With a history dating several thousand years, from the ta’ziyeh Persian passion play to Indian and Malayan street celebrations during the month of Muharram, the boria in Penang has survived critics’ trials to become a vibrant Malay-Jawi Peranakan parody theatre – a modern-day vaudeville, combining skits, dance, music and song, to reﬂect on the vices and virtues of urban Muslim society. Its narrative, lyrics, choreography and costumes express comic representations of colonial and postcolonial life while fostering unity among urban Muslim communities, caught at the crossroads between tradition and modernity. Secular in its symbolic representations but spiritual in essence, it is the only known surviving Malay-Jawi Peranakan parody theatre in Malaysia.
This book provides fascinating insights into this unique self-critical representation of political culture and its survival strategies over centuries of debate, if indeed Muslims should be engaged in a song and dance over conﬂicts in faith, culture and tradition. The writer presents the boria through centuries of change and transformation in its built environment in the World Heritage City of George Town and makes an appeal for the boria to be part of the built heritage of George Town and promoted as a state heritage theatre in its natural cultural landscape: the ashurkhana, the birthplace of the boria, as well as historic streets, urban villages and parks. She also embarks on the concept of an innovative café theatre built environment where the boria theatre can be returned to the streets and be “tasted” as “art food”: aromatic, participatory and egalitarian, titillating and appealing to all senses and sensibilities.