The latest issue of The U Press, a beautifully-designed and complimentary quarterly paper by Underscore (conceived and designed by award-winning design studio HJGHER) highlights three book artists who “stand firm on their belief in a traditional medium and its delicate endurance”: Eriko Hirashima of La Libreria, Adelene Koh of DDDots, and me. An excerpt:
More than a container for words, books have historically been part of traditional art forms, with pages, covers, and spines transforming into artistic experiences. Working with bookbinding, paper cutting, and typography, among other skills, book artists tell a story using more than the words printed on the page.
We sit down with three book artists in Singapore to talk about their personal history with the book and their connection with this gentle craft.
The U Press can be found at nearly 250 joints around town.
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This weekend, The U Factory at Gillman Barracks hosted the first annual Singapore Art Book Fair, a fair specializing in contemporary art books and ‘zines. I was unable to attend. Did you? Thoughts?
Posted in Design | Tagged book arts | Leave a Comment »
Today, we celebrate our fourth Diwali in Singapore. We also commemorate the third anniversary of our arrival here.
So, on this very special day, I leave you with a poem by Sarojini Naidu, poet, Indian independence activist, and the first woman to become the President of the Indian National Congress:
Lakshmi*, The Lotus-Born
Thou who didst rise like a pearl from the ocean,
Whose beauty surpasseth the splendour of morn!
Lo! We invoke thee with eager devotion,
Hearken, O Lotus-born?
Come! with sweet eyelids and fingers caressing,
With footfalls auspicious our thresholds adorn,
And grant us the showers and the sheaves of thyblessing,
Hearken, O Lotus-born!
Prosper our cradles and kindred and cattle.
And cherish our hearth-fires and coffers and corn,
O watch o’er our seasons of peace and of battle,
Hearken, O Lotus-born!
—From The Broken Wing: Songs of Love, Death and Destiny, 1915-1916 by Sarojini Naidu (John Lane Company, 1917).
(*Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil, although the deities, rituals, and stories that are associated with the holiday are different in different parts of India. My family considers the third day of the five-day festival most auspicious; they believe on this day Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, visits our home. On this night of a new moon—the last night of the Hindu year—total darkness sets in the night sky. We place tiny clay lamps in our doorway so that Lakshmi can find her way.)
Posted in Blog | Tagged Diwali | 2 Comments »
I’m once again over at momfilter today, a lifestyle blog for families, created by Pilar Guzmán and Yolanda Edwards, the founding editors of the now-defunct, but still-beloved, Cookie Magazine. “Postcards from Shanghai and Beijing” is the third of several short reflections on travel and family.
China, perhaps, doesn’t strike families as the ideal vacation destination. China isn’t family-friendly, as we in the West define that term, with our insistence on high chairs or children’s menus. Rather, it’s literally friendly to families; those traveling with children are welcomed and treated with extraordinary and humbling graciousness.
Our week-long sojourn took us to Shanghai and Beijing. We were told that we would have much difficulty getting around given the language barrier. Despite living in Singapore, where the lingua franca is English but where a large percentage of the population speak Mandarin, the extent of our Mandarin is “hello”, “good-bye”, and “thank you”. But we really needed not much more vocabulary than a genuine smile and a “ni hao” (especially one uttered by A and accompanied by her sweet smile) to get around.
Continue reading ”Postcards from Shanghai and Beijing.”
Posted in Architecture, Food, History, Shopping, Travel | Tagged Beijing, China, Detour, Shanghai | Leave a Comment »
I spent several evenings this past week at da:ns 2013, an annual celebration of dance held at Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay. This year, I opted to attend one of the festival’s “Shift” performances, rather than its “Centrestage” productions. I also attended two free “Rasa” performances, free lecture-demonstrations showcasing Asia’s traditional dances, with my toddler. A few thoughts:
Khmeropédies III: Source/Primate by Amrita Performing Arts. “Khmeropédies III is the continuation of a project that seeks to develop a specifically Cambodian contemporary language in dance, based on Cambodian cultural elements and Cambodian classical dance,” says choreographer French-Cambodian choreographer Emmanuèle Phuon. Source/Primate is an exploration of the monkey from the Cambodian classical masked dance known as Lakhaon Kaol and the behaviors of monkeys in the wild as identified and described by contemporary biologists. The seven male dancers’ control and fluency was extraordinary and certain athletic passages—with soars and turns in midair—were breathtaking.
Kathak by Anjum Bharti. Bharti, a Singapore-based dancer, displayed exceptional technical virtuosity in her performance. One hallmark of Kathak is complex footwork, which is accentuated with ankle bells; another is spinning (or ”round and round,” in the words of my daughter). Of the four pieces performed, I most enjoyed her “ghat bhav,” a composition featuring highly stylised and dramatic gat (from gait or stride), and her “jugalbandi”, a duet featuring the dancer and her tabla accompanist.
(FYI, Bharti is conducting a two-hour workshop on October, 27 at 2PM where she will share Kathak’s age-old history and demonstrate its key elements, such as mudras (hand gestures) and tatkaar (short rhythmic passages).)
