COMPILED BY JOEL TAN
Published on 17 February 2015
The Japan Foundation is a special legal entity charged with the dissemination of Japanese culture internationally. In Singapore, the Foundation, which is recognised as being a major patron of the arts, is most notably associated with avant-garde theatre artist, Ong Keng Sen, who is a fellow with the Foundation. In 1997, the Japan Foundation served as co-producer with TheatreWorks for Ong’s Lear, his renowned inter-cultural take on King Lear that incorporated elements of Asian performance traditions such as Japanese noh theatre. Lear premiered in Japan and went on to tour in Europe. The Foundation has also supported Singapore arts events, such as the M1 Fringe Festival, and organises several Asian art fairs, exhibitions and conferences like Omnilogue — a series of inter-cultural art exhibitions in Perth, Delhi and Singapore, which was held at the National University of Singapore Museum in 2013.
One of a generation of Singapore writers who gained prominence in the 1980s, Philip Jeyaretnam is a Senior Counsel, novelist and public intellectual. His early education was divided between Singapore and England, culminating in a Law degree from Cambridge University. In the ’80s and early ’90s, he published a collection of short stories, First Loves, and novels Raffles Place Ragtime and Abraham’s Promise. His work is deeply engaged with Singaporean social mores: Raffles Place Ragtime, for example, is a cutting look at the materialistic lives of young, wealthy Singaporeans. Both First Loves and Raffles Place Ragtime received nominations for the Commonwealth Writers Prize. A staunch supporter of the arts, Jeyaretnam has chaired the Singapore Writers Festival Steering Committee since 2007 and was recently appointed board Chairman of the School of the Arts.
Widely-regarded as one of the founding figures of Malaysian contemporary theatre, the late Krishen Jit was an academic, critic and theatre director. Born in Kuala Lumpur in 1939, Krishen was involved in Malaysian English-language theatre in his early years. He went on to pursue a Master’s degree in History at the University of California at Berkeley. On his return from the United States, he lectured at the University of Malaya but also threw himself into theatre, evolving an approach that was noted for its experimentation and eclecticism. A founding member of the Malaysian theatre company, Five Arts Centre, Krishen was a major bridge between the theatre cultures of Singapore and Malaysia. He directed several plays by Singaporean and Malaysian playwrights alike, in both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. On our shores, he most notably co-directed, with Ong Keng Sen, TheatreWorks’ 1992 production of Leow Puay Tin’s Three Children; a 2003 production of Huzir Sulaiman’s Atomic Jaya and the 1999 Wild Rice production of Stella Kon’s Emily of Emerald Hill.