Stories and Us!


Stories and Us!

stories

Our world is made of stories and we are defined by these stories that we tell ourselves. Who then would know if the stories became reality or reality inspired these stories! Exploring the art of storytelling and the unique stories in us all is the The Singapore International Film Festival and nurturing this storytelling in the young students is the National Story Challenge.

SGIFF

Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, SGIFF)

Asian premiere of Interchange at the 27th SGIFF. (Photo credit Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Championing the voice of Asian Cinema, the 27th Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) rolled out the red carpet for its gala opening yesterday at Marina Bay Sands. Celebrated Malaysian auteur, Dain Iskandar Said opened the 12-day celebration of independent cinema with the Asian premiere of his fantasy noir thriller Interchange. Present with him were award-winning Indonesian TV personality and actor, Nicholas Saputra, husband-wife duo Iedil Putra and Prisia Nasution. Other noted guests were last year’s SGIFF Cinema Legend Award recipient, actress, Michelle Yeoh, Korean director Lee Sang-woo, acclaimed Southeast Asian filmmakers Eric Khoo, Joko Anwar, Brillante Mendoza, and Vietnamese-born director Tran Anh Hung, who will be receiving the IWC Filmmaker Award – the first to be presented in Singapore – on 26 November 2016.

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

Michelle Yeoh and Mike Miluan (Credits: Bonnie Yap, 27th SGIFF)

SGIFF Executive Director, Yuni Hadi, said, “It is heartening to see the gathering of so many passionate film lovers at the opening of SGIFF. While the industry witnesses the transformation of cinema reflected in how we watch and make films today, the timeless stories told through film will always continue to engage and captivate us.” Over the next two weeks, SGIFF will present 161 films from 52 countries, and a varied slate of panel discussions and masterclasses with renowned filmmakers and industry experts.

I am excited to catch some of the movies. Having interviewed Indonesian Film maker, Nia Dinata recently, I am looking forward to watching her movie, Three Sassy Sisters!

National Story Challenge 2017

Story Challenge

Story Challenge

Meanwhile, to nurture the stories while young, is the The National Story Challenge Tournament. The challenge is an original improvisational storytelling competition created by The Theatre Practice, and is open to students in all primary and secondary schools in Singapore.  Registration starts from 19th December! Details here

And last, but not the least, here’s my contribution to the stories: reading stories to the children at the community centre, where I am part of the committee that organises programmes for youth and children.

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

Storytelling at the community centre (Source: Prionka Ray)

The wise said, that we become the stories we tell. If that be true, then let the voices be heard and let the stories define us again and again and again…

Reading now: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh

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My Moleskine & I!


Love the Black! (Source: rebloggy.com)

Love the Black! (Source: rebloggy.com)

I am in a serious relationship with my Moleskine notebook. For those who get attached to routines, circumstances and things, this post is for you!!

So, yes, I am in love with my notebook. It means I am never without it and I get anxious as the year nears its end, because then I must be in possession of a new one before the pages run out in my old one. Not only am I loyal and proud, but I am also pedantic about the kind of notebook I buy. For the uninitiated, Moleskine’s notebooks are stylised to follow the aesthetics of a ‘traditional’ black notebook with rounded corners and ivory-coloured paper. Bound in cardboard, it has, what they call a spine, which allows the notebook to lie flat. An elastic band is used to seal, and a ribbon bookmark is included along with an expandable pocket inside the rear cover. You can see that I like describing it. Now, coming to its name, Moleskine. It does not have an official pronunciation in any other language except Italian.

Aware of my loyalty, one Christmas, my girls decided to gift me a Moleskine notebook. But alas, it was too late in the year! December 25th! That’s really too late to buy a planner that I would need right on 1st January. Isn’t it? Unfortunately, they knew not that each year, somewhere around October/ November, I dutifully make my way to the book store and buy that same moleskin. And so, that year, I was the proud owner of two Moleskine (yes, exactly the same ones).

2016 is nearing its end and today was my Moleskine buying day. ‘Black, soft, daily’, I blurted to the lady at the store. She was used to this. There are many like me, you see, who refuse to budge from what they like, what they are used to and what they hold on to, very dearly indeed! Perhaps, it is somewhat like holding on to ideas that you get accustomed to. You don’t want to change. Sometimes, because you are too comfortable with the status quo and some times because accepting new is like admitting that your previous idea had a flaw.

