2017 Year 3 Enrichment – Singapore River Heritage Trail

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Spanning 3.2 km from Kim Seng Bridge to the river mouth, the Singapore River has played a pivotal role in our waterfront city for almost 200 years. While it has witnessed rapid changes for better or worse, development isn’t always easy to grapple with as suggested by poems such as Singapore River by Lee Zhu Pheng and The Planners by Boey Kim Cheng, even with the best intentions.

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Having deliberated weighty themes such as nostalgia, displacement, belonging, modernity and identity, the Year 3 cohort extended their rumination at the Singapore River itself. Although most of us have visited parts of the river upon occasions, we may not have had the opportunity to take a contemplative stroll to consider the creative impulses that have inspired many works of Singapore Literature.

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Facilitated by Singapore History Consultants, on a sunny afternoon of 20 October 2017, the Year 3 cohort considered national monuments and the development of the Singapore River – and by extension the nation of Singapore – both as an exploration of heritage and literary landmarks. Along Raffles landing site, Cavenagh Bridge, and Boat Quay, intersecting points of discussion about cultural symbols and the tensions between personal histories and the national narrative unfolded.

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To better encapsulate such thematic examinations, programme notes were specially tailored for this enrichment by Singapore History Consultant and the Literature Faculty which had related poems arranged together with pictures, maps and probing questions.

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Matilda Tan (O8), reflects on the sentiments asserted by the poetic voice in The Civil Servant by Roger Jenkins as she and her classmates drifted along the Singapore River in a bum boat.

As the river was being removed of sewage and drained of its polluted waters, the people who used to reside along the river are also displaced. When people moved away from the river, their practices and way of life would also cease. After the river was cleaned up, it was emptied of people and settlements and was transformed into  a “leisure-friendly environment, yet incomplete”. The Singapore River today is clean and functions in part as a tourist attraction. Gone were the hawkers and squatter colonies, with only the body of the river remaining. Though the poet acknowledges the necessity of the clean up, a sense of loss and helplessness is expressed. Perhaps he is resigned to the fact that compromises had to be made, the “soul” of the river had to be misplaced in order for it to be renewed and polished.

I feel the same way as the poet as I look at the Singapore River today. The river is spotless, with no trace of sewage nor ships, save for the bumboat rides that serve as a tourist attraction. The river has been recreated into a place that is used for sightseeing and leisure, rather than a place for communities to come together to work in the river itself. The Singapore River of today no longer has the original bustle, beyond a tourist destination. The shedding of such character is compensated by other developments that have grown around the river banks such as the towering banks to always remind us of Singapore’s rapid economic expansion. Between “renewal” and the “soul” that has been “misplaced” however, the poet suggests that the new reality is bleaker for while we as a nation can construct anything into being, what cannot be “devised” is an “action plan” to bring back the river’s “soul”.

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Other poems in the programme notes referenced to include:

Nostalgia by Klyth Tan
Postcard from Chinatown by Terence Heng
Amoy Street by Lee Zhu Pheng
Singapore River by Lee Zhu Pheng
Work in Progress by Felix Cheong
The Planners by Boey Kim Cheng
A Prophecy Disclaimed by Gui Wei Hsin
Made of Gold by Alvin Pang

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2017 Literature Night

On 20 October, the Orchestra Rehearsal Studio at SOTA played host to Lit Night, the Literature in English Faculty’s annual tradition celebrating our upper year students’ interaction with literary studies.

Lit Night has taken on a variety of forms every year, ranging from talks by visiting laureates to performance showcases of the young artists that make SOTA home. This year’s Lit Night featured a variety of performances revolving around spoken word and the theme ‘Unreal City’.

2017 Lit Night

Why ‘Unreal City’? The theme emerged during a group discussion involving the student organizing committee of Lit Night 2017. The phrase, picked out from T.S. Eliot’s masterpiece The Waste Land, can be found in the following lines that describe existential questions hanging over the dwellers of early 20th Century London:

Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,  

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,  

I had not thought death had undone so many.

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,  

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

Although sunny Singapore is not the likeliest of places to find brown fogs of winter dawns hanging over bridge-crossing crowds, the lines from the poem resonated with the organizing team, all of whom were in Year 5 and for whom the urban environment was the landscape of their own experiences as teenagers moving into young adulthood. Following the selection of the theme, students of SOTA were invited to create performances based on their interpretation of the chosen theme.

The result was a showcase of original works prompted by the phrase ‘Unreal City’. True to the spirit of celebrating literariness, each performer made use of the written word: words were sung, shaped into stories, spoken as poetry, or performed as stand-alone pieces, one-act plays, and sometimes blended with the performative qualities of other media like film and music.

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Myka and Alicia performing Honey by Khelani and Serendipity by Park Jimin

2017 Literature Night 1

Vandana Venkataraman performing Hyacinth Girl

Beginning the night’s performances were Year 3 students Myka and Alicia who presented their renditions of love songs Honey by Khelani, and Serendipity by Park Jimin. Love was a continued motif in Vandana Venkataraman’s dramatic monologue, Hyacinth Girl, on how love threatens to challenge one’s sense of self-preservation, and in Nuryn Qistina’s brave and breathless spoken word piece, Falling in Love With a City We Have Never Been To, which compares traveling and new encounters to the exhilaration of infatuation.

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Nuryn Qistina performing Falling in Love With a City We Have Never Been To

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Naja Suratee performing Milk

A number of the performers used the connected the theme to the act of growing up in an urban environment and how the experience shapes a sense of self-identity. Naja Suratee’s Milk was a collection of interconnected vignettes, each dwelling on coming-of-age experiences, while Harris Albar’s Spotify Happy Playlist explored the idea of learning to be unhappy the older one grows. Kristen Lauren Oliveiro joined SOTA in Year 5 (while most of her classmates had been part of the school since Year 1) and her confessional piece, i/I, explored how the self is constructed through changing identities.

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Harris Albar performing Spotify Happy Playlist

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Kristen Oliveiro performing i/I

Some seized on the title of the poem from which the night’s theme was taken from and performed various interpretations of wastedness and wastefulness. Notably Wan Xiao Qing’s spoken word poem Restive, Nicolette Wee’s prose-poem Ring a Ring a Roses and Maryam Norhimli’s creative non-fiction work, Cotton, explored the quandary of human relationships, activity, exhaustion, and the wastefulness of human existence.

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Wan Xiao Qing performing Restive

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Nicolette Wee performing Ring a Ring a Roses

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Maryam Norhimli performing Cotton

As young artists SOTA students have never shied away from complex issues in their performance art, and Muhammad Irsyad’s provocatively titled interactive one-act play, Singapore is China, deconstructed racial privilege in Singapore by subverting the identities of the privileged and marginalized speaker.

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Muhammad Irsyad performing Singapore is China

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Naqib Putra Zalman performing Amateur of the Form

Playing on the idea of Lit Night as a platform of expression, Naqib Putra Zalman’s Amateur of the Form took on the motif of freedom and nudity — through the usage of illustrations and a short film used as an accompaniment to spoken word.

As part of the students’ Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) component for their IB Diploma Programme, Lit Night gives SOTA students an opportunity to learn the workings of putting a performance art event togetaher. The experience will hopefully inform these young artists on the nuts and bolts of assembling a series of performances, so that the experience that they have gained as students of SOTA will include knowledge of on how to create the platforms for art to happen, in addition to increased knowledge and depth in their making of art.

By Catalina Rembuyan

2017 Lower Years Literature Afternoon

In our annual showcase of highlights from Years 1 to 3, the Lower Years Literature Afternoon took place on 19 October 2017 to celebrate our literary journey as we close this academic year.

Student performances, a diverse range of creative responses and even a culinary adventure inspired by N. H. Senzai’s Shooting Kabul were presented.

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Year 5 visitors – Russell Chong and Keryna Chandra – introduces the Lower Years Literature Afternoon board

From the YEAR 1s:

The Creative Book Response was a June holiday graded assignment for the Year 1 cohort in which students were tasked to read any one of the 100 book titles from the SOTA Foundation Years’ Reading List.

After reading their preferred book, students could opt to:

  1. write a letter in the persona of a character giving themselves advice;
  2. build a miniature stage set of an important scene from the book;
  3. design an original book cover;
  4. draw a comic strip of their favourite chapter;
  5. write an alternative ending; or
  6. write a poem in response to the story.

Along with their creative product, students submitted a written rationale explaining their creative choices.

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Mini Stage Set by Charlene Yong (R4) A response to Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

From the YEAR 2s:

Having read Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai, Year 2 students did further research on a local dish as they investigated the significance and role of food in the narrative.

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Monica Toh (G1) shares her experience and her thoughts on the Lower Years Literature Afternoon.

Literature Afternoon was definitely a fulfilling experience as a Year 2. A few of my classmates and I served traditional Afghan cuisines, in particular, mantu. This was in line with the novel that we studied this year, Shooting Kabul, which centers around an Afghanistan refugee family.

As we served the dumplings to various teachers and schoolmates, we took turns to give a brief explanation about the dish and what it was made up of. Most of our “customers” savoured the dish, and it was extremely fulfilling to see some of them come back for more servings. Besides serving our dish to people, we also had fun watching the performances put up by the Year 3s and participating in the Kahoot Quiz. The performances and works on display gave us an insight as to what to expect for next year.

Through this experience, while explaining the dish to others, we also gained a deeper appreciation for Afghanistan culture. Literature Afternoon gives us a platform to showcase to the school what we have learnt from our literature classes, and at the same time, have fun while doing so. Given the chance, I would definitely participate in next year’s Literature Afternoon and encourage more people to come for it! It was undoubtedly a “lit” afternoon!

From the YEAR 3s:

In a personal creative response to a poem chosen from their anthology of selected poems, Year 3 students presented their engagement with the poem in a variety of ways ranging from video montages, interpretive dances, drawings, sculptures, music and original compositions. Creative works were submitted with an accompanying rationale to demonstrate appreciