2016 Literature Seminar

The Gifted Education Branch, Ministry of Education, Singapore organises the Literature Seminar for Secondary 2 to 4 students from Integrated Programme Schools with the aim to stimulate their interest in Literature by exposing them to literary issues and concepts that are beyond the typical school curriculum, enabling them to deepen their knowledge of the literary discipline.

From SOTA, two thesis proposals were selected for presentation at this year’s Literature Seminar from the Cross-Media Exploration strand. The other strands include; Explorations along thematic lines, Explorations of one (or more) specific writer(s) and/or styles, Explorations of writings of a specific literary period, Explorations of a genre/a comparison of genres, and Explorations of Critical Theory.

The presenters share their journey and their Literature Seminar experiences.


Topic: Defending the Motherland: Exploring depictions of Conflict and Struggle in Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est and Percy Wyndham Lewis’s A Battery Shelled

2016 Lit Sem - Sarah Anais Buxton-Leow

What I hoped to achieve from my participation in the Literature Seminar was to deepen my analysis for Literature and to try something out of my comfort zone and beyond what is taught in the classroom. My topic originally was examining how World War One paintings challenge the dichotomous portrayal of the war in World War One poetry, however as I worked on my presentation and the feedback received on my proposal, my topic eventually narrowed down and the final presentation title was “Defending the motherland: Exploring depictions of conflict and struggle in Wilfred Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and Percy Wyndham Lewis’s ‘A Battery Shelled’”.

I’d definitely encourage other students to take part in the Literature Seminar because you really have the freedom to explore beyond the syllabus taught in class. As my presentation looked at World War One paintings, I found myself having to learn how to analyse paintings and look at various elements because being a theatre student, I had no clue how to look at a painting analytically before Literature Seminar. I also found myself doing a much deeper analysis of the poem than what I would usually do in class or under a timed setting, and it was a really enriching learning experience for me. I do feel that the Literature Seminar stretches you and challenges you to do more than what you are used to.


Topic: Power, Fate and Determinism: A comparative study of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Justin Kurzel’s 2015 Film Adaptation

2016 Lit Sem - Russell and Kimberly

For us, upon participating in this seminar, we had hoped to garner more out-of-curriculum opportunities, and increase our exposure to Literature, as well as to have the opportunity to further deepen the quality of our literary analysis through this research experience. During the process of crafting our presentations, we went through many refinements on our topic, finally deciding on exploring the deterministic nature of power in Macbeth through a comparative study of Macbeth by William Shakespeare and the film adaptation Macbeth by Justin Kurzel. The entire process included many sleepless nights of close analysis of the text and visual analysis of the film. Furthermore, we learnt to contextualise and form holistic arguments that were based not only on the content of the different mediums, but also on real-life concepts and theologies in the context of Macbeth and its society (such as The Great Chain of Being, etc.), which was something we found interesting to explore beyond merely the text itself. As neither of us were students of film, the process of analysing and picking out the significance of certain director’s choices was an enriching experience, one that further widened our approach.

For other year 2 to 4 students next year, we would strongly encourage you to take part in the seminar and submit your proposal, because you really do get to hone skills that you would be able to apply to not only Literature, but many other subjects, especially subjects that require large amounts of research as well as writing, such as ELCT or the humanities. Moreover, you also get to experience what it’s like to study English Literature at a much higher level, and because of this, you do gain a lot of experience in reading, writing, and analysis, which will definitely push you past your comfort zones and possibly also help you in doing better for works within the school’s curriculum.


Other thesis proposals from SOTA included:

Castaway Colonists: Colonial Attitudes in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe by Pujaa Kasivishvanaath

The Grass is Greener in the West : Identity Crisis in The Inheritance of Loss and The Third and Final Continent by Sailalitha Aiyer and Ingle Rachana Sanjay

Intrinsics of the Evanescent : Analysing the Powers of the Dream in Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman by Ian Ong

An analysis of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations and Brian Kirk’s 2011 film adaptation by Victoria Foo Kye Wen

The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns : Is limited liberation, still liberation? by Iliescu Adela-Alexandra

Fruitless labour: The unattainability of female empowerment in Hills Like White Elephants and A Temporary Matter by Elizabeth Cheng

Literary Perspectives on Humanities Learning Journey

During the Humanities and Social Sciences Learning Festival in Term 2 Week 10, Year Three students embarked on the Resilience Trail as part of the programme led by the Singapore History Consultants.

Brian Ko shares how his literature lessons on war poetry in Term 2 helped to frame his perspectives of this learning journey.

