ABC Guide Issue 20

Published on 7 July 2015


J.M. Sali

Madras-born Singapore journalist and fictionist J.M. Sali is a prolific writer of short stories and plays. Writing in Tamil, he has penned 30 novels, 400 stories and some 80 plays, collected in over 50 books, for both adults and children. He began writing while in India, publishing a children’s novel and contributing articles to various magazines. On being hired by Tamil Murasu, Singapore’s only Tamil-language newspaper, to be its assistant editor, he moved to Singapore at the age of 25. Here, he continued writing fiction alongside a successful journalistic career until 2000 when he retired from journalism to write creatively full time. Over the years, Sali has become renowned

internationally as a Tamil writer, winning several prizes and accolades. These include the Tamil Nadu Government’s prize for Best Tamil Novel for Kana Kanden Thozhi (Friend, I Dreamt) and the Best Children’s Book Prize for Ariviyal Munnodikal (Science Pioneers). Many of his works have appeared on Tamil literature reading lists in schools, both locally and abroad. For his contributions to the literary arts, he was conferred the Cultural Medallion in 2012.


The Substation, located on Armenian Street, is an independent centre for contemporary and experimental art. Founded in 1990 by the late Kuo Pao Kun, a Cultural Medallion recipient, the Substation is the first of its kind in Singapore and played a key role in the development of fringe arts in the 1990s and early 2000s. A non-profit organisation, the Substation, with its eye on innovative work, serves as a developmental space for local artists. It contains rehearsal studios, a black box theatre and gallery spaces. Artists who have passed through the Substation come from a range of practices, including film, theatre, literary arts, visual art, dance and independent music.

A former power sub-station, hence its name, the building dates to 1926. In 1950, a garden was added, and with its subsequent conversion to an arts space, became a meeting point for the arts community in the 1990s and in the early 2000s, served as an outdoor performance space for independent musicians.

 (Illustration Jimmy Lee)

A pioneering institution, it housed multi-disciplinary arts festivals, a first for Singapore at the time, and hosted inter-disciplinary arts conferences, bringing several artists from disparate fields of practice into conversation. Today, the Substation remains a key institution in the nurturing of fringe arts, serving as an incubator, performance platform and civic space.


Desmond Sim is a Singapore playwright, poet and painter. His foray into drama began when Sim won both first and second place in the 1989 Shell-NUS Short Play Competition. He has since written more than 20 plays. In 1991, he became TheatreWorks’ first writer-in-residence, following his efforts in setting up the company’s Writers’ Laboratory. Later, in the ’90s, many of his plays were produced with Action Theatre, where he is associate artistic director. Some of his well-known works include plays Autumn Tomyam and The Swimming Instructor, as well as the screenplay for Thai film, Beautiful Boxer. A noted poet, Sim won a merit prize for his 1993 Singapore Literature Prize entry, Places Where I’ve Been, a collection of poems about journeys real and symbolic.

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