagraphers, theatre directors, script writes and even as actors/actresses.
Meawnhile a final year student of the Diploma in Writing Programme, Suhaila Nordin, had shown to this writer her effort that was on display at the festival.
She showed the writer her script entitled 'Nota & Not'. But what drew the attention was her booth that offered T-shirts, paintings, postcards, key-chains apart from sketches and printouts of 'Nota & Not' paraphernalia.
Suhaila plans to submit her script to Finas or sell it to anybody who wishes to acquire it. The script is not her maiden effort as the two previous efforts - "Resepi Cinta" and "Selagi Ada Daya" had been turned into telemovies by RTM.
That is no surprise as Aswara's students have been known to chalk impressive recognitions since the first year of the university's birth. The creations had won the award for the Best Story (Video/Film), Best Director (Video/Film) and Best Video Documentary (Culture and Heritage) at the Malaysian Students Film and Video Festival in 2007.
Aswara had also bagged international honours with second place in Best Film School Award category at the 13th Lyon Asia Film Festival/Short Films Battle Royale 2007.
Its short feature 'Ice Cream' was the finalist at the Young Cinema Art 2007 in Poland and 'Khilaf' made the final shortlist at the Jordan International Short Film 2007.
Prior to the establishment of the animation centre, Aswara's existing facilities include a recording studio with digital multitrack recording system, an experimental theatre, orchestra hall, dance studio, drifting studio, gamelan and cak lempung studio as well as a music studio and computer laboratory.
A unique feature of Aswara is that each of its students is required to sign up for a traditional performing arts such as bangsawan, makyung and wayang kulit, in line with the institution's slogan of "Moving Ahead With Traditions".
Minister of Information Communication Dr Rais Yatim, during his visit to Aswara last February, had urged the institution to make animation as a new field of challenge.
He had also said:"We should not neglect our artistes, our cultural activists and those related to become excellent writers, transforming our dances, our music in a way that others are amazed that a small institution like this could advance towards excellence".
Aswara will be be producing its first batch of degree holders end of this year.