Talking Arts With Siti Saleha

If you’re a fan of local movies then you’ll immediately recognise this face. If you don’t then we strongly suggest heading out right now and getting your hands on some of Siti Saleha’s impressive body of work like KL Zombie, Mamak Cupcake and Kerat 14, a role which got her nominated for Most Promising Actress at the 26th Malaysia Film Festival. 

Malaysian actress Siti Saleha

Malaysian actress Siti Saleha

Despite being only 28-years-old, Siti has come along away since her big break on the small screen with her scene stealing role in Nora Elena in 2011. In fact that’s the role that most fans resonate with her till this day. But her talent for the arts is not merely confined to being in front of the camera; it’s also equally matched by her love of it behind the scenes.

You could say it runs deep within her veins, which is a passion also shared by her younger brother Shamsul Annuar, the lead vocalist of Bunkface. So when it came to discussing arts, who better than to shed a little light on the subject than Siti herself. 

In this casual chat, the talented actress talks about her love for the arts, her favourite creative spaces and what she thinks should be done on promoting the creative field in Malaysia for the future and beyond. After all, who better to shed some light on the arts than an artist right? 

It goes without saying that you’re already a well-respected artist but just how big of an art loving person are you?

I’m a huge fan of the arts actually, in all forms whether its performance based or visual arts. What I love most about it is that it is very individual in the sense; that there is simply no right or wrong. You can see that in plays, songs and paintings. Every piece of work is unique in its own way. It forces you to be free and allows your creativity to lead you to form something special. 

What do you lean more towards though?

I would say acting and performance art. It has become a big part of my life. Being able to express myself in different characters and roles gives me an advantage to explore my ability as an artist. There’s a certain kind of freedom to it, because you’re playing a character and it’s always a challenge to make it as believable as possible and something audiences could relate to. It’s also very rewarding when your hard work gets appreciated. 

Are you an art gallery going sort of person? Which one is your favourite?

I love the National Art Gallery. Personally I think it is curated perfectly with a wide variety of exhibitions. Young artists are also given the same opportunity to showcase their work and it’s an ideal mix of youth and matured pieces being featured. I think that’s wonderful with all the diversity. 

We’ll get serious now. Do you think Malaysia has a vibrant enough art scene?

I do believe we have got some pretty interesting arts and cultural attractions. I guess it’s a matter of attracting our youth especially and to create the awareness so everyone would be able to appreciate what the nation has to offer. Being a multi-racial nation, it would be a shame not to fully embrace it. 

The National Visual Arts Gallery

The National Visual Arts Gallery

A place for contemporary arts, Photo © Ilham Gallery

And where do you think is the perfect place for us to embrace it?

I would recommend Ilham Gallery for those who are into modern and contemporary arts. I haven’t been there myself, but I heard a lot of good reviews about it. So I will check it out soon and so should you guys!

We will! But first, let’s imagine you’re in a position of power. What would you do to promote the arts here?

I think we need more campaigns like BAS KL (Bandar Aktiviti Seni Kuala Lumpur). Many are not aware of the treasures that the nation has to offer especially our youth. We need to educate them so they are more appreciative. More workshops, field trips for schools, collaborations with other partners just to name a few which, I believe could assist in creating awareness on the importance of the art culture here.

Malaysian actress Siti Saleha

Siti holds a deep passion for the arts, 
Photo © Saufi Nadzri

That’s a good point, and we hope the powers that be are reading this right now. Now let’s talk about the music scene, which is very close to you with your brother a talented musician and all…

Well, I think we have some multi-talented musicians and performers here. Most of them I’m sure are moving forward into creating something different and unique. For instance, like my brother. He is working into creating something new with Datuk Jeffrydin and Caprice. Both musicians are from different eras with different sounds than his band. What would the outcome be? That is something to look forward to and be excited about. Having this opportunity for different genres to come together, allows musicians the freedom to explore and express their creative sides. So I think the music scene here is moving forward in a really positive way.

Where do you go to get your dose of music then?

I mostly go to the KLPAC and Istana Budaya, I find there’s a lot of interesting stage shows playing. The Dewan Filharmonik Petronas also has some amazing shows scheduled each month.

Last but not least, what’s the one thing you think should be done to secure Malaysia’s future in arts?

Personally, I would love to see music and performance art to gain more attention in schools –perhaps included as part of the school syllabus. I do believe that music and performing arts could help in nurturing children's self-confidence and allow them to discover their voices. That could mould them into becoming strong individuals and future champions of the field.

The Istana Budaya, Photo © Istana Budaya

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