It’s always a pleasure to write about the Singapore International Film Festival. Apart from the stalwarts who continue to enthral, there are new narratives to enjoy, and new talents to watch out for. But what I find the most fascinating about these festivals is that they give us an opportunity to trace the similarities, the commonalities and the common sensibilities of the region. Observing the thread of a common South East Asian identity is a beautiful experience.
Lately, my work has been taking me in to the world of fashion and films, and it has been an absolute delight! Glitz and glamour aside, what I find most exciting is that there’s a certain amount of electric energy around creative people. That energy gets contagious, and it’s impossible not to be swept in to it. I got completely influenced as well, and loved being surrounded by the buzz of art, fashion, and films. It was beautiful to be surrounded by the swish of luxurious fabrics, the elements of eclectic designs, and eventually, by the various forms of storytelling.
What I also loved is the collaborative stance of these people; the reaching out, the merging of ideas, and the ultimate exposition of the finale. The world of art is best enjoyed with an open mind. I went in, a blank canvas, and I come out, enriched, having met people, who with their brilliance, and their collaborations, make the world a little more beautiful.
Jewellery Series: Interview with the inspiring Michael Koh of Caratell (Singapore)
Fashion Series: Meeting the effervescent Helen of NES by hdk (Indonesia)
We understand the big events that make a difference, the events and interactions that change our directions in life. We know them because they alter our goals, they alter us, and they often alter our lives altogether. These bigger things, how can we miss them! We register them and we record them and then we recall them in great detail. But what about the littler moments, the one-off interactions, and the otherwise insignificant meetings, don’t they all add up too? For me they do.
The woman was a consultant. She had a portfolio and a job title. I had an appointment with her and we were seated in a stern and formal office. However, fifteen minutes in to the conversation, she was a woman just back from her maternity leave sharing her parenting concerns with me. I met her only once, but we were chatting away like people who have known each other for years. What started out as a business meeting wasn’t one anymore. I think we were animated conversational partners by the time we parted. I will probably never see her, but she was a happy part of my day.
This girl, barely out of her teens spoke a language I didn’t completely comprehend. So we communicated with more gestures than sentences. She was young, giggly and a tad bit over dramatic. I rolled my eyes at times, and laughed with her at other. I knew her for few months and then she went to the country where she came from. And yet I was anxious when she returned home because I worried that her journey back would not be easy. When she left, she took my hands and bowed in a show of respect. There was a lump in my throat as I wished her well. I knew I will never see her but I wish that I could.
He was my taxi driver. Not the chatty kinds, but he was the one with a kind voice and a gentle demeanor. He spoke of his grandson, the one who died few weeks ago. He spoke of him because he thought I was a teacher at the school where his grandson studied. I wasn’t, but before I could correct him, he went on talking about the grandson who he must have adored. His voice carried the love that he must have felt, a love that he still feels. He was embarrassed at having told me all this. I reassured him that I liked hearing it. I meant it. Late that evening, I remembered the loss, the pain and the little boy. I remembered him and he found a way in to my tiny prayer to whoever was listening up there.
The man was a stranger at the café. I don’t remember what he looked like, but I do remember his shoes. Those shoes were splattered with coffee, yes, from my coffee cup. I was absolutely mortified, and apologized as sincerely as I could, but those dirty shoes haunted me, and taunted me. I knew I was sloppy but I didn’t want strangers at the cafe to know such things. He didn’t sound very pleased but he did murmur something like, ‘don’t worry about it.’ But I did worry about it as I walked out, my face burning. I would rather not meet him again.
She was the lady at the post office. She had the sparkly eyes and the rotund frame. I was posting a letter to a childhood friend, and had found the most ornate envelope. She looked at it with a smile and said, ‘love letter?’ I smiled and said, ‘no.’ ‘What a pity!’ said she, and we laughed about the love letter that I didn’t send.
Everyday, I meet people I will never see again. These tiny interactions, and meetings leave something back in my life. They are like shiny, multicolored pebbles. I recall the big events of my life but very often I seem to forget these other encounters, the ones that were shorter and perhaps, of little or no consequence. But they remain somehow, through my day, and even after that. They turn in to mosaics, these beautiful, little encounters.
(A mosaic is a piece of art or image made from the assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials).
It’s time to move away from that couch, and put your phone away. Singapore has an interesting line up of events in the next few months, and it’s worth looking into! So, apart from the usual suspects, ( Universal Studio, Bird Park, Gardens by the Bay, and the various malls) that have lined up some great family friendly events, there are few more line up of events that the young at heart can look forward to. So, go on, go on! Book now!
