Meet Aniq Durar, a theatre practitioner, actor and model bringing his fun energy to this year’s Ramadan campaign. Part Melanau and Pashtun, the Kuching born-and-bred performer is based in Kuala Lumpur (with his three cats!) and divides his time between acting and supporting the Bornean arts community with Borneo Bengkel, a creative platform that explores issues of Bornean identity and culture through the eyes of artists, makers, academics and more. Here, Aniq shares his love for theatre, playing kooky characters, and what the Sarawakian narrative means to him.
Has performing always been a part of your life?
I didn’t anticipate to become an actor actually. I didn’t study or had training in a specialised arts school. Most schools in Malaysia, we have dance performances as a kid so that’s what I went through. I was in one musical in high school and then in uni I joined several theatre shows. It was only in 2018 when I realised I wanted to become an actor. I’d been doing it bit by bit over the course of my life—I guess the seed was always there. One day it just clicked and I said to myself, this is what I want to do. And it has been one of the greatest loves of my life. Like any relationship there are ups and downs, but it’s something that I’ll be doing until I die.
What inspires you usually?
A lot of things. I don’t try to force it or search for it, when it comesit comes. But that being said, with a specific project I’ll search for references and other forms of art and performances to see what I can incorporate or make my own. Usually in my theatre performances, I’ll focus on storytelling but also physical movement. And I always try to add a little humour, just a little bit, just to make the audience relax. Because sometimes people think of theatre as like “Oh, theatah!”
but it’s a fun place, guys! In terms of the underlying ‘who’ that inspires me I would say my friends and my family. Because their belief in me pushes me to be better, greater, kinder; to dream more.
What roles do you like to play?
I enjoy playing different roles and characters, because I feel like I always need to live through other perspectives. I myself in real life am a very introverted, timid person. But when I perform on stage, something about the stage makes me feel alive and gives me space to just go at it. I definitely like to play characters that are a bit complex, but also whimsical. I love playing kooky characters.
You often highlight native Sarawakian stories in your performances. How would you describe the Sarawakian narrative?
I think the Sarawakian narrative isn’t a monolith, you know? We’re all different and have unique experiences. The reason why I highlight it is to fight against the danger of the single narrative, especially in Malaysia. East Malaysians are often portrayed in a single note, which is just “exotic”. When you see and hear a single narrative repeatedly it becomes impossible to see them in anything other than that story. So the stories I highlight are my own; I always try to humanize and contemporise it, and I can’t necessarily tell another Sarawakian’s experience. But I feel that the more space we’re given to tell our stories, the less we are to be perceived as “exotic” or "other". Mainstream media often depicts us as just caricatures. We are much more diverse than that, we are more than just the token image of tribal people dancing in the jungle.
What do you think your purpose is and how do you go about it?
My purpose as an actor is to share stories about family, identity, the human experience—no different than any other storyteller out there. But if all fails, at the end of the day I’m an entertainer, I’m here to bring joy, make people cry. If 90 percent of the audience don’t get it but 10 percent or at least one person could relate and take something with them, then that’s good enough for me. My purpose is to help people through performance, I guess. That’s what I’m good at, that’s what I love to do, it makes me feel alive and if someone sees me perform and they feel inspired, they feel therapeutic from watching it, then my purpose is done.
Is there a clothing item you can never part with?
My most treasured clothing items are definitely the clothes belonging to my late father. His shirts are very opposite to mine—I like to wear clean things but his shirts are very dramatic, very Italian mobster kind of vibe. And my mom’s shirts as well, she has a lot of florals.