The 2004 Special Awards


Prize of RM1,000, sponsored by Mandarin Oriental, and Tumasek Pewter Trophy

Jerome Kugan

Self-taught musician Jerome Kugan is known as a musical poet of bold, indelible imagery. He has written electronic music scores for various films, including Amir Muhammad’s Kamunting and Pangyau, and James Lee’s Room To Let as well as for theatre productions such as Rohaizad Suaidi’s Ops Ophelia – A Fashion Opera.

He recently co-organised the KL Sing Song 2005 festival, aimed at creating a regional network for singer­ songwriters.

Jerome is also a published poet and short story writer in Australia, USA, Singapore and Malaysia. In 2000, he founded the free zine Poetika, which featured verse and prose by local writers. In his efforts to promote Malaysian voices dealing personally with themes of freedom, Jerome has organised three annual Merdeka Readings since 2002.

For his artistic ability, and his commitment to creating platforms for his fellow artists, Jerome Kugan is the Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur Most Promising Artist Award 2004.

(Jerome also received the Best Music / Sound Design Award (Theatre) for his original music for Ops Ophelia – A Fashion Opera, by Rohaizad Suaidi.)



Prize of Raja Shariman sculpture worth RM5,000, and a paid trip to Langkawi, sponsored by Artsee Fartsee

Janet Pillai

Academician and theatre practitioner Janet Pillai is a pioneer in education, community and youth theatre. Her work in children’s theatre since the 1970s has spawned two generations of artists, and has created a strong foundation for community and youth based arts in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

Those who have had the privilege of working with and seeing Janet’s work are inspired by her knowledge of pedagogy, her attention to detail, and her ability to cull the best from young people.

One of her most ambitious and cutting-edge work is the ‘Anak-anak Kota’ programme for inner city students, which combines arts, community, heritage, documentation, history and urban regeneration into an empowering experience for young people.

For work which cuts across the boundaries of art and community, for building a practice which seeks to place young people and their concerns at the centre of creativity, Janet Pillai is a champion of cross-cultural arts.



Prize of RM5,000, sponsored by BOH, and Tumasek Pewter Trophy

Faridah Merican

Faridah Merican belongs to the vanguard of theatre practitioners in Malaysia. Born in 1939 in Penang, Faridah is of direct descent to the famed Kapitan Keling. Exposure to bangsawan and Chinese Opera as a young child left a lasting impression on the woman who is known today as the First Lady of Malaysian Theatre.

Her acting career started in the late 1950s while studying at the Khota Bahru Teachers Training College. After moving to KL in 1959, she joined the circle of intellectuals and artists who formed the core of Malaysian theater as it entered the postcolonial era. Faridah’s early acting credits include such plays as Lela Mayang, Tok Perak, Uda dan Dara, and Alang Rentak Seribu, works that defined Malaysian theater in the 60s and 70s, and determined the direction that theater would take in the next few decades.

In the early 60s, she joined Radio and TV Malaysia as a part-time broadcaster, programme host and national newsreader. Simultaneously, she was involved in the formative years of Malaysian Advertising, and is today, a member of the board of directors at Ogilvy&Mather.

In 1989, Faridah co-founded The Actors Studio with her husband Joe Hasham. As the first privately owned and operated theatre venue in Malaysia, The Actors Studio was instrumental to the growth of the performing arts in the 1990s.

Faridah has, more than anyone else, guaranteed certain continuity in mainstream theatre by bridging the generational gap, working extensively with young people today. Her philosophy that ‘Performing Arts belong to all Malaysians’ has helped unite all practitioners and instilled a sense of community within Malaysian Performing Arts.

Her role in the arts has expanded from that of actress to director, producer and mentor. She is a tireless advocate for the arts, taking the message of a cultured Malaysia to the man on the street, corporate gurus and heads of government.

In June of 2003, floods destroyed the entire complex of The Actors Studio in Plaza Putra, Dataran Merdeka. Out of that devastation, Faridah’s ‘nothing is impossible’ attitude generated yet another ground-breaking event – the birth of The Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre, set up by the YTL group, Penyayang and The Actors Studio.

In recognition of her multifaceted creativity, tenacity in democratising the arts and her commitment to developing new opportunities, Faridah Merican is awarded the BOH Cameronian Lifetime Achievement Award for 2004.

First Published: 07.05.2005 on Kakiseni

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