JURASSIC PARK IN CONCERT – FULL MOVIE WITH LIVE ORCHESTRA
When: 22 to 23 December 2017
Where: Esplanade Theatre
Presented by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra, Jurassic Park in Concert has been organized in celebration of the 25th anniversary of this iconic Steven Spielberg film. During the concert, the film will be projected on a large screen whilst the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra plays alongside and in sync the movie.
Tickets range from S$108 to S$255, exclusive of booking fees.
FLYING THROUGH TIME
When: 09 December 2017 to 21 January 2018
Where: Resorts World Theatre
Fly through time at Flying Through Time at the Resorts World Theatre. Directed by world-renowned Director Choi Chul Ki and helmed by local artists such as Joshua Tan and Melody Low, this non-verbal action comedy tells the universal tale of good versus evil and how love conquers all.
Tickets range from S$30 to S$118, (SISTIC).
A TOUCH OF WILD: ADEDANCE AERIAL 2017 STUDENT SHOWCASE
When: 03 December 2017
Where: Gateway Theatre
Presented by Adedance Artistic and Aerial Productions, A Touch of Wild: Adedance Aerial 2017 Student Showcase is their first ever student showcase. This showcase will consist of performances by aerialists, bellydancers from The Angelina Tay School of Bellydance and more. All ticket proceeds will go to SOSD Singapore and finger food will be provided for guests throughout the performance.
Tickets are available at S$35 each and can be purchased via their Facebook page or via call or WhatsApp at +65 9787 6948.
A CELEBRATION OF YOUTH ORCHESTRAS: SNYO IN CONCERT
When: 12 December 2017
Where: Esplanade Concert Hall
Show our young talents some support at A Celebration of Youth Orchestras: SNYO in Concert – To London From America on 12 December 2017 at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Conducted by Peter Stark, this concert will bring you on a trans-Atlantic musical trip through the works of Gershwin, Copland and Vaughan Williams.
Tickets range from S$25 and S$15, (SISTIC).
When: 08 to 09 December 2017
Where: Sentosa Siloso Beach
The biggest party of the year is here again. Zoukout 2017 is happening from 08 to 10 December 2017 at Sentosa Siloso Beach and this is one of the best ways to conclude 2017. This is the 17th edition of ZoukOut and artistes that you can expect in this year’s line up includes Axwell, Robin Schulz and Claptone.
Tickets are going at S$228 for a two-day festival pass and S$138 for a Day 1 ticket and S$148 for a Day 2 Ticket. Tickets can also be purchased at the door for S$158 for Day 1 and S$168 for Day 2.
TREASURES OF THE NATURAL WORLD
When: 25 November 2017 to 29 April 2018
Where: Art Science Museum
Treasures of the Natural World brings you back in time and on an adventure of discovering the various scientific breakthroughs throughout history. A total of 200 prized treasures from the Natural History Museum in London will travel all the way to Singapore for the first time ever. If you intend to visit with children, there will be an ongoing treasure hunt just for them!
Shawn Mendes Illuminate World Tour 2017
When: December 9, 2017, 8 PM
Where: The Star Theatre, The Star Performing Arts Centre
Multi-platinum singer-songwriter and global sensation Shawn Mendes is bringing his acclaimed ‘Illuminate World Tour’ to Singapore.
Laneway Festival Singapore
When: January 27, 2018 10 AM /
Where: The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay
As with previous years, the 2018 festival – also the 8th Laneway in Singapore – promises to be a full sensory experience for music fans, with a focus on the best new and established live acts in the game.
2018 Line up: Aldous Harding – Amy Shark – Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals – Billie Eilish – Bonobo – Father John Misty – Loyle Carner – Mac DeMarco – Moses Sumney – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Slowdive – Sylvan Esso – The Internet – The War On Drugs – Wolf Alice
Art from the Streets
When: From 13 January 2018
Where: ArtScience Museum
From 13 January 2018, the galleries of ArtScience Museum will be invaded by some of the world’s top street artists in one of the boldest exhibitions to be shown at the museum in years. Art from the Streets traces 40 years of Street Art, from its countercultural beginnings to its extraordinary rise as a major phenomenon in contemporary art.
The show features the world’s best known street artists including Banksy, Shepard Fairey (aka Obey), Futura, Invader, JR, Blek le Rat, Swoon and Vhils among others.
Curated by Street Art expert and gallerist Magda Danysz, Art from the Streets reflects the evolution of street art, charting the diverse artistic techniques employed by artists through the decades and showing how technology has created new expressive avenues for artists. One of the highlights of Art from the Streets will be a series of live paintings and installations created on-site by iconic names from the field. Nearly a dozen artists, including upcoming new street art sensation, Felipe Pantone from Spain, have been invited to take over the galleries of the museum, creating new artworks especially for the show. Illustrating the vitality of and diversity of the movement, the show also includes large-scale mural paintings, installations, videos, prints, archival material, drawings and sketches.
