Part 1: At The Arts House: A weekend with words

(“At The Arts House: A weekend with words” is given below this reminder of our current national concern – Covid-19.)

Covid-19: Let’s fight to eliminate this menace together

Mr Lawrence Wong overwhelmed with emotion. (Photo shot off the photo in The Straits Times of 26 March 2020)

********* Let us comply with the Gov.sg safety instructions to keep coronavirus at bay. Let us fight to eliminate this menace together.

Before I begin the article, “At The Arts House: A weekend with words”, I would like to take this opportunity, like our National Development Minister Lawrence Wong did, to show my appreciation to all those healthcare workers as well as people from the other sectors such as cleaning, security and airport management staff for working tirelessly during this time in the light of the spreading coronavirus. Yes, I do join hands with him to say as he did: “I just want to say a big thank you to everyone who is doing their part.”

Indeed, when we do our part responsibly as advised by our healthcare experts, “we can beat the virus together.” (I was really overwhelmed to see Mr Wong teared up when he spoke in Parliament last night on the worsening pandemic.) ********** 

Part 1
At The Arts House: A weekend with words

As the author of “A Kite in the Evening Sky”, I was invited to give a talk, “My kampung days” at The Arts House recently.  The talk was among a number of talks by local writers.

The speaker of the talk with Ms Sylvana Ryan Mulia, an Indonesian guest, in front of The Arts House.

The event, themed “These storied walls” under “Textures – a weekend with words”, was held from 13 – 22 March from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.

Describing the events, the information pamphlet says: “First launched in 2018, Textures – a weekend with words, is now positioned as one of The Arts House’s signature programmes.  The festival celebrates the power and beauty of words.”

The speaker with Ms Martini Ali Wafar, Assistant Manager, Programmes, Arts House, in front of a poster carrying a quote from “A Kite in the Evening Sky”.

Book sellers in one of the halls in The Arts House selling books up to 50% discount. Among them was Marshall Cavendish, the publisher of “A Kite in the Evening Sky” and the book went on sale for just $10.00 (50% discount).

Shaik Kadir with Ms Joyce Teo, Vice Dean, Arts Management Programme, School of Arts Management (left); and Ms Juliana Lim, guest, who requested the copies of “A Kite in the Evening Sky” to be signed for her granddaughters – the “vintage 1989 copy” for Anna (elder) and the latest 2018 edition for Zoe.

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Ms Juliana Lim

I purchased a copy of A Kite in the Evening Sky by Shaik Kadir in the late 1980s.  It is an autobiographical novel that offers the experiences of the author’s kampong life in Geylang Serai in the 1950s and 1960s.

Then, two weeks ago, I spotted an advertisement about the talk by Mr Shaik Kadir at The Arts Centre on 14 March.  I registered for it, retrieved the book and re-read it.

At 2 pm of that day, I watched a play enacting the life of Mr Kadir.  It was performed most charmingly by a NAFA student, Xenon Koh. The performance also comprised story-telling and kampong craftwork for children as well as gamelan music and a dance item.

Later, at the book-sale hall, I purchased the latest edition of Mr Kadir’s book.

I value the book for its insight into the Malay lifestyle and customs, such as how the author went through the Ramadan fasting and his circumcision, how the kampong folks came together to prepare for wedding functions, how they came together to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri as well as how the boy Kadir participated in the various kampung youths’ pastimes and social and religious events.

Then, at 4:30 pm, I attended Mr Kadir’s talk and learned how he went through a difficult pace of life amidst the poverty of his family.

– Ms Juliana Lim, a retiree from the civil and community services, who loves reading local literature. (See “An afternoon with Shaik Kadir” in Ms Lim’s blog: https://myartsbucket.wordpress.com/2020/03/22/an-afternoon-with-shaik-kadir-2/ )

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From pamphlet: Information for the “Adventures of a kampung boy” performance with background music by the BronzAge Gamelan. Held twice (at 11 am -12 pm and at 2 pm-3 pm), the main actor was Xenon Koh who acted as Shaik Kadir, the kampung boy. He and the others who assisted him were all students from the Arts Management and Theatre Programme course of NAFA.

Actor Xenon Koh (wearing Malay sarung), acting the kampung boy, Shaik Kadir, accompanied by gamelan music; and his assistants in the performance helping children to play kampung games like marbles, chapteh and paper balls, and make kites and ketupat cases.

Pamphlets and notices announcing the time and room of the event, “In conversation with Mr Shaik Kadir.

The talk, “My kampung days”, is based on the speaker’s book, “A Kite in the Evening Sky”.

Shaik Kadir starting his talk about his experiences during his kampung days.

The team from NAFA who were the project managers for the event. “We work with The Arts House to organise the event which was held in the Chambers at The Arts House,” said team leader, Syafiq Syazwan. The team comprised (back row from left) Syafiq Syazwan and Lee Tae Su, and (front row from left) Eunice Salanga, Ms Martini Ali Wafar, and Hasha Yaqazhah.

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Muhammad Syafiq Syazwan

This year’s ‘Textures’ at The Arts House was a wonderful experience for me and my team-mates. We are happy to be involved in this amazing event.

When given the task of helping to organise this festival, we students of NAFA were excited as we know, we would learn so many things and meet and work with many different people.  Indeed, that happened, and we are so glad to have gained so much experience from it.

Being part of this event also allowed us to utilise our knowledge we received from our course, and applying it to make things work beautifully.

By attending the talk by Mr Shaik Kadir, I was able to learn so much about the kampong days and the living situation then.  He told us about how he grew up as a poor kampong boy facing the challenges of those days, and how, without technology and fancy gadgets of today, kampong children would come together and play, inventing games and game rules.

He talked about the kampong spirit which can hardly be seen today – a spirit of togetherness that we need today in Singapore.

It is interesting to know that he grew up from old Singapore and lived to enjoy modern Singapore. We learned a lot from his talk. It is a lesson of facing challenges of life.

– Muhammad Syafiq Syazwan Bin Abdul Razak, Final-year student of Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, who was in the team that helped organise “Textures” at The Arts House.

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A summary of the talk together with relevant photos will be given in Part 2 of “My kampung days” soon.

Shaik Kadir
(Author of “A Kite in the Evening Sky”)
26 March 2020 

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