Cambodian Classical Dance by Sophiline Arts Ensemble. At week’s end, I watched a mesmerizing selection of classical dances from Cambodia, including the iconic Apsara dance and passages from the Reamker, the Cambodian version of the Indian epic the Ramayana, thus coming full circle. I wish I had seen Sophiline Arts Ensemble’s fantastic display before viewing Source/Primate (as the latter draws so much visual vocabulary from the former)!
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Previously blogged: da:ns 2011. (I missed da:ns 2012!)
Posted in Dance | Tagged Cambodia, kathak | Leave a Comment »
Sunday is our family’s day of solitude. We tend to find ourselves a quiet corner of the country and while the afternoon away. Yesterday, we walked along the Kallang River, from Nicholl Highway MRT station to the Singapore Flyer. Despite our proximity to the city center, we saw very few people—a family of cycling enthusiasts and team of Dragon boaters. We took in the sounds of our stroll: the lap-lap of the Kallang River, the whiz-whiz of cars on the East Coast Parkway overhead, the clang-clang of tools of workers dismantling F1 infrastructure.
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Parting Glances: Singapore’s Evolving Spaces is an exquisite book by American filmmaker and educator, Craig McTurk. Parting Glances turns a camera lens on six communities in Singapore that are at the precipice of change: Kampong Lorong Buangkok, Seletar Camp, Pulau Ubin, People’s Park, MacPherson, and Queenstown.
These diverse neighborhoods are revealed through archival images, reflections of residents and merchants, and striking and eclectic contemporary photographs by McTurk.
Singapore has evolved so dramatically before my eyes. And, of course, much has been gained and lost in this push for development. Historians, politicians, environmentalists, urban planners—they all have their opinions.
The fascinating, and fast-disappering, neighborhoods so lovingly and painstakingly documented in Parting Glances may not be here if/when we return to the United States. Until then, they will be our settings for future “solitude Sundays.”
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BTW, McTurk is signing copies of Parting Glances at Select Books (51 Armenian Street) on Saturday, October 19 at 3PM, at Kinokuniya (391 Orchard Road) on Saturday, November 16 at 2PM and at BooksActually (9 Yong Siak Street) on Friday, November 22 at 7:30PM.
(Many thanks to Melanie Lee for sending this book my way.)
Posted in Architecture, Books, History, Photography | Tagged Kampong Lorong Buangkok, MacPherson, People's Park, Pulau Ubin, Queenstown, Seletar Camp | Leave a Comment »
The deadline has come and gone. I spent much of the wee hours this morning reading your words. I loved reading your histories—your personal, your communal, your national histories. Thank you!
So, what’s next?
1. If you have sent me an essay and have not received an acknowledgment, please email me! I’m not ignoring your submission; it likely got lost in the shuffle.
2. If you have received an acknowledgment, please know that I will respond to you with my decision (yes, no, or maybe [if you are keen on revising]) on/around October 15.
3. If your piece is selected for inclusion in Altogether Elsewhere, I will send you my editorial letter on/around November 1 and you and I will work, over the next four to six weeks, on creating a mutually-agreeable version ready for publication.
Questions? Email me, Tweet me, or leave a comment here. I may choose to answer your question in a subsequent post. (I will occasionally blog and Tweet about publishing in Singapore. These posts and Tweets will be tagged “Altogether Elsewhere” and #altogetherelsewhere, respectively.)
Posted in Books | Tagged Altogether Elsewhere |
On Friday evening, I attended “Dhruv Gati,” the opening performance of Samparna 2013: The Asian Festival of Classical Dance. “Dhruv Gati” by the Gundecha Brothers and Kadamb featured a coming together of two Indian performing arts’ traditions that are very dear to my heart: Dhrupad and Kathak.
Dhrupad is an ancient, but not widely popular, vocal genre of Hindustani (North Indian) classical music. Thankfully, my musically-minded parents introduced me to all sorts of music when I was a child, including this restrained, meditative, devotional tradition. The Gundecha brothers, Umakant Gundecha and Ramakant Gundecha, are one of the genre’s leading exponents.
Kathak, a classical Indian dance from North India, emphasizes vigorous rhythmic footwork. I spent several years studying this traditional art, both in the United States and in Singapore. Kumudini Lakhia is a pioneering figure in the Indian contemporary dance movement and her works set in motion what is known now as contemporary Kathak. She founded Kadamb Center of Dance and Music in Ahmadabad, Gujarat in 1967.
Yesterday’s performance was simply superlative. It was delicate and graceful and electrifying and soul-stirring. I’ve really run out of adjectives to describe how moved I was by this performance. It was such a privilege to witness the first-ever collaboration of these artists in a relatively intimate setting.
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Samparna 2013 concludes on Sunday with two performances that I’m also keen to see: “Feathered Fables,” a showcase of contemporary, ballet, and Bharatanatyam performed by Singapore dance schools NUS Dance Ensemble, Academie Du Danse, and Shruti Laya School of Dance and “Chitra: A Kuchipudi Expression of Tagore” by Amrita Lahiri.
Posted in Dance |