I was intrigued the very first time I had heard, or rather read about the Human library. The Human Library, for those who don’t know, is a concept birthed in Denmark in 2000. It is now organised all over the world. In a Human Library, real people are on loan to readers, giving readers the opportunity to listen to their stories first-hand. The hope is to break down social barriers by providing a safe platform for individuals to challenge the stereotypes and prejudices that they may have.
I was so enamoured by the very concept, that I wanted to experience it first-hand. It all sounded so dynamic and empathetic! And so, I waited for the next event to take place. Finally, I got my chance last week, when I heard about The Human Library @Duxton, Singapore. All I had to do was register through email, and let them know my preferred time slot, and my preferred human book. In two days, I had my conformation. I was ready for my experience.
However, as I made my way to the event after a long day at work, I began doubting my intention to attend. What if I am disappointed? What if it’s a hype? What if I don’t reach on time? I was agitated enough as the taxi uncle slowly, and very cautiously inched towards the address that he clearly didn’t know. Eventually, I got down from the snail-like-car, and made my way, flustered and late to 99 Duxton Road.
The place was abuzz with activities. “Are you a book or a reader,” I was asked. The question was both intriguing and unexpected. I smiled. My very first Human Library experience had begun. “Reader,” I replied. The volunteers at the registration table handed me my library card, and I made my way to table 4. The book title was, Single Mum. As I hurried to my designated book, I had company. Another lady was late, just like I was and we happily spoke to each other, both glad to have company as we entered the “library” late.
My first thought was, wow, this place is full of bright energy, and lively conversations! There was absolutely nothing dull, or forced in there. What kind of people would come here? Who would want to be a book, and who would want to be a reader? I looked around at the room awash with warm light and smiling faces. There were people of different age groups and backgrounds, but they all had one common trait it seemed, they were all open to know more, and they were all open to share. Yes, that is exactly what was striking in this room. Everyone in the room was a communicator in some way or the other.
I found table 4. My human book, Sherlin, was a bright and vivacious lady, who introduced herself: “Hi, I am a a single mom. A widow.” Then she went on narrating her experiences of loss, pain and of bouncing back. The bouncing back bit was emphasised. She was clearly a lady who enjoyed communicating. The questions poured in, one after the other. The readers were clearly people who enjoyed communicating as well! There were no awkward pauses, or lack of interest. Those 20 minutes were enriched with constant and seamless sharing of ideas, thoughts and experiences. Questions directed at her ranged from financial situations, to grieving process, to even dating experiences, and oh my, my book was not shy! There were no euphemisms and no pretenses. There were also no barriers to communication. The books were there to share their stories, and the readers were there to know these stories. The goal was achieved brilliantly!
By the end of it, I started feeling a kinship with my book. I was proud of her, and thankful to have heard a story that was this personal. Few things stayed with me though, from that conversation. They were my lessons learnt that day.
First was on loss and grieving. Most people are uncomfortable around those who have suffered a loss, she said, and having lost a parent myself a few years ago, I could empathise. “Also, most people don’t know what to say to the one grieving”, she added. I agreed to that too. “I hate the phrase, stay strong,” she finally said, exaggerating the woeful face of a sympathiser trying to deliver a condolence message. We all laughed, guilty of having said that phrase to many people ourselves. “ You don’t have to say that, you know. Because, grieving is allowed, and it’s okay to be sad, and vulnerable, and weak sometimes.”
Lesson learnt in what not to say in a condolence message.
Secondly, she spoke about volunteering as an act of empowerment. According to her, the act of volunteering made her feel good about herself, and infused her with a feeling of positivity. “The more you help others, the better (and stronger) you feel about yourself.”
Lesson learnt in empowerment and volunteerism
Lastly, I couldn’t help but notice, what a positive and bright energy she was. “How do you maintain this energy in spite of all the problems that you face in your personal life?” I asked. “I have a role model, she said, my mother.” Her mother, she informed us, was bright and active, and lived life to the fullest, inspite of many personal setbacks. Sherlin had learnt to do the same. “I want to be a role model too,” she said. Well, Sherlin, I already think you are!
Lesson learnt in living life to the fullest, in being inspired by those you look up to, and lesson learnt in aspiring to be an inspiration to others.
And thus my first experience of being at the Human library ended. If I had known it would be this invigorating, and informative, I would have registered for few more slots. There was so much more to learn, and so many stories to hear. And like always, the more I know about new experiences, and new things, the more I realise how less I know.
Lessons learnt in humility.
Read Sherlin’s story here
Learn more about The Human Library SG here
I lingered a bit more to take pictures, to speak to the organisers, and to look around at many new conversations that were breaking barriers, shattering the stereotypes, and bringing people together. After all, we are all stories separated by barriers of ignorance.