Malaysia Fest in Sydney

MFest mascots, Harimau Sang Tiger [Right] and Monyet
Sang Monkey [Left] posing with visitors to MFest 2014
Sydney’s Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour came alive with Malaysian culture in the 24th edition of the Malaysia Festival on Sept 28.  In the tradition of annual Malaysia Fests, the Malaysian student community in Sydney worked together to promote our nation’s cultural diversity to the Australian community through colourful cultural performances and the taste of our delectable cuisine.  

This year, about 128 Malaysian university students and volunteers provided a myriad of cultural activities while popular Malaysian restaurants established in Sydney served cuisine that delighted visitors and comforted Malaysians who live abroad.

Visitors thronged Tumbalong Park at Darling Harbour,
Sydney for MFest 2014

The organisers included Malaysian students from the University of New South Wales, University of Sydney, Macquarie University and University of Technology Sydney who were supported by volunteers from the University of Wollongong and University of Newcastle as well as international students of other nationalities and Malaysian expatriates in Sydney. 

Malaysia Fest or MFest, is proudly supported by the City of Sydney Council as part of the Living in Harmony initiative as well as the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority as the official event supporter.  Since the augural MFest that was held on the walkway of the University in New South Wales in 1990, the annual MFest is now distinguished by two mascots, Harimau Sang Tiger and Monyet Sang Monkey who went for pre-event walkabouts to promote the event by distributing flyers at various city sites and universities. 

Visitors learning to play traditional congkak game at MFest
The day’s activities kicked off at 10am with some 30,000 visitors thronging the park for a taste of Malaysian cuisine and culture.  A host of Malaysian TV and radio personalities added some excitement and entertainment as they engaged with their fans in Sydney.  

Among them was Dina Nadzir, runner-up of Malaysian Idol 1 and personality, who sang a moving rendition of Negara-ku, our national anthem at the opening ceremony.  Adira, runner-up of Akademi Fantasia 8 and Malaysian band, iamNEETA entertained along with JinnyboyTV, YouTube personalities, who were back at MFest again by popular demand.

The Pei Li wushu troupe gave an impressive performance
Main sponsors like Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airlines, The Grace Hotel Sydney, UAE Exchange Australia and Central Equity Property were among the booths set up next to the food stalls that served Malaysian specialties.  

Paparich, a popular Malaysian brand in Australia needed no introduction while food served by Ipoh Town, KampongBoy, Abang Sam, Mamak, Alice’s Makan, Jackie M, and Pop-Yeah, also saw long queues for a chance to indulge in familiar food like rojak, satay, roti canai, popiah and traditional kueh besides pancakes, juices and ice-cream. Visitors could also buy home products like kaya, cookies, sambal and a range of cooking sauces under brands like Dollee, MyKuali, Halal Enterprise, Ayam Brand and Rockman Australia.

Visitors taking part in Guess the Weight of Durian contest
The highlight of the event was our nation’s pride, the King of Fruits and even though it was much-loved or deeply loathed, it’s unfriendly, spiky look and pungent smell attracted more than 40 participants who registered for the inaugural Durian Eating Competition.  

At the sound of the whistle, 15 shortlisted participants raced to eat equal portions of Musang King durian – and all of them happily finished within 5 minutes.  Amid the cheering and laughter, it was both amazing and amusing to see that the top two winners in the first six were not Asians but Australians!

The bridal couple and entourage in the
demo of a Malay wedding in Malaysia
“Eating durian in Australia never feels completely right – it inevitably becomes an exercise in nostalgia for another place,” said one of the participants, Monica Tan, who is The Guardian Australia’s Deputy Culture Editor.  “For me, it harks back to memories of being with my cousins in the muggy heat of Malaysia, and stopping by a hawker stall to fill up the car boot with fresh durians,” she added.

Visitors at MFest were also invited to get better acquainted with durians by taking part in a Guess the Weight of Durian contest.  Many Australians bravely took up the challenge to hold the fruits and got close enough to get a whiff of its smell.  

The A$1000 worth of durians, provided in whole fruits and in boxes, was generously sponsored by the Malaysian Ministry of Agriculture and sourced from FAMA’s farms in Perak, Pahang and Kelantan.   

The bride and bridegroom in the demonstration of
a traditional Indian wedding at MFest 2014
The wealth of cultural diversity in Malaysia was presented to the community in Sydney through the demonstration of traditional weddings in the Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures, complete with costumes, music and narration.  

Besides Chinese, Malay and Kadazan cultural dances, members of the Pei Li Wushu troupe gave an impressive wushu performance.  The MFest successfully presented the true colours of Malaysia with unity in diversity as the event closed at 5pm with the singing of Rasa Sayang in the closing ceremony. 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 23 Oct 2014

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