Advocating for an All Inclusive Dance Action for everyone

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Changing the Unchanging

Today Jun 12, 2007 after receiving news from Shanun, TV 3 Malaysia about their change of plans and date of arrival in Copenhagen from 22 -26 June to 6-10 July. And after all the arrangement and preparation I have made with Michal and the dancers from Codarts, with Joe and the Ma-NL group in Rotterdam, Amir the Malaysian artist friend-collaborator living in Copenhagen, about preparing the arrival of the TV 3 team and the mock-up scenarios that we were going to reenact for them etc. I, for the very first time experience a great dissapointment having to 'change' plans. Aida, who strives on being spontaneous in the moment of chance happening, activating change in performance. I was not too happy with rescheduling plans. I cannot improvise and solve the problems arising from this changes (a reaction that opposes the very basic principle my life and work is based on). But it is just that I am not the so 'gung-ho' young blood as I used to be - at organizing happenings at such short notice. Especially in Europe. People do not do 'anything can lah, whatever lah, oklah'. So to pacify my realization that I am getting a little older, I decided to travel down memory lane and google Aida Redza on the internet (as you can see it was only to satisfy my ego. Because secretly, I felt like I failed in my job to coordinate this simple arrangement with my creative friends in holland and in denmark). As I scanned through the sites, I began to panic, realizing - 'oh how wrong!, oh but things have changed!, I do not do Butoh, and I cannot teach Sarawakian dance!!!...,' I can reinvent or deconstruct - if that is too general a statement - I can do a montage of it instead. And then of course there are gossips about my disappearance from Malaysia and back again to stay, my difficulties as well as my successes as a choreographer, performer, a partner, a wife, a mother, a daughter,.... and a friend. And that is the reason for this blog. I decided to set the records straight,.. and make clear who I am, what I do and where I have been,to search not only for freedom to explore and create, but for passion and joy in life, after the most important people who has made my life complete,... my family. and CHANGES that have inspired within me,... lots have happened over the years, some good and some bad, but mostly for the better and much needed. I have to set the records straight that it was not Changes that is triggered by the desire to run away, to deny, or to chase after a more materialistic life or for false recognition for my art work. Not at all. 
As like my work is about being in constant ready to go and being in the moment to activate spontaneous intervention energy, to create change from 'what is not suppose to be and should not be, or not meant to be', and direct the active positive power to transform and transcend it into a tangent of new beginning and beyond. This has also been the major drive in my life principles and reality, to learn, to grow and to always develop immediate possibilities in what i do to better myself - but the spirit within, the will is unchanging - it remains brewing with passion. So I shouldn't be affected at all by the changes in the TV 3 schedule, as well as the changes i have made from the child I use to be to the confident and courageous woman I am today. I should not hyper-ventilate about my passing years as an artist, but instead take a deep breath as a way to strengthen my inner and unchanging spirit. I am constantly evolving in a spiritual dance of changing the unchanging. and it is definitely not about denying, giving up or hiding .....

As an artist, Changes over the years did happen, changes that does not relate at all to some of the many descriptions and articles you can find of me in the AIDA REDZA sites. It can never define the real Aida, outside her artistic life, and neither can one analyze my character, personality and behavior from my writings in this blog, because our state of mind and being is constantly imaginative layered with many vision and dreams that are full of deep creative meaning, symbolisms and allegory. But what one can decipher is my principles, philosophy and outlook, outreaching life and the world. The sites on google consists many different interpretations of me, and consists of descriptions by others that does not express the total truth about me as an artist, and sometimes even an over 'exaggerated' description of my life. But I am not writing here to convince you of who I am. My purpose today is to correct some information about myself as a performing artist at work, and that does not in total express who I really am as a person, my behavior, conduct, my commitment and responsibilities in my relationship with the people in my life.

And so here it is, in parables, I am still the will of the many ages and periods of the old ancient woman, the unchanging spirit Aida Redza. The past, the present and the future. Believing in one mission through art and life, to build a beautiful mosque to house,protect and serve my family, my loved ones, my children, my nation, others, and my Creator.

