CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Dec 12 (TerraViva) – Yasmin Tang, executive director of Probe Media Foundation that co-organised the Mekong Media Forum, promised a “visual treat” to wrap up the proceedings at the end of the forum on Dec. 12. And a visual treat it was, as the Chiang Mai-based performing group Wandering Moon presented a theatrical extravaganza entitled ‘Reborn’.
With ingenious play on colours, lights and shadows, the troupe kept the audience enthralled as the four-day forum was brought to a close.
To be sure, the performance was as abstract as it was fascinating. Weaving lights in a multitude of striking colours; dancing cardboard cut-outs expertly wielded by puppeteers behind a shrouded veil; and a performer springing from her hiding place, an impossibly tiny light-box that lay in the foreground inconspicuously until that moment, midway through the show.
It was a shadow-puppet show with a difference. And it was a perfect, very appropriate, ending to the Mekong Media Forum. While considerably less abstract, the forum was no less fascinating.
Over the past three and a half days, a steady stream of participants – including sponsors, supporters, partners, speakers, delegates, fellows, volunteers, documenters, translators, technical staff and organisers – thronged the rooms and common areas at the conference venue. Comprising people from the six countries in the Mekong region – Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam – as well as a healthy dose of participants from outside the area, the myriad of different cultures and languages guaranteed discussions were often vibrant and colourful.
Behind the scenes, a flurry of activity as organisers scrambled to ensure the sessions ran smoothly. From translators and documenters, to technicians and volunteers, each quietly going unnoticed about their duties, preferring to let the speakers, delegates and issues take centre stage, in front of the spotlight.
The issues laid out during the Mekong Media Forum were important; these are issues that affect us directly. But, like the light-box in the foreground during the performance, these issues are often overlooked, especially by external audiences, but often, even by ourselves, as we get caught up in the more exciting, mainstream activities that demand our attention. And so we forget the marginalised, who lie unnoticed, even though they are right in front of our eyes.
‘Reborn’ speaks of unknown horrors, of bleeding hearts and free-flowing tears, reflecting the challenges faced by Mekong journalists. And as we turn the page, the pain and suffering transforms – with a little help – into joy and the freedom to take flight, like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon.
Likewise, the Mekong Media Forum has been a step forward, towards creating a desirable media environment at a time of social and economic change. Hopefully, it has inspired us to be “reborn”, as with the closing performance, in our struggles to overcome challenges facing the media in the region.
As the curtain closes on the Mekong Media Forum, we look forward to the birth of a new venue, from within, for Mekong journalists.