So, at the store today, like a dogmatic authoritarian, I guarded my choice. Yes, the same one! There are other colours, said the lady at the counter, tentatively. Equally hesitant, I glanced at the range. Red, Orange, Blue, green. Wow! But no, no, I need to be loyal, I thought! ‘Black, soft, daily’, I repeated my preference again. The lady disappeared to find my love from the dark and deep drawers of her store. While she was gone, I glanced at the colours again and gingerly touched the orange one. It was so lovely! Feeling brave, I asked if I could look at that piece. ‘It is only available in a hard cover’, she informed. ‘What! I only buy soft’, I replied. She smiled. ‘Of course!’

To all the people, who are attached to routines, circumstances and things, please know that I have picked up a hardcover, orange, daily Moleskine! Ha! Dogmatic? Who me? Not at all! After all, Orange is the new black!

Orange is the new black!

Orange is the New Black! (Source: Prionka Ray)

Happy B’day dear H, wherever you are…


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Source: Etsy

Today is a special day. It’s my mom’s birthday. (Happy B’day, mom!) It’s also the birthday of a little girl that I befriended, a girl who touched my heart. She lived in a foster home and I was asked to go and meet her. It was a sunny afternoon five years ago and I still remember our first meeting. She looked at me, sizing me up, trying to gauge if I was trustworthy enough, funny enough, nice enough, kind enough…Those initial meetings were hesitant and she was cautious and closed. A little girl, who had seen enough of life, to be wary of situations and people both. I am sure, there had been many like me in her life too, trying to be kind and preachy and condescending.

One day, I stopped trying to be the adult that she met regularly and instead decided to be just a listener, a listener of her many small and big stories, a listener of her ramblings and a listener of her thoughts, spoken and unspoken. I realised that I enjoyed listening to her. I began to look forward to meeting her. Those warm afternoons, those rainy days, those overcast evenings, those little walks, all became special.

She was a kid when I met her first, but soon she turned in to a beautiful teenager, full of life and I grew very fond of her indeed! However, there were many unpleasant and pleasant turns on her road and I, as the listener of her thoughts, felt both her sadness as well as her little excitements along with her. Who was I to her? We spoke of that often. On official paper, I was a registered volunteer and a mentor. Was I a friend, a confidante, a counsellor? She couldn’t decide, so she just said, you are Prionka to me, as if that one word would explain what I meant to her. Having said that, she smiled her full smile. I smiled back.

Little girls grow up. H grew up too. She is integrated back in to the society and not under special care anymore. I have no way of contacting her now but I think of her often, especially on days like these. Doe she still like to eat the boiled eggs? Does she still forget unpleasant memories? Does she still hold dear, the teddy bear that I had gifted her on her (13th or was it her 14th?) birthday, I don’t know. I get to meet other girls but I miss her still. And I wish the very best for her.

My dearest H, if you ever read this, please know that you are amazing and I will always remember you! Happy B’day with love!

Prionka

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Lesser


Pride,

I had wrapped myself in it.

A garb of the young,

a cloak of the naive,

A delusional veil of the ignorant!

Fear,

Yes, a bit of that too,

perhaps…

I knew not,

that time spares none,

Yes, not even me!

Why was I surprised

at being thus reduced?

Wasn’t it but inevitable?

Wasn’t it meant to be?

It was.

And it did do away

With my claws,

My edges,

My height.

My walls,

My disdain,

My might.

I was to be

Stunted,

small and slight,

In stature and in circumstances.

Was that it?

Aghast,

I lowered my eyes,

With disbelief at first,

With humility later

And with acceptance eventually.

I am ready, I said,

To chip off a bit more,

To crumble in places,

To be reduced as deemed right.

And now here I am…

Blunted,

Softer,

Lesser,

And yet at peace.

I am proud still,

But of others.

I am garbed still,

But in reflected glory.

I am resplendent still,

But that’s a joyous sheen you see.

A seamless, serene and sequinned mist,

That lends light to every pore in me.

In my nothingness, I discovered vastness,

In being lesser, I received more.

I surrendered,  and I accepted the inevitable.

It’s when I drifted that I found my shore.

(Lesser© by Prionka Ray)

Human Library: Read with an Open Mind!


human-lib1The largest Human Library event in Singapore took place yesterday at The Red Box and 400 readers were in attendance! The event, organised by volunteer group, Human Library Singapore, comes from a Danish concept, in which groups in the community exposed to stigma, prejudice and/or discrimination become the “Human Books.” And thus the readers get that rare opportunity to challenge prejudices through respectful conversations. Human Library aims to establish a safe conversational space, where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and hopefully answered by the Human Book.