But like any other living artist, I too experience challenges, struggles and difficulties. Here is my story, First here, I wish to correct some parts of the article Saidah Rastam (Aida Redza - A Search for Freedom to Explore and Create) wrote in Kakiseni about 4 years ago. It concerns the information of projects I was supposed to do, and work I was supposed to get. It was no fault of Saidah for this but rather, truthfully and nothing to do about it, I never succeeded in getting those position/parts I mentioned I would be doing.
1. I did not get to do the Pontianak movie as the double - part,... who am Ilah???, aiyoh... The discussion between me and the person who contacted me to come for the try-outs did not follow through.
2. The work with Sabri Buang and job in Singapore did not materialize because suddenly I heard that Sabri left the Academy, and began work at Istana Budaya (congratulations to him). I did not contact him after, as I was working towards applying to further my studies in Europe.
3. Me and Arif never continued our proposal and discussions to revive Shakti Dances since after our last performance together at Images of Asia Festival in Copenhagen in August 2003. Infact it should not have been suggested to begin with without the presence of our most important member and best friend patner Judimar Hernandez, as well as the Triple A member, Ala. I cannot really give an explanation, but in truth, I was going through a major realization about my personal life in regards to the troubles in my (previous) marriage and the affect it had on me as an artist.

Before and during marriage, as an artist I found myself struggling to be independent financially, and did not accept that I could not survive on my own 'alternative' artistic income. And like every other working person, trying to survive, l learn to accept many commercial works and as many as I can get that pays to provide reasonably for myself and for my daughter, when we had her. As I don't know how other relationships or marriages work in their arrangement with money or sharing money. I did not have a monthly bank account or shared account like how every other husbands has provided for their wives. And so with no need and desire to demand for monthly security, and to be a part of the working woman community - (which gives women an additional sense of purpose and recognition in their lives), I enjoyed to work in my artistry and of course the more classes I taught, projects, touristic and kementerian sort of work I did, the less concentrated I was in the quality of my own expression and creation. And when we had our daughter I became the home mother artist. A dedicated, proud and stubborn super mother who wanted to be like what other career mothers want to be, to prove that we can do it. I can be the working artist.. and full time house mummy, while working on project to project to earn enough for pocket money to be able to save for the future (which I had no idea since as I mentioned above, we never had an open communication between me and my husband in regards to financial situations, which is one of the reason for our fear towards each other). I wanted to earn the money to help and share with him in providing for myself, my daughter and my parents. I did not have a permanent full time job (as I was reluctant to do so because I was dedicated to raising my daughter), and I was an independent and a part-time artist which made my work schedule different from normal mothers (but it worked well as it gave me flexible time to be with my daughter and to also have her at the studio place) It was fantastic, that I am sure every mother would love to have a flexible career like mine. (As we know in the old days, women/mothers went to the fields, or gather food or do daily chores with their child hanging on their backs - they sing, dance, they cook, they clean, they socialize, they work, together with their children). It was amazing and something to be proud off. Having the children involved and participate daily in the adult's life and busy work activities which Rudolf Steiner calls it the holistic way of raising children, is a very much desired way of family living, by parents all over the world. Which is so lacking in our Malaysian modern day family life style today, where the children is left with their maids or at the babysitters. And some fathers rarely participate in or leave it to the women. The changing, the bathing,the caring when the child is sick, the feeding, the consoling, the emotional bonding andt taking responsibility and more - it does not have to be just the mother's role but it could be shared with the father. I was not going to raise my daughter, like every other family - of those relying entirely on maids, if i had the possibility of not having it like that. We were so fortunate. And i was determine to make myself have all the precious time to raise my daughter, the holistic, naturalistic way, to be aware and sensitive with the world around her, to have love and passion for nature, culture and art, and courage to possess the spiritual and mystical knowledge of the world and of our religion, without fear of (wo)man-made protocols, hierarchies and prejudices. And to believe and have faith in the authentic teachings of the Al-mighty. Like every other mother. And at the same time to find the courage of the woman warrior in our spirit and to be one with the universe, the power of love, courage and compassion. That tingling energy,.....of the woman passion drive - the angin - the shakti/sakti. Call it what you will. That power without being suppressed by materialistic worldly comforts but giving in to the most humble state of sacrificing myself before others and submit to the pure power creation, of God. And I was proud that i had the strength, the confidence and the courage to be a mother with all these visions, as well as a working artist on the side, to face and be challenged by these opportunities, and struggles. I was proud of myself - as I managed it all. I was a successful mother.

But in the inside of my home with my (previous) partner before and during marriage - I found myself silent. My spoken words and expressions in writings and work passion were misinterpreted and used against me. A powerless wife in my own home. As I am unable to say what I have to say for fear of being misunderstood, and was emotionally abused as I was belittled and constantly told that I did not know, or have not been taught or learned enough about the basics of life and religion. I could say that my opinion about life, art, reality and spirituality has matured as I aged during the relationship and marriage, but my realization and enlightenment as a person and as an artist was not something new about me. It was who I was before marriage and the girl I was at 19 while courting and in love, and has been the root and inspirations of my artistry ever since, which was accepted then. If I was wrong before marriage, it was the duty of the husband to be to provide good examples to lead, include and advice, but not criticize and discriminate. And if all fails, it is his will to terminate the relationship.

