A Palace of Artistic and Cultural Exchanges—Soka Gakkai Malaysia

by Dinesh Chandren, Malaysia




The “Coming of Age” exhibition[© SGM]

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda has written: “The differences between people need not act as barriers that wound, harm and drive us apart. Rather, these very differences among cultures and civilizations should be valued as manifestations of the richness of our shared creativity.” Soka Gakkai Malaysia’s Wisma Kebudayaan culture center (WKSGM) in downtown Kuala Lumpur was established to foster appreciation of “shared creativity” among people of various ethnic, cultural and religious backgrounds, in line with the SGI’s ideal of promoting peace, culture and education.

Malaysia is a land of dazzling cultural diversity. In order to promote harmonious coexistence and interaction, we need to create avenues for creative and friendly exchange.

Since opening its doors in 2001, the 12-story WKSGM building, which houses an auditorium, a conference hall, meeting rooms and exhibition halls, has welcomed over 250,000 people to its various events. These include art exhibitions, folk music, choral and dance performances, and talks on arts and culture. Through these activities, we have built ties of friendship with various local and international arts and cultural personalities and organizations, government-linked bodies and foreign embassies in Malaysia. WKSGM has also hosted a range of interfaith initiatives and gatherings.

related article Puppet Planet Puppet Planet by Lesley Butler Lesley Butler describes how her practice of Buddhism has enabled her to give full play to her talents and abilities as a puppeteer, clown, storyteller and Punch and Judy “Professor,” helping others express themselves through art. The arts and cultural events at WKSGM also play a role in raising awareness around important social issues, helping build a more compassionate and caring society. In June 2012, for example, WKSGM hosted the “Coming of Age: Forgotten Faces of a Greying Asia” photo exhibition by David Tay Poey Cher, president of the Photographic Society of Singapore. This exhibition showcases images of senior citizens throughout Asia and addresses the issue of aging societies and restoring dignity to elderly people who are often relegated to the fringes of society. Several thousand people viewed the exhibition over a three-week period, including kindergarten children.

Former Malaysian transport minister Ong Tee Keat has remarked that WKSGM is now an important landmark in the Malaysian arts and culture landscape. In the latest directory published by the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, WKSGM is listed along with other prominent art galleries in the country.

We have a saying in Malay: to know is to love; if we do not know, we cannot love (tak kenal maka tak cinta). Coming into contact with rich, diverse, artistic and cultural expressions from around the world has certainly enhanced my appreciation for the beauty of this world. I believe that embracing and celebrating such artistic and cultural diversity is crucial for making the 21st century a “Century of Life.”

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