As a festive celebration of the Federation of Malaya’s independence from the British Empire, Merdeka is a day that holds great importance for Malaysia, historically and culturally. Through celebrating the concepts of freedom, autonomy and power, it is a day that holds great meaning for many Malaysians.
When you close your eyes and try to picture the distinct qualities of being a Malaysian, images of durians, Nasi Lemak and mamak food stalls tend to emerge in your mind. Of course, these are all important aspects of being a Malaysian, along with the typical indifference towards punctuality and the quintessential appreciation for an overabundance of holidays. But there is more to it than what meets the eye. So, it comes as no surprise that Merdeka is a day valued by many, a day that represents what it means to be a Malaysian and a day that reflects the cultures, traditions and ideologies that Malaysians embody.
Unsurprisingly, Student Life of Monash Malaysia decided to bring a bit of this appreciation and celebration to our own campus, hosting a special event in conjunction with Merdeka month to celebrate Malaysia’s 61st Independence Day. If you were able to take a look at the varied number of booths that were dispersed throughout the campus, you would know that each booth showcased a unique aspect of Malaysian history, culture or tradition.
There were booths that allowed you to vote for your favorite Malaysian dish, write about the current issues in Malaysia, booths that showcased traditional clothes and dances, provided general or geographic information about the country and even booths that represented the various races and diversity present in a multicultural Malaysia. These vibrant and colorful booths showcased Malaysian culture in great depth and detail, whilst being interactive and engaging. For example, many booths allowed you to write your own comments, vote, or speak about your own individual experiences. There were also contests such as the Merdeka Instagram Photo Contest and National day quiz that increased student participation and made the entire event more participatory.
Additionally, there were several performances where national Malaysian tunes were played by Monash’s Chamber Orchestra, traditional games such as Chinese YoYo/diabolo were showcased. Refreshing traditional drinks like Sirap Bandung were provided. This contributed to the festive atmosphere on campus that allowed students to learn more about Malaysia and its diverse facets. It also demonstrated the multiculturalism prevalent in the country, where being Malaysian actually embodies a unique mixture of cultures from different races.
Personally, I felt that the biggest highlight of the event was the ‘What is your hope for a better Malaysia’ booth that allowed students to contribute and share their ideas regarding the current issues, politics and social issues predominant in the country. It was not only a platform to share your ideas and suggestions regarding future developments and improvements for the country—it was also a place to read other people’s unique suggestions and contributions that often provided a new perspective and dimension to your own existing opinions.
All in all, #MYMONASHMERDEKA was an event that reflected the significance of Merdeka, both historically and culturally. It demonstrated the various aspects of what being a Malaysian embodies and brought a small piece of the nation’s over exuberance regarding its celebration to campus, for the students to enjoy as well.
Article by Ananyaa Sreekumar
Photos by Naomi Haveliwala and Joseph Ma