On this informative learning journey in the surrounds of Kranji, I learned more about Singapore’s experience during the Second World War among other national concerns. My learning was made more enjoyable, exciting and educational by my previous exposure to war poems during my Literature lessons. The poems included Dulce et Decorum est by Wilfred Owen, How to Die by Siegfried Sassoon and The Soldier by Rupert Brooke. While analysing the poems’ tone, we explored the idea of fighting and dying for one’s country as well as perspectives on war propaganda. Though the poems discussed in class were based on the First World War, the themes are applicable to the event of the Second World War.

2016 Year 3 HSS Resilience Trail 18 - Kranji War Memorial

The highlight of the trail for me was the visit to the Kranji War Memorial. It was there I realised how tragic and dreadful war is. Singapore had its part to play in the biggest war known to mankind. Many had given up their lives fighting for Singapore against the Japanese who invaded in 1942. Even though the Japanese won the Battle of Singapore, the fighting spirit of the people was not abated. This can be seen in the efforts of resistance groups were formed to oppose the Japanese who retaliated till their surrender.

2016 Year 3 HSS Resilience Trail 52 - Kranji War Memorial

The grand, monumental burial ground for the brave fallen made an impression on me, especially since it was my first visit. Seeing the headstones made me realise that men and women of various ages have been sacrificed in war. Our facilitator shared with us that the youngest person buried at the Kranji War Memorial was a boy of age 16, merely a year older than us. His age surprised me. A boy who was one year older than me. Furthermore, the boy died a year after the war. That means, the boy managed to survive the war, but was not able to enjoy post-war peace due to his injuries sustained.

2016 Year 3 HSS Resilience Trail 29 - Kranji War Memorial

At the end of the day, this journey have made me realise how valuable peace is. Peace might not last forever and we should not be taking what we have today for granted. What we have today have been fought for and came at a price.

2016 Year 3 HSS Resilience Trail 44 - Kranji War Memorial

Romeo & Juliet – SOTA Reviews

On 18 May 2016, the Year 3 cohort attended Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare in the Park by the Singapore Repretory Theatre. Diverse and insightful, Emma Yong, Beatrix Teng and Tan Qiao Lin provide their reviews.

Romeo and Juliet

Emma Yong

My first time watching a Shakespearean production definitely gave me a lot to think about.

Arriving at Fort Canning Park, there was already a snaking queue predominantly made up of students from various institutions waiting out the drizzle. It was worth the wait. Walking through the white gothic gates, I was greeted by the dynamic stage layout — layers of staircases and platforms where the actors were to stand on gave the stage a sense of depth, intrigue and mystifying quality, almost reminiscent of the locations in the levels of the award winning mobile game Monument Valley.

Vulnerable to rain, the truly unique outdoor experience comes with its challenges part and parcel of the production. Sitting outdoors, amidst nature and rowdy friends while snacking on endless heaps of food, made the entire “open” atmosphere more casual and relaxing, reaffirming that theatre performances are for everyone. The sultry wet weather, as somewhat cooling as it was, made sitting on the mush ground a little uncomfortable. However, this was quickly compensated by the befitting superb and grandeur of the performance that was to follow.

The stage lighting featured prominent colours of red and blue to effectively differentiate between the Montague and Capulet families. It changed with the different scenes of the play, softly lighting the stage during the intimate courting scenes of Romeo and Juliet, and flashing intensely during the fighting scenes, which I felt was well done to complement the emotions of the characters in the play. The acoustics were exceptional too, considering that the play was held in the park and not a theatre, allowing the audience to experience the  sound effects that helped bring out the performance.

Acting wise, many people I’ve asked found it overly exaggerated, however, I felt that it nicely portrayed the personality and age of each character. The uninitiated might not be able to capture the subtleties if the expressive acting was toned down. Therefore the acting might enable them to better understand some of the main themes of the play such as love, loyalty, fate etc. For instance, Juliet’s melodious high pitched voice captured her youthful innocence and naivety, while Romeo’s delivered lines reinforced his passionate, starry eyed love toward Juliet too.

Another aspect of the play that I really appreciated were the directional twists. I must say that there are many arrangements that I never expected to happen. In attempts to modernise the timeless story (which sounds like a contradiction in terms), the Prince of Verona suddenly appeared in a roaring motorcycle, which surprised many.

I feel that I was able to enjoy the film since I read the play prior to watching the production. I could also understand the many intriguing phrases of figurative language. However, after speaking to several of my peers, I found out that quite a handful of people could not appreciate the production as much as I did, especially so when the actors spoke somewhat quickly in Shakespearean English. Though we studied Macbeth, the themes of both plays differ quite greatly, despite knowing Romeo and Juliet as a romantic tragedy, I must admit it was hard to fully understand what was going on, and I had to use the information that I read prior to fill in the gaps of what I could not catch.

