Published on 28 October 2017

What does it feel like to receive the highest honours in the arts? This year’s recipients of the Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award reflect upon being conferred these awards.



Mr Djamal Tukimin, Mr Law Wai Lun (Photo: National Arts Council)

The Cultural Medallion is Singapore’s highest artistic accolade, recognising individuals whose artistic excellence, contribution and commitment to the arts have enriched and shaped Singapore’s cultural landscape. Each recipient will be able to access the Cultural Medallion Fund of up to $80,000 to support their efforts in advancing Singapore’s artistic development.

Djamal Tukimin, 71

Mr Djamal Tukimin with President Halimah Yacob (Photo: National Arts Council)
Djamal Tukimin

Author, Critic, Playwright & Researcher

“I’m happy the government recognises my work. This encourages me to write even more. I think if I was made to stop writing or reading, I would mati (die). Every night, I have to read before I go to sleep, even if it’s just a single line.

I really enjoy writing essays. I feel that my ultimate masterpiece would be an essay on Malays from all over the world who are active in arts and culture.

I feel there are many good young Malay writers. My advice to these writers is that they should learn about the problems and challenges facing our community, such as how Malay literature and culture survive in such a fast-paced city like Singapore. These writers should contribute something that reaches out to not just the Malays, but also the other races in Singapore.”

Law Wai Lun, 73

Mr Law Wai Lun with President Halimah Yacob (Photo: National Arts Council)
Law Wai Lun

Composer, Educator & Mentor

“I’m very happy to be recognised for my work in such a way, and I’d like to thank my nominators, my family and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra for their support.

I moved to Singapore in 1995 and these past 22 years here has been my most productive period. I’ve composed over 200 works these past 50 years, and the work I’ve done in Singapore exceeds the work I’ve done in Hong Kong and China combined. Singapore has been a source of inspiration for me.

My mother is no longer with us, but she loved Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. If I had a chance to really work on a composition as great as this one, that would be a wonderful way to honour her.”


Kray Chen, Yarra Ileto, Kahchun Wong, Joshua Ip (Photo: National Arts Council)

The Young Artist Award is Singapore’s highest award for young arts practitioners aged 35 and below. Their artistic achievements and commitments have distinguished them among their peers. Each recipient receives $20,000 that supports future artistic pursuits and development.

Joshua Ip, 35

Joshua Ip with Minister Grace Fu (Photo: National Arts Council)
Joshua Ip

Poet, Editor & Literary Organiser

“I’m just happy to be here. I lost my passport in Bali and had to go to Jakarta to make a new passport. I also came down with food poisoning. I returned to Singapore just in time for this event.

With poetry, I do a lot of editing, anthologising and community building, and I think that’s the way to go. We have very good writers in Singapore, but we don’t have that many good readers.

With Sing Lit Station, we’ve been trying to push the creative boundaries to reach out to the younger generation. We recently organised a Sing Lit Body Slam, which combined a poetry slam with professional wrestling.

I hope to redistribute the money from this award to younger poets and empower them with opportunities and funding to grow the poetry scene in Singapore.”

Kahchun Wong, 31

Kahchun Wong with Minister Grace Fu (Photo: National Arts Council)
Kah Chun (Photo: Lavender Chang)

Orchestral Conductor & Composer

“I’m very happy and honoured to be considered for this prestigious award. I work with all these orchestras around Europe, and I do feel like I’m an ambassador of sorts for my country, flying the flag of Singapore wherever I go.

As a Singaporean, I hold onto values such as meritocracy and tolerance. To be able to be open and work with people without bias really means a lot to me, especially now that I travel so much for work.

To me, the Young Artist Award speaks to me more in terms of the recognition and responsibility rather than the financial gain.”

Kray Chen, 30

Kray Chen with Minister Grace Fu (Photo: National Arts Council)
Kray Chen

Multidisciplinary Artist

“I’m delighted to receive this award. Initially, I felt it was a little early in my development as an artist to be receiving this award, but perhaps I’m sometimes too harsh on myself.

I work with different types of media but the main objective is always about engaging people. I’m happy if the audience is entertained by my work as entertainment is a form of engagement. My art is usually a response to the conditions of a practicing artist in pragmatic Singapore – how exactly can one be an artist here?

I’ll be using this fund to finance a film that will be shown next January during Singapore Art Week.”

Yarra Ileto, 35

Yarra Ileto with Minister Grace Fu (Photo: National Arts Council)
Yarra Ileto

Dancer & Choreographer

“It’s really been a shock for me! I never thought I’d be in the running for something like this. I’m very appreciative of this recognition.

As a dancer, I always hope to draw more audience in by producing work with familiar and relatable themes. At the same time, it’d be good to expose more people to the various forms of dance expression.

With the fund from this award, I hope to do a Masters and work on being a good dance educator. I do like kids and sharing my professional experience with them. I also enjoy reaching out to the elderly through community programmes.”

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