The fact that I have learned that living existence expressed further in art is a constant evolution of 'creative' offerings and submission to the love and compassion of God as a contribution to living in peace with ourselves and with others. My believes and realizations are not different nor wrong, but in my previous home,... this opinion, values and my appreciations of existence and creativity through art and reality is not respected. And about how i perceive and appreciate the power of life and psychology,the concentration of the body, mind and soul, the passion and joy of acknowledging the light and dark forces created by God and the mystics of nature, and most importantly the freedom of will power,in expressing my work,as a woman warrior artist raising issues of injustice and suppression, is regarded as one who is weak and lacking of faith and belief. In fact my focus of the body as an installation of perfection and ideal representation of God's power,is regarded by my ex-spouse - and by those who do not understand dance/installation - suggesting (I) we are obsessed with (our) their body and only desire to display or show off for the sake of seeking attention and for self interest. So it is our role as artists today to set this wrong perception right.

No matter what and how I practice my art, it does not make me a lesser human in the world I live in, outside my art. And my faith and belief is Between me and God,...Allah and I, and to be shared with others through the medium of life expression and work we chose to. But my instincts told me that I have chosen to live a life where my inner voice, my opinions, my need for open and honest discussion to speak my thoughts, intuition, will and curiosity about the society, the body and the soul in art and reality is not understood, not respected and something to be afraid of as it is considered too over the edge and without any values, and my ambitions will always be considered by my life companion (at that phase of time),... as being always inconsiderate, selfish, mementingkan diri or obsession of the self and immoral. It was disheartening and discouraging that since before and throughout my marriage my words and thoughts are belittled and constantly used by this person I shared my life with, as a weapon against me so as to keep me correct and in place. It has created scars along the way, and the scars got bigger each passing year. And today (even after divorce), we could obviously see how it reflects back on his actual lack of respect towards me as a person, surfacing, when he continues to belittle everything about me, and especially my maternal responsibilities and care for our daughter.  

I was unconsciously protesting against becoming the 'wife', whose opinion and thoughts is said to be lacking of knowledge, information and understanding, because he considered that I had 'poor' upbringing. And because of what he regarded (not I)as my 'poor' and 'weak' upbringing, convincing me that I should hang on to him, my messiah, as he is the chosen one, to lead me towards the right way - and so as a young woman at 19 before marriage,I chose to listen to him, as he claims that, i the 'confused one', and he was my saviour. But I could not express my unhappiness openly for fear of disappointing or angering this man. This is not meant as a blame nor a regret or an admission that I was what he said I was. As a young woman infatuated, you want to believe and would give your full trust and life to the person you are deeply in love with. It was how it was, as i considered being, that we were not conscious about how we were emotionally mistreating one another, but today I can say I was emotionally abused, and i take responsibility for my decisions then, and i take responsibility for the decision i made to marry him, and i take responsibility for not convincing him from the very beginning that our relationship can never be a true marriage if we continued to segregate one another with different standards and discriminating views of each other. But I didn't know better then, as love conquered all. And as time goes on, our relationship continued to be build on the basis that he was a responsible provider and a wonderful father, and i am so blessed to have him as the father of my daughter. He gave me and our daughter a comfortable life with everything that he could provide us with before and after marriage, while I was working hard towards the big breaks in my career and being a working mother (like every other modern malay woman today), and he will always provide the financial means when I requested or had to ask him to support me, as in materialistic comfort, as a husband should. And ultimately even in my creative endeavors. And that was that. The materialistic comfort could not replace love and joy of loving. And it was used as security for both of us, so that we will not squabble over our unspoken differences. Eventually when one is in a position of a beggar in one's own home, and totally dependent on their partner,....confusing financial dependance or providing financial needs, in replace for the return of true love,... one is no longer in control of one's own destiny. And the fact that the money kept coming and the house kept growing bigger, and the cars were increasing in 666's, the break-ins, the professional CCTV security system, the lock and the padlocks and the keys to the gates.... the parties, the VIP wannabe's,... the protocols,...I was losing my direction in my own home. I felt like a stranger in my own home. (Of course there were more reasons that were there from the very beginning of the relationship, as my instincts had warned me, such as secrets and life style preferences that were not compatible, and not supposed to be, or should not be. It all added on to the breakdown of the marriage). And it should have been my responsibility to inform and express this difficulties which includes, most importantly my need for respect and to be loved for who I am, and not what I should be or not meant to be, or how I should behave, including the unspoken restrictions to shape me into his ideal image of the 'Malay' woman I am not. I am the proud malay woman that I am capable of being, the Malay infant at birth, as a child, a young malay woman before marriage, and all the Malay woman I can be today. I cannot be more or less than what I am and have been born with.

