Ubah Rumah Residency Artist

Yeo Lyle, with Thian Siew Kim

Residency Period:
7 Nov
4 Dec

Yeo Lyle is the artistic director of Kosong Space (theatre production) in Malaysia. He is a theatre director and actor, who graduated from the National Taiwan University of Arts (Drama Department) and the New Era College Drama & Visual Department (theatre major). In recent years, he has explored different artistic expressions - to examine life's hidden layers, and to explore more precise art

forms. In 2021, he collaborated with Yuwen Ong, an illustrator to showcase their personal fishing village histories via multiple artistic modes during an arts residency and multi-disciplinary project in Batu Pahat, titled 'A fishermen's house, two children from fishing villages'. He also presented site-specific work in local community spaces, 'Labour & Weight: A Traveling Exhibition', in collaboration with four artists from different disciplines.

During his residency, he developed a site-specific performance titled Tunggu Makan, in collaboration with Malaysian theatre and film actress,Thian Siew Kim.

Outcomes in residency

Learning about Makan Sirih and other traditional art forms

Passed down through centuries and generations, Makan Sirih is a Malay tradition in which betel leaves are chewed together with the areca nut (Pinang), as well as chalk and gambir extract. The betel leaf is a feminine symbol of respect and generosity, while the Pinang is a masculine symbol of noble descent, integrity and honesty. Used in hospitality rituals and sacred ceremonies in diverse cultures, the offering is used symbolically in opening up conversations, hosting honorable guests, marriages and for magic purposes. Chewing the betel leaves and the areca nut stains one’s lips and teeth red, hence acting as a natural lipstick.

The Tari Makan Sirih, or ‘betel-eating’ dance is one of the traditional dances or Riau melayu classical dance of Indonesia. The tepak sirih carried by the female dancers contains betel leaves, areca nut, chalk, gambir extract, tobacco and cloves are presented to guests during welcome ceremonies, representing the host’s desire to maintain or improve close relations with the guests.

Yeo Lyle also observed Zapin dance, an important part of the regional Malay performing arts scene, particularly in Johor and Singapore. Zapin festivals are organised in cities across the region, such as Johor Bahru, Medan, Tanjung Pinang, Pekanbaru and Jambi

Yeo lyle was also exposed to Malay poetry through the students at STAI Miftahul Ulum Tanjung Pinang who recited Gurindam 12 (Chapter 1) for him. Gurindam Dua Belas is one of the old Malay poems, written by Raja Ali Haji, a writer and National Hero from Penyengat Island, Riau Archipelago Province. This work consists of 12 chapters and is categorized as Syi'r al-Irsyadi or didactic poetry, because it contains advice and directions for a life that is pleasing to Allah SWT. He also learned that Puisi (Poem) writing is common in Bintan and there is a poetry writing competition every year. Puisi is an open-ended poetic form with unlimited lines and no rhyming requirements. In the early days, Syair and gurindam were popular, but now pantun and puisi are more popular, especially puisi. Pantun is a four-sentence poem that requires rhyming (abab, aaaa). It is mostly read aloud and seldom sung.Most Malay weddings also recite Pantun.

Visits to Panglong Village to learn from the Orang Laut

Excerpts taken from his exchange with Orang Laut in the village

"We don't use GPS to locate like people nowadays. We just look at the position of the stars at night. Or use the distance between us and the mountain, or look at whether two mountains overlap."
"Listen carefully, you can tell that there are fish in the sea"
"There is a bird that can predict the weather, and we will decide whether to leave that sea area based on his movements."
"Earlier, we would catch sea turtles and buy them to Singapore or Johor. They would engrave the names on the shells of the returnees to pray for their release."
"Earlier we also hunted dugongs."
"I once capsized in the sea in front of me. I swam for hours, from dawn to dark, before I reached the shore."
“Now there are about 30 Orang Laut households in Panglong Village”
"We no longer live on the boat, but we still go fishing every day, and we go back and forth on the same day"
"There are still orang lauts now, but there are fewer and fewer than before"
"Kids come out with us sometimes, but not every time. They spend more time at school"
"Of course I hope they can do other jobs in the future, instead of just going out to sea to fish."
"That conversation was unexpected. Half-heard and half-guessed, his own past was implicated. I grew up in a fishing village where my father was a fisherman too. To this day, I still regret that I didn't learn any wisdom from him about his relationship with the ocean. I feel that I have not inherited the language he talks to the ocean. With the evolution of the times and the constant change of lifestyle, Orang Laut has gradually become a kind of history. But what is really regrettable is not the loss of identity, but the way and language of connection with nature are disappearing."

On Bekarang

"Bekarang is an activity to catch fish, shell or crab resources at low tide. However, some people dive into the sea to catch larger shellfish, but they must have good diving ability. Very few people do that now. Fortunately, on my way back to Kampung Bugis from Pengyengat Island in a ponpon (a boat with an engine and used to transport passengers, like a taxi at sea), I met someone who was bekerang on a rough sea."

Learning about Mak Yong – Pulau Mantang

"We didn't have a script or sheet music. It was all taught by the teacher by word of mouth"
"None of us have a fixed role to play. As long as there is no conflict between the roles, we can put on a mask and play other roles"
"I haven't performed in my own community. Now I mainly perform when I have an invitation."
"Mak Yong has several stories. It takes about 5 hours to complete each story. But now for invitations to participate in event performances, they only need a short segment, like 20 minutes"

Nightwalk at Jambatan Pelangi. Learning about traditional fishing methods in Bintan: Sondong / Nyondong is a term known on Bintan Island for the activity of catching fish or shrimp using fishing gear in the form of a net attached to two wooden sticks.

During his residency, Yeo lyle was joined by guest artist Thian Siew Kim, who co-faciliated a series of sharing workshops and artist talks with the Nikoi staff and guests, as well as an exchange with students from STAI Miftahul Ulum Tanjung Pinang who are taught by our community partner, Taufik Afdal.

Tunggu Makan (2022)

Yeo Lyle, in collaboration with Thian Siew Kim


Following a series of interviews and site visits to local communities on Bintan Island, the site-specific performance co-created by artists Yeo Lyle and Thian Siew Kim, delves into the complexities of the co-existence of humans and nature in the context of Nikoi Island. The artists involved Nikoi's staff in the development of the movement and music score for the performance and creating creative captions for the audiences.

Selected Works To Date

2022 "suǒ zài dì" | Old Street, Batu Pahat. A site-specific and Imagery theatre performance. Photo credit: Eric Nah

2016《八月初,在寂黑无光的洞里,亮点灯》 “The moment, Silent dark, Lights” | The Summit, Batu Pahat Site-specific and multi-disciplinary experiential theatre performance.

2021 “A fisherman’s house, two children from fishing Villages” | Rumah Haikao, Batu Pahat. Site-specific arts residency and multi-disciplinary project. Photo credit: Pam Lim