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Among the Human Books at the Singapore event were people from a wide range of diverse groups. They included a former sex worker, migrant workers, a bipolar sufferer, a journalist, a foreign business consultant, a Muslim, MMA fighters and individuals with cerebral palsy and alopecia. Event lead organiser Kelly Ann Zainal said, “We are incredibly encouraged that so many individuals not only registered their interest in the event, but even set aside time to volunteer with us. The success of this event really shows that people are willing to have open conversations to challenge preconceived stereotypes.”

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Similarly, the discriminated group felt equally fortunate to have the opportunity to share their personal experiences with others. Shafiqah, a Human Book and a suicide attempt survivor was surprised that there were many, who earnestly wanted to know about suicide, and they also wanted to know ways in which they could help in such situations. In a society where such topics are considered taboo, the event urged people to open their minds and to understand things that went beyond their experience range. Though some conversations were uncomfortable, there was a compelling need to understand and respect others by withholding prior bias or judgement.

A society can only succeed when people lay their differences aside and forge ahead together. It is therefore, not just advisable but also essential that people accept others sans judgment. The 400 Readers and the 48 Books at the Singapore event yesterday began such conversations. And this may just be the step in the right direction!

(To read other posts, click on ‘prionkaray’ on the title bar)

Interconnected Thoughts and Associations


On my morning commute today, I saw a man walking by the road. Dressed in black and denim, his strides hinted at a certain impatience along with an accompanying confidence. Perhaps, he is both. Just like my dad was. And long after the man had moved away from my line of vision, my gaze stayed glazed. The image continued to stay with me and the essence of my dad lingered on. My mind meandered down the memory lane, skipping in a hurry to those precious years when my dad was still around.

How easily, a brief image, a sight, a sound or a fragrance can get so redolent with emotions!  How effortlessly they guide us to thoughts and memories of somebody else, of something else! And it is not a rare occurrence. Everything is indeed in association with the other! Everything is relative or related. However much, we seclude ourselves or think of ourselves as one separate unique entity, we are not. Our identity and our very existence is in context. The smaller pencil is in context of the bigger one; the daughter is because there is a mother; the writing is here because there is a reader. And I thought of my dad because of the man?
Does that mean, I wouldn’t have remembered my dad without that man? Of course, I would have! But, then again, something else would have triggered my thought. There is always an allusion, an association or a comparison of juxtaposed thoughts, events or memories. One leads to another and then they all merge somewhere else altogether. It’s such a fluid world, where we are all a part of the whole, linked and intertwined with fluid thoughts of the others, merging to make a bigger picture, a bigger world, a bigger phenomenon. No thought remains just there. It continues to another place and another association, transcending time and geographical locations.
Now I let my thoughts pause, pause on these beautiful paintings that reflect my state of mind. One is by Mark Chadwick and it presents the fluidity of thoughts and the other, by Ingeborg Herckenrath. It shows connected people. These images may lead you to your own associations. I will leave you here to linger here or to move on…
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Fluid Portrait by Mark Chadwick. (Source: Deviant Art)

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Connected People red by Ingeborg Herckenrath (Source: Saatchi Art)

Lessons in Humility


Right before the Hindus celebrate the festival of lights, Diwali, here’s an endearing sight! This video, which is an initiative of Tamil Murasu, featured the MPs of Singapore, decked up in saris to wish the residents a happy Diwali. What a beautiful gesture, Singapore!!

And also happy to see my ex- neighbour, Mrs Josephine Teo in here. Those days, I was totally clueless as to who she was. My bad! We spoke about schools, kids and many other things. When we got talking about work, she informed quietly that she works in the ministry and in Finance. No unnecessary elaborations were provided. By the time I figured out that she’s Senior Minister of State, Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Ministry of Transport, I was too embarrassed to let her know that I had goofed up. So, she remained, Josephine, who stayed in my estate briefly and I remained her clueless neighbour, Prionka. Dear MP, Josephine, you, as well as the other ministers that I have met so far, and found completely approachable, make me feel proud of this nation that I live in. On a personal note, lessons in humility learnt!

Acknowledging the Bitter


I usually write about the inspiring, the positive and the bright. However, there is no inspiration that has not struggled first, no positive that has not been engulfed in chasms of negativity and no brightness that has not been swathed in dark at some point of time or the other. To ignore these negatives would be great injustice to the spirit of positive. It is imperative for the pain to be acknowledged before any healing can ever begin. So, here I present a conversation with a broken soul that acknowledges the dark, the dull and the low. It is the silent musing that is often felt by many and yet seldom aired. The conversation may be between  two individuals, but it echoes the general melancholy of a generation that has waded through enough experiences, circumstances and hopelessness of the mundane.