I didn't know how we let it go on for so long but I stayed on to face the difficulties and difference as a challenge, as the person I was, fighting to make it work. I held on. But he was holding me on a thin rope, from falling over a cliff of transformation, from the frightened girl into the woman who has discovered she needed to speak and tell her true feelings and reclaim the years that was silenced. The marriage was not growing stronger. And so in the early 2002, I had to intervene to make change. I decided to admit that the marriage was not working, and to stop myself from dragging my partner down the cliff with my lack of love, and which I should have done many years before our marriage. But my explanations and my words were rejected and not accepted,or otherwise used against me.

And so it left me with no alternative when words cannot express what i wanted, and so I did what I could best do and knew how. If there is no love for the other, it was not fair to continue, and not right for any one of us, including to our daughter. As the malays says,.. tak ada jodoh. Then one must really make the ultimate decision. We cannot continue begging or forcing each other to stay, or to let go. And so the only way i could solve the situation is to express the best way i can, which was through dance, my art, to go deeper into it as a way to say I want out. My 'dance of life, or ' life dance' of the rebel protesting and a warrior demanding for divorce - I pushed on to change what was not meant to be, with my daughter in my secure arms, for whom I would give my absolute life, to serve with care for the love of God. I continued to dance. Which was then used again as an accusation that I was too busy with my career, to be a responsible mother.  I had to evoke the warrior within me to stop this injustice . Which is to continue and continue to fight for my divorce, and it is only fair, that a true gentlemen, should let the wife go, if all love fails. It was very wrong to force things to work, when knowing it has ended, and therefore forcing the other into difficulty, especially when financial considerations and constraints are in question. Most of the time women suffer in situations such as this,... as they cannot move on with life.
It is not something I am proud about, nor regret. But it was a situation that could have been avoided if we had been more open, trusting and respecting each others decisions and differences to begin with. I am sorry it happened but it did, and we cannot turn back time to make it up, but what we can do to make it better for our daughter today, is to move on and together, we make things work the best for her.

It took almost 4 years till 2006, as I continued to be the best mother i can be throughout, and living on my own earnings without the support of the man, as we could not come to terms on a mutual agreement for a divorce. The road to change during that period temporarily affected my work, career, and left me exhausted as an artist. But never did it affect me as a Shakti mother, the ancient will and unchanging spirit because the change was not to run away from the responsibilities as a caregiver to my child, and my existence as a human-a friend, a being to the relations around me, as I mentioned above. It was not to give up my responsibilities or run away in hiding. But instead this decision to change was to awaken and evoke the woman warrior within me ,... the power that was always existing, unchanging. Only hidden and voiceless. To reclaim what is rightfully mine - my will.

Now, Challenged today, I stand stronger and optimistic that life should be a constant successive births of change, that is necessary for a healthy soul and spirit... The soul and spirit of the warrior woman is unchanging,... it just needs to be recharged and reactivated, when it has experienced years of suppression in a wrong environment. Today,... in a new light, Changing the Unchanging, I am a Shakti who dances alone. And I figure Arif, Judi and Ala is too. But that does not mean that it is a lonely trip alone for all. Instead my take on that is the, power I send and share with them alone from afar,... the power of shakti, activating them to move on with their passion drive, and fluidly-ready for intervention, to change, transform, and transcend beyond words,.... with their creativity, will and joy of living. You go Shakti Warriors!!! As for me,... the change has brought me closer to my dream.... and to appreciate the true beauty of God's world and relationships,... so, let me first start by working on the changed itinerary of the arrival of TV 3,... accepting,.... the program,... that is unchanging. So good luck, good wishes, and good life, and I hope to share this experience of changing the unchanging, to all who is in similar situations in their lives, and to reflect on my story as means to build confidence and comfort that there is room for change, and change does not make you a lesser person, but an enlightened person, in fact it empowers you to know that YOU can make a difference to your world,... and all we can do is reach out and strengthen your uncertainties and fears with prayer and dance of support. Peace to all and especially to my family who has always been there for me. Without them I could not have manage through the most challenging period of my life. When in doubt, turn towards Allah - your intuition, and next to your loved ones. They are God's gift.

(TERRITORY - the picture above is a choreography from the Blind Date Project, DU Codarts 2005. Marcela Giesche in Aida Redza's collaboration with Eric Woltemeijer and Esther Drenth)

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