Overall, I felt that the play, while true to the original script, was tastefully modernised by the lighting, special effects, stage and costumes. A lovely spectacle; the small modern twist definitely helped to relate more to the audience. Since this timeless classic was written along ago, such complementary visuals and good acting definitely helped convey the overarching themes of unrequited love to audience members far and wide in a night under the stars of Fort Canning. A night for one to remember.

Beatrix Teng

This is what you might have experiences on the dark and rainy night of 18 May 2016 at Fort Canning Park. You see the huge grassy area upon the hill in front of you packed to the brim with people. While a giant stage occupies the bottom of the hill, an audience of more than a thousand fills the rest of the visible green space with their picnic mats and bags of food. Unable to squeeze through the large masses of bodies and belongings wet by the rain, let alone walk along the slippery, moderately steep hill, you find an area to sit on the outskirts of the makeshift theatre hall, all the way at the top and the back waiting for Singapore Repertory Theatre’s production of Romeo & Juliet is about to begin.

The stage at Fort Canning had two walls, with one open side directed at the audience on the grass and the other open side directed at some chairs that were under some shelter. Despite having to perform in front of a large and spread out audience, I think the director did a very good job in ensuring that no matter where the audience was seated, all elements in the play could be seen. The unique stage and setting gave the entire play a more open and three-dimensional appearance, making it feel more engaging. However, with the elaborate set that had many staircases and platforms, some scenes were hard to even notice.

One example would be a scene in the beginning in which the main scene was being acted in the foreground, with another developing scene happening in a dim corner at the top of the set. Even sitting right at the back, with the entire stage directly in my field of vision, I would have failed to notice the couple being particularly affectionate on a high platform in the back without a prompt from my friend to have me look there. With more than one dim corner or platform in the entire set, I do wonder what other subtle scenes I may have missed.

Although dim lighting on the set was a let down in highlighting important aspects of a scene at times, it did play a big role in distinguishing the two families – the Capulets and the Montagues. Especially noticeable in the very beginning was the stage that was divided in half to differentiate between the families: blue lighting on one side and red lighting on the other. Bright white light was also used to illuminate the giant crosses against the two walls of the set when the priest was out.

Other than the giant crosses, another symbolic element in the setting was the massive fissure in the middle of the stage that ran all the way up to the side of the walls. This was to show the separation between the two families. The crack was very artistically detailed, and it conveyed its symbolism perfectly, showing us how the barrier between the two families was more than just simple discomfort or emotional dislike. In fact, it demonstrated the hatred between the two families, a hatred that was almost visceral. The crack, however, interfered with the motion of the actors because they constantly had to jump over it and in one scene, hop across it while on a scooter.

I felt that the acting was over the top. Shakespearean plays are like a series of mountains and valleys – there needs to be some climaxes, as well as paths leading up to and down the peaks. In this particular performance, there was only a cliff. There was a steep and fast progression from when it started to a climax that never seemed to end. There was no balance between the calmer parts and the more exciting parts of the play. The actors were too enthusiastic and tried to make the whole play in every scene, as exciting as possible. Actions, gestures, tones of voice and displays of emotion were heavily exaggerated. Because of this, the whole play became quite boring quite fast because there was no contrast between what was supposed to be mellower and what was to be more intense. In fact, I feel that the talent of the actors was not used to its full potential to convey the beauty of this classic piece of work. The whole play seemed to be in a frenzied state.

At the end, I was rather dissatisfied with Singapore Repertory Theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet. The soundtracks were modern and did not suit the classic story and traditional language of the play. The incongruity was not limited to the music though. I think the costumes also surprised some audience members. In the party scene, guests wore traditional Asian costumes, a very odd choice for a Shakespearean work. In addition, Juliet wore short shorts and clothing that made her look no older than eleven. These production choices did not work. They were distractions that took away from the play.

On the positive side, some of the dramatic maneuvers in this particular production were well done. For example, when young Romeo, without noticeable hesitation or preparation, jumped up and clung onto a grey, brick wall in order to kiss Juliet, I, as well as the audience, gasped with surprise. Not only did it have us on our toes, but it also evoked several euphoric emotions because it was an unquestionably romantic gesture. Another impressive stunt was when one of the actors jumped off a high wall at the back of the stage. There were gasps again from the audience as we were left wondering what happened to the character.

Having just studied Macbeth, the Year 3s watching Romeo & Juliet could better appreciate the play. In having experienced both works, I believe students have gotten a feel of the nature of a typical Shakespearean work. For instance, the crests and troughs of Shakespeare’s plot development is evident in both Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet.