A tinge of something bitter, that I have recognised in countless eyes and yet they deny its existence. Lots though, can be read between the lines…

 

Bitter

How bitter? said I

Very, she replied.

What’s missing, do you know?

Or is something missing at all?

It’s incomplete, she said.

And yet it’s heavy, dark and slow.

What’s the reason, tell me why?

No reason, she said, but there’s no pulse, no fire and no wings to fly.

Are we talking about you? I said in alarm!

She continued,

It sheds no tears. It doesn’t even cry…

It causes no ripples. It’s something curled up and dried.

Is it you? I asked again.

She stayed ominously silent,

Then she said, no, it’s my empty inside.

(Source: Prionka Ray©)

This poem is dedicated to all the struggles, the doubts and the lows that make any comeback a victory of human existence. And to those, who have felt this at any point of time, you are not alone. Reach out and seek help. Acknowledge to yourself, if not to others! It’s only in acceptances that the healing begins. And then let us know of the comebacks because these comebacks become inspirations to many!

 

Contact:

ingrouphelp@gmail.com/ rayprionka@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bringing Contemporary Art to the Common Man


According to Director, Angelita Teo of the National Museum of Singapore, “History inspires art, and art develops our understanding of history and ourselves.” Keeping this in mind, the National Museum brings in a new exhibition that includes more than 30 thought-provoking international artworks to Singapore. The show is curated in collaboration with the network of French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC), and it is for the first time that this collection is being presented in Asia Pacific.

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National Museum of Singapore, Director, Angelita Teo at the media preview of What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible. (Photo: Prionka Ray)

However, contemporary art is not everyone’s cup of tea. Especially in Singapore, as Ms Teo points out rightly, the exposure to contemporary art has been limited. Therefore, the museum has taken special steps and measures to ensure that art does not stay restricted to a select group, but is accessible to all. These measures include, explaining the art pieces better in the form of longer introductions that are included along with the expected title and name of the artist. This ensures that the art novices will be able to enjoy the pieces as much as the seasoned art enthusiasts.

Titled, ‘What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible,’ the show broadly surveys the imaginary and the temporary, and takes visitors on an experiential and progressive journey of the mind and senses, using unconventional approaches in art-making, and multi-media. The title and the design of What is Not Visible is Not Invisible takes inspiration from the artwork of the same title by French artist Julien Discrit, which walks the line between physical and philosophical. At first glance, three infrared lightbulbs are strung from the ceiling in front of an unassuming blank wall. When triggered by the viewer’s presence, the bulbs light up to reveal the ultraviolet text on the wall: “What is not visible is not invisible”. Speaking at the media preview yesterday, Julien explained his interest in astrophysics and his inspiration for the artwork that originated from the idea that physical universe is bigger than the visible universe.

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What is not visible is not invisible, 2008. Julien Discrit (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

This visual paradox sets the premise for the themes and artworks at the exhibition. Artworks such as Grass Grows by Hans Haacke where a mound of grass greets visitors, and Repulse Bay by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, where a beach is recreated indoors instantly captures the audiences’ attention through the displacement of what is expected to be outdoors, suddenly appearing indoors. The recreation of environments in unassuming spaces creates new perspectives and transports visitors into a new state of mind. Most of the artwork invites individual perspectives. As curator, Imam Ismail points out, “Audience participation completes the works.”

 

Here are few of my favourite pieces and few moments of artistic interactions from the media preview of the exhibition:

Repulse Bay

Repulse Bay, 1999. Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

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Plus de lumiere, 1998. Claude Leveque (Photo Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore)

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Les oiseaux de Celeste, 2008. Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, Ariane Michel. Video. (Source: Celeste Boursier-Mougenot, Ariane Michel)

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Freak star, 2005. Ann Veronica Janssens. (Photo coutesy of National museum of Singapore)

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Artist, Julien Discrit, whose work What is not visible is invisible, inspires the title of the exhibition, seen here with artwork, Major Tom, 2009, created by artist, Edith Dekyndt. In the background is After DM, 2012 by Philippe Decrauzat. (Photo: Prionka Ray)

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Imam Ismail (National Museum of Singapore) and Laurence Gateau (FRAC and Platform), explaining space and audience interaction. Work n°262, 2001 Martin Creed Collection FRAC Languedoc-Roussillon. (Photo: Prionka Ray)

 

The exhibition certainly forced me to think beyond what is usual. Just before I walked out, I was amazed to see cat faces on wooden pallets. Titled, Photomatou, artist Alain Sechas has created 14 posters for visitors to take home.

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Photomatou, 2004, Alain Sechas (Photo: Prionka Ray)

These posters were adorned with his usual iconic sidekicks: cat motifs. Every visitor, according to the artist will identify with one expression and bring back the poster, which most resembles him or her. I brought one back too though I am still trying to interpret the expression.

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The cat motif that came home with me!!! Photomatou, 2004, Alain Sechas (Photo: Prionka Ray)

What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible will be on display from 7 October 2016 to 19 February 2017. The exhibition is open daily from 10am to 7pm, except Thursdays when it opens from 1pm to 7pm. Details on admission and guided tours are available on www.nationalmuseum.sg

 

Meanwhile,  the museum will also be hosting few of the film screenings of the 27th Singapore International Film Festival. The film festival will be casting a Spotlight on Three Singapore Filmmakers in its Silver Screen Awards Shortlist and Festival Line-Up.

  • Singapore filmmaker K. Rajagopal’s first feature film, A Yellow Bird, shortlisted as one of the competition films in the Silver Screen Awards.
  • SGIFF pays tribute to Singapore independent filmmaker, the late Abdul Nizam, and will screen a collection of 12 of his works
  • SGIFF’s commissioned short film by Singapore filmmaker Gladys Ng will make its world premiere during the Festival opening.

As an internationally-recognised platform in Southeast Asia for the discovery of independent cinema, the SGIFF is committed to champion the art and innovation of film making in telling the stories of Asia and the world.

The 27th edition of SGIFF, which runs from 23 November to 4 December 2016, will take place across various venues, including Marina Bay Sands, National Museum of Singapore Gallery Theatre, Shaw Theatres Lido, National Gallery Singapore Auditorium, The Arts House Screening Room, Filmgarde Bugis+ and Objectifs Chapel Gallery. Ticket sales for SGIFF will begin on 28 October 2016.

The SGIFF is an event of the Singapore Media Festival, hosted by the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (IMDA).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Truth and the Stories


The ninth month of the year holds a special place in my life. September, a month dedicated to the Virgos, the fast cars of Singapore Night Race and the venerable teachers, is also the month that reminds me of the passage of time. Most of the year seems to have whizzed past and by now I have a fair idea of how it fared. Was it good? Was it bad? By now, I ought to know. So, September is reserved for contemplations, consolidations and evaluations.

In my contemplative state, I have gravitated towards mythological tales as well as contemporary plots.

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is a rendition of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata and the book presents the viewpoint of Draupadi, a woman. In changing the narrative, Divakaruni manages to subvert the patriarchal slant of mythological stories. The reader is led to question the idea of absolute truth and readjusts known perspectives.

I have always been drawn to multiple perspectives as they force me to look at life, events and people differently. And somehow, the more I age, the more I value different perspectives and the more I realise that there is no absolute right or wrong. We all are right. We all are wrong. It simply depends on who narrates the story at that point in time.

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In The Palace of Illusions, Divakaruni gives an alternate POV to a story that has already been told and retold countless number of times. Additionally, in adopting Draupadi’s voice, she lays bare, social issues and throws light on how power belongs to select few in the society. However, the protagonist here is no wilting flower either. Her character displays ego, willfulness and pride with equal flourish.  The Place of Illusions is thus, a powerful book that takes a feminine viewpoint and yet presents the flaws of the character. It’s a must read for those who enjoy history, social commentary and an important contemplative resource for those who appreciate the nuances of characters and of life itself.

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Another book that makes you question the construct of truth is, A Case of Exploding Mangoes, by the Pakistani writer, Mohammed Hanif. The story is based on the plane crash that killed General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, the former president of Pakistan. The book won the Guardian First Book Award and Hanif’s writing is both provocative and pithy, as he explores the various possibilities of Zia’s death.

What strikes in both the books, whether it is a mythological and historical narration or a contemporary commentary, is the common theme, that truth or the notion of truth, can be manipulated by a select few. This realisation somehow makes it even more important to be open to multiple perspectives, both in life and in stories, so that we don’t miss out on things that remain untold.

So, where does September bring me? It brings me to the stories that I may have missed through out the year or perhaps, even before that. It brings me to a place that’s hopefully less judgmental and less biased than before. It  brings me to the place of understanding, that to believe in just one story is to ignore the many others that are equally valid.