Shakespeare’s work also possesses complex and beautiful language and word choices. Studying Macbeth has helped us to understand and appreciate the works of Shakespeare in both text and performance. Although it is hard for Shakespeare beginners to take in the full splendor of the language in Romeo and Juliet, I’m sure students can appreciate the intricacies of the script and the effort taken to interpret and deliver the meaning of the text. For me, I must say I admire Shakespearean works – such as Romeo and Juliet – a great deal more now, than before I studied Macbeth.

Tan Qiao Lin

The Singapore Repertory Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet takes a modernised view of the Shakespearean classic. Set in modern day Singapore, the two warring families, the Montagues and Capulets, are portrayed as rival gangs. Performed against a set of glass and metal, the stage is split in two, showing the divide between the two houses. While the hot and wet weather was unfortunate, it certainly did not dampen the actors’ performance attempts.

With a strong and intense presentation of Romeo’s lines, actor Thomas Pang portrays Romeo as a valiant and passionate young man. Too passionate, perhaps. His overly zealous performance, while fitting at times, are at other times much too dramatic for some scenes, such as the scene where Romeo awaits his fate in Father Lawrence’s cell.

Juliet, played by Cheryl Tan, is presented as an infatuated young girl, bordering on immaturity. Seemingly fitting, since Juliet is supposed to a teenager, she sometimes comes across as whiny and annoying. Although Juliet’s costume changes show her increasing maturity, her childishness still permeates.

Venue-wise, the wet and humid weather made the performance quite uncomfortable. The downward slope of the hill at Fort Canning also caused myself and others to continuously slip forward, so we had to readjust ourselves repeatedly.

The soundscape is unfitting at times, with pop-sounding music bursting onto the play, suddenly and with little contribution to the atmosphere. However, the guitar and piano music pieces were integrated seamlessly into the performance and sets the mood of the scene.

The set was geometrically appealing and framed the stage well. With several storeys, the actors could explore different levels and it created a three-dimensional feel to the performance. The set also included several passageways hidden from the audience’s eye that allowed actors to get to different parts of the stage quickly, and this created the seamless transitions that were a constant throughout the play.

The fighting scenes were also smoothly and realistically carried out. From one-to-one brawls, knife fighting and even shooting a gun, the scenes were effortlessly performed and kept the audience on the edge of their seats (or their butts, since we were all seated on the ground).

I felt that the idea of an Asian culture in SRT’s version of Romeo and Juliet was a moot point, since the only scene with Asian influences was the party scene, which looked quite out of place when the partygoers wore traditional Thai-looking clothing but danced to pop music. Other than this scene, there were no other references to a Singaporean or Asian culture, and I initially thought that the play was just a generically modernised version of Romeo and Juliet, and not a modernised Asian or Singaporean version.

I also thought that there was too much emphasis placed on the sexual relationship between Romeo and Juliet. There were copious amount of affectionate display. It does perhaps show the passion between the two lovers and also hints towards infatuation and sexual desire instead of a more mature form of love between the two. However, it seemed that the kissing scenes were gratuitous for they hardly nudged the development of the play forward.

I think that watching this performance of Romeo and Juliet might not be suitable for those who did not know the story of Romeo and Juliet. The lines were delivered in Shakespearean language and might pose difficulty for those unfamiliar with such language. As the play was modernise, this production might not provide a sense of how Shakespearean plays are typically staged.

However, since I’ve read the play before, I could understand it to a certain extent. Even if the length of the play was a little long, I think that it was an interesting experience as this was my first time watching a full play, much less a Shakespearean one.

In conclusion, I feel that this production does not fully balance the original Shakespearean text with a modern Asian culture. However, it redeemed itself a little with the attractive stage setting as well as the realistic fighting scenes. Overall, I felt that it was a mediocre performance that, to me, was just a pleasant experience as a non-theatregoer.


Where Art Meets Poetry

Herein Lies, SOTA Gallery

Curated by the Year 5 & 6 Visual Art International Baccalaureate Career-Related Certificate Programme (IBCP) students at the SOTA Gallery, Herein Lies explores darkness as environment and state of mind, engaging with its formlessness and ambiguity.

The assembled works orchestrate a seemingly arbitrary yet lucid conversation amongst themselves, and with us. Actions, sounds, what little we can touch or see, converge and are disembodied, revealing a whole new dimension of narratives.*

Year 3 students from O2 visited the exhibit and responded to the works with an original poem. At the exhibit, the students were to see, think, and wonder and consider how they can make use of structure and poetic devices to better reflect their response to the artworks. In being able to article the choices made, students gained a deeper understanding about the deliberation that goes into poetic craft.

Herein Lies Art Meets Poetry 5

Herein Lies Art Meets Poetry 4

Herein Lies Art Meets Poetry 1

Here are some poems by O2:

Expectations by Oliver Chua

A contraption
Of paper, board and string.
Waiting for one to observe it,
Play with it,
Find out how it works.

A ball and a cradle,
A string to hoist
The ball to the funnel which
Directs to a tunnel.
Taunting one to pull the cable.

One expects the sound of rolling,
The swishing of the speeding ball.
The friction against the cardboard,
Then waiting for a fall,
For the impact.

But instead
A disappointment.

A photo’s secret by Joanne Teo

black, a mono coloured
face, hidden in the
fortress of a smooth envelope. Finally
exposed to the red that brings out
his stained hands. Held
firmly by force,
placed into tests of
secret formula. slowly,
it uncovers, like a monochrome flower blooming
without light.


Subtle but honest.

On The Walls by Foo Ching Wen

On the walls,
[The stubborn ones with]
[strong intermolecular forces]
[will not give in nor]
[bend down no matter]
[how much you push them.]
[They will stay as rigid.]

On the walls,
(The sad ones must be)
(handled with care. One/
(push and they will/
(lose the will(
(to return to their\
(original state like before.)

On the walls,
{The happy ones will}
{accommodate to everyone}
{else. They welcome}
{everyone with a smile.}
On the walls, {they} {shine} {the} {brightest.}

Wander, Wonder by Bianca Renee Bautista

In the dark
Deep in thought
Looking for that monster
I once fought

It wanders
I wonder

For years
And years
And years

In these dark curtains
In my right ear

you will never get over me

It wanders
I wonder

The darkness around
Like ghosts
On the surface of my skin
Absolutely thin

Muffled voices
Trying to reach me
In the middle
Trying to reach them

It wanders
I wonder

They will never be reached
As I am stuck
In the middle
Of wondering

It wanders
I wonder

Child’s Play by Leeah Betts

See though
Running through the wind
Playing hide and seek
Being a child
Just flowing about
Through the wind
Soft like a pillow
But hard like a wall
Let your Imagination
Run free


Bring me back to when I was a

a tactile work by Sarah Shahbal Tan Chin

Sarah Shahbal Tan Chin

Herein Lies Art Meets Poetry 3 Herein Lies Art Meets Poetry 2

*Excerpt from exhibition programme.

Lost Love | In Memoriam

On 22 April 2016, The Music Faculty and IBCP Students presented a special double feature concert. Voice faculty Angela Hodgins and Reuben Lai perform short Russian songs of lost love and lost hope in the first half of the concert, in a programme that is interspersed with Berio’s Duetti for 2 violins performed by the violin students from the IBCP programme.

The second half features compositions written for and dedicated specially to loved ones. Witness Singapore premieres including Schnittke’s Septet as well as the chamber transcription of Dr Kelly Tang’s Elegy for piano and string quintet.*

Accompany these pieces were poetry readings; Ulysses by Lord Tennyson and Echo by Christina Rossetti. Ulysses was aptly chosen for a reading for its intense expression of grief and loss – the impetus being the sudden dead of Lord Tennyson’s lifelong friend Arthur Henry Hallam. In fact echoing the title of the Music Faculty’s feature concert, Ulysses formed part of a collection called In Memoriam (1850) that was “perhaps the greatest of Victorian poems.

The following is a reflection by Shayndel Goo who read Echo by Christina Rossetti.

Echo by Christina Rossetti

Come to me in the silence of the night;
   Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
   As sunlight on a stream;
      Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.
Oh dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
   Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;
   Where thirsting longing eyes
      Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.
Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
   My very life again tho’ cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
   Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
      Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

Echo by Christina Rossetti is a poem that I enjoyed very much personally. I especially liked the flow of the whole poem. The repetition of the imperative “come” strengthens the effect of a strong sense of yearning. Towards the end of the poem in the last stanza, “come” is repeated again to reiterate the longing of the speaker in this poem. I found it to be a suitable way to present this mood for the poem as it loops back to the main focus which is the lost of her loved one.

Understanding Echo allows me to relate it with a recent piece I was working on – Francis Poulenc’s Improvisation no. 15 in C minor. Although no lyrics are present, the structure of the piece itself resonates with Christina Rossetti’s Echno because the theme keeps on repeating on itself. The recurring layers of this musical piece allows me to depict it differently each time and portray the sense of yearning in various ways such as distant or passionate. Another connection I made between Echo and music, is a series of songs composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber in Phantom of the Opera. Pieces such as All I ask of You expounds on ideas of absence, yearning and hope.

In Memoriam 1

Shayndel Goo

In Memoriam 2

Natasha Anne Vokes

*Excerpt from event programme

Text and Visual Art

Some Year 3 classes visited the 5 Stars Exhibit at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) to view the artworks, observe connections between them and make links between similar thematic concerns between the art works and poetry.

5 Stars: Art Reflects on Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy and Progress is the Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) salute to Singapore’s Golden Jubilee and the five stars on the Singapore flag, which represent universal humanist values.

In inviting and commissioning five art luminaries of the nation – Ho Tzu Nyen, Matthew Ngui, T.K. Sabapathy, Suzann Victor, and Zulkifle Mahmod – to ponder and respond to each of the values, SAM gives scope to these extraordinary Singaporeans, whose life-long commitment to art as a discipline is inimitable and exemplary. Through the creative and curatorial process, these abstract, intangible concepts are made manifest, and each unique artistic expression and presentation offers nuanced and layered interpretations of the nation’s core values, which resonate with Singapore’s multifaceted, complex identity. New ‘thought-spaces’ unfold: from one island nation’s conscious reflections on its ideals, we recognise the humanist foundations of today’s world.

Extract from SAM website.

The students enjoyed the interactive nature of the artworks and considered the ways in which the artworks furthered the discourse of our nation’s ideals. In further exploring the connections between art and types of art, students responded to discussion prompts.

Refer to the poem Road-Works by Aaron Lee and the installation Raising Spirits and Restoring Souls by Zulkifle Mahmod. How does each work explore the notion of progress?

Irdina Iman Binte Rudy Shahan

In Raising spirits and Restoring Souls, I observe that the pattern of the artwork involves sounds being made repetitively until it becomes a continuous chorus. This reminds me of the rhythmic sounds of construction work.

The elements of pipes used in this work brings to mind the pipes commonly seen along the ceilings in blocks and flats and buildings in Singapore. This recognition evokes a sense of nostalgia in me because it reminds me of home. Progress ensues from the ongoing activity indicated by the constant sounds resonating from the pipes.

In Road-Works by Aaron Lee, therein lies as well the suggestion of ongoing activity in the construction works. If the building and repair works is an indication of progress, then the speaker is critical of it as for him, such change destroys the familiar.

Ee Wen Wei, Emlyn

In Road-Works, the speaker refers to the notion of progress as a surgery, where the roads are portrayed to be going through a surgical procedure. Perceiving the roads to have had an invasive surgical operation, the speaker uses phrases like “surgical scars” to further reiterate the point that the roads are constantly being upgraded to meet the needs of modernity.

In order for something new to be built, another needs to be destroyed. The speaker appears to be more concerned with the detrimental impact of construction works than the renewal that it might bring. He describes the construction machinery as “creatures with flesh and bone” to show their indifferent attitude. The callousness of such machinery is portrayed in how it is seen to “devour” the earth and “tear up the road like paper.”

In the performative aspect of Raising Spirits and Restoring Souls by Zulkifle Mahmod, the national anthem reduced to its percussive beat travels through copper pipes that wrap around the room. Additionally, a single phrase – “Sama-sama menuju bahagia” from the anthem is played repeatedly. This is translated to “Let us progress towards happiness together.” Poignantly, the phrase is sung by underprivileged children. Zulkifle Mahmod brings into focus others who might have been left behind in the nation’s pursuit of progress.

Zulkifle Mahmod therefore questions what benefit progress brings and how progress is measured. The work reflects a skeptical attitude towards the notion of progress in modern society.

Raising Spirits and Restoring Souls by Zulkifle Mahmod

5 Stars Exhibit 6 - Raising Spirits and Restoring Souls by Zulkifie Mahmod

5 Stars Exhibit 8 - Raising Spirits and Restoring Souls by Zulkifie Mahmod

5 Stars Exhibit 7 - Raising Spirits and Restoring Souls by Zulkifie Mahmod

What similarities or differences do you observe in the way text is used in Every Point of View by Matthew Ngui and Of Equal Measure by K. Sabapathy?

Tan Qiao Lin

In Every Point of View by Matthew Ngui, words are plastered on PVC tubes that can only be read at an angle. These words therefore act as a jigsaw puzzle, forming lines of words expressed by individuals about their opinions of democracy. As the visitor walks around the PVC tubes, different perspectives are unveiled through the alignment of tubes and text.

However, in Of Equal Measure by T.K. Sabapathy, specific text is less prominently displayed. This is due to the large collection of books arranged neatly on the wall to represent the timeline of the art scene in Singapore over the years. Text here is used to convey the artist’s repertoire of his scholarly learning and research. As a timeline of the past 40 years, the text used here also traces the development of society’s the artistic growth.

Rukshana Burzeen Driver

In Every Point of View, Matthew Ngui uses pillars to write text on and uses cameras placed in specific places to conflate the different depth of fields together. This makes the text in this work stand out. The viewer will then be able to engage with the ideas expressed immediately.

In Of Equal Measure, T.K Sabapathy mounts his personal book collection, which is a remarkable production of knowledge that has resulted in textual topology. With a large array of material displayed, the viewer is unable to read and digest everything. Doing so will take a much longer time.

Mathew Ngui shows the dynamics of anamorphic perception, as the work depends on the viewer’s reading of the text, while T.K Sabapathy’s work represents a linear development of art history.

Nadia Lim Zi Qian

In Every Point Of View, Matthew Ngui uses the optical effect of anamorphosis to portray his idea of democracy. The words being were written on pipes cannot be understood if the words are out of alignment. This demonstrates that different viewpoints exist and that reading should be a democratic process.

In comparison, Of Equal Measure takes on a more prescribed approach. It showed how the chronology of T.K Sabapathy’s critical writings traces the evolution of the art scene in Singapore. T.K Sabapathy is able to achieve this because his life’s work revolved around the creative output of artists. This display suggests that art and art history in Singapore is made of the collective work of individual artists. In having a part to play, each artist therefore stands on equal terms and on par with each other.

Every Point of View by Matthew Ngui

5 Stars Exhibit 18 - Every Point of View by Matthew Ngui

5 Stars Exhibit 19 - Every Point of View by Matthew Ngui

5 Stars Exhibit 24 - Every Point of View by Matthew Ngui

5 Stars Exhibit 25 - Every Point of View by Matthew Ngui

Of Equal Measure by K. Sabapathy

5 Stars Exhibit 13 - Of Equal Measure by T.K. Sabapathy

5 Stars Exhibit 12 - Of Equal Measure by T.K. Sabapathy

5 Stars Exhibit 14 - Of Equal Measure by T.K. Sabapathy


The 5 Stars Exhibit at the SAM runs till 10 July 2016.

You can also download the exhibition booklet here.

May 2016 Library Display – Literature

When we think of poetry as being organised into lines on a page, we are thinking of written poetry. In the past however, poetry was also, or even preeminently, an oral form: bard and balladeers would entertain at court or act as circulators of news by moving from place to place.

Poetic lines on a page are arranged in order to indicate in a spatial way the rhythms and measures of the poem is performed and experienced as sounds in time. The length of the lines is not arbitrarily chosen but forms a regular pattern which indicates the linguistic and musical rhythms.

 Extracted from:

Written Poetry and the Traces of Poetry’s Oral Origins
Reading Poetry: An Introduction by Tom Furniss and Michael Bath

Each academic faculty is featured at the Library’s display area on a monthly basis. For the month of May this year, the Faculty of Literature in English proudly presents student’s poetry – and in particular Shape Poetry.

Also known as concrete poems, the structure of shape poems is unique because rather than for metrical purposes, such poems visually convey the poet’s meaning through the graphic arrangement of letters, words, or symbols on the page.

This is language shaping meaning in more ways than one.

Featured at the library are shape poems by our students among the likes of Roger McGough and others such as Brian Bilston whose poem written in a venn diagram recently won the 2015 Great British Write Off.

Do visit the library to view more examples of our students’ ingenuity and creativity.

SOTA Shape Poems 1

SOTA Shape Poems 2

SOTA Shape Poems 3

SOTA Shape Poems 4

SOTA Shape Poems 5

SOTA Shape Poems 6

SOTA Shape Poems 7

Shakespeare, 400 years on

23 April 2016 marks the 400th year of William Shakespeare’s death. In celebration of his life and works, people from all over the world have taken this time to commemorate Shakespearean literary heritage that has come to be universally embraced. This commemoration takes a wide range of forms from mulling over Shakespeare’s relevance to issuing a newly minted Shakespearean coins-set.

Here is a round-up of a sampling of how some others have commemorated the event or have previously creatively taken a Shakespeare-inspired spin.

National Library Board Exhibition – Growing up with Shakespeare: Singapore schools and beyond


The Telegraph – 20 words William Shakespeare used completely differently to you

2 The Telegraph

Goodreads – What Shakespeare Play Should I Read? An Infographic

3 Goodreads

Buzzfeed – Which Character From Shakespeare Are You?

<4 Buzzfeed

Shakespeare Insult Kit – The Shakespeare Insulter

4 Shakespeare Insulter


Zen Pencils – All the World’s a Stage

Zen Pencils


LEGO – Wherefore art thou LEGO


The Royal Shakespeare Company – Shakespeare Live!


Epic Rap Battles of History – Dr Seuss VS Shakespeare

Just Wright 2016

Justin Lee from B7 was placed 3rd in the “Just Wright” competition this year with his play “LIBRA”. He is one of the three SOTA students from Year 4 who attended a 12-hour drama script writing workshop and competition.

Hosted and held in RI, this year’s “Just Wright” event was an interesting chance for our students to interact with other schools and glean insights from two professional playwrights, Ms Faith Ng and Mr Joel Tan, who were invited as guest speakers to share their experiences in theatre and facilitate the script-writing process.

Here are some reflections from Caitlin and Justin, as well as an excerpt from his play.

2016 Just Write 2

Caitlin B7

Things were awkward when we first walked into the room.  Being SOTA students, and people in general not knowing much about SOTA, we got more than a few weird looks when we sat down at the table, but we soon started talking. It was really fun to be able to interact with fellow writers from other schools, and being trapped in a space for 8 hours to write really helps kickstart the process. The stimuli, although rather vague, helped to solidify a couple of ideas I had floating around my brain prior to the competition, with the result that I was finally able to act upon my idea and start the play. Overall, despite a few hiccups here and there, the experience was enjoyable and the atmosphere easy and relaxed, a good environment for writing.

Justin B7

If I’m being honest, I would say that this competition placed me in one of the most awkward positions I have ever been in for years. The moment I got into the competition venue, all I saw were strangers my age and there was just no interaction between us.   Somehow, Caitlin was pretty enthusiastic about it and she broke the ice almost immediately while I was…well, I followed what the title of the competition reads, “just write’, and so, I just kept my head down and wrote, doping myself with many cans of lemon-lime flavoured 100-plus.   Salute to the Raffles Players who were able to deal with instructing all of us although the contestants consisted of quite a few “noisies”.   Moral of the story, do what you are supposed to do, if you are supposed to write, throw your cares about the awkwardness into the wind and just write.

2016 Just Write 1

Excerpt from LIBRA by Justin Lee


Hitler was but a farm boy, Pol Pot, a teacher. Yet, when a plain homes innocent seeds, left to the elements themselves, only weeds shall grow and so shall all that is pure be worn down by hatred. From dust we came, to dust we shall return, as the principles of existence are fair, so shall be the equality of man, in the eyes of Libra.


Thirty First Century


Theme of Love & Fear

Theme of Life & Death


A: A boy, whose age varies throughout the play (all played by the same actor), with a ‘0’ on his forehead and the brother of B.

B: A boy, whose age varies throughout the play (all played by the same actor), though always a year older than A, his brother and who has a ‘0’ on his forehead.

Council of 0: 3 ‘0’s (General 1, 2 and 3) who act as generals for A when he is aged 27.

Preset: 3 flats, one on centre stage left, another on upstage centre and another on centre stage right.

Scene 1

A female scream is heard, followed by a gunshot.

Lights fade in.

A and B are seen on stage. Timeline is void.

B: Her last word…before the tiny metal sun from those 8 inches that always struck fear, liberated the river of her being from her earth, was-

A: “Run”.

A and B are seen running frantically on stage. (interpretation of “running” is submissive to heretical directing)

A and B are seen with their hands behind their backs, A desperately attempting to struggle out of reach, B having submitted to the situation, stays still. A is now 8 years of age, B, 9.

A: Let go you wretched boar!

They both drag themselves to sit in front of the flat on upstage centre, A still struggling.

A: One of you freaks better-

B: You do not make their hearts quiver…

A: Just because they are ‘1’s they think they can-

B: They can.

A: NO-

B: They tie us down with chains now, but they have always done that…




B: They did.


B: We knew they were going to-

A: Let us out you…


B: Why from your eyes does rain start…

A: How could you be so indifferent that you do not cry for the death of-

B: Because I refuse to let the bullet continue to hurt me.

Lights fade out.

B: Worry not, we’ll break out…

A: How?

B: My brother will know how


A: What if they-

B: You will know how-

A: What if I-

B: I love you Brother…

A: …


A: I love you too…

Both exit.


Creative Writing Competitions

Taking part in creative writing competitions helps us to flex our creative muscles and encourages us to apply skills that we have explored in our lessons.

All In

In the recent Young Writers Festival organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore, Dorothy Yuan emerged as the 3rd runner up for the People’s Choice Award for the 55-word fiction competition.

Passion is like candles, flame dancing on the wick when just lit, alive and glowing. But then a strong gust of wind blows or the flame evaporates into the atmosphere, a trail of smoke lingering in its wake. The faint aroma remains, a mirage of the flame’s presence; figment of imagination only unclothed upon sight.

A hearty congratulations to Dorothy Yuan!

Do check out other up and coming competitions:

SINGPOWRIMO 2o16  – Singapore Poetry Writing Month

Voices (Re)heard – A Spoken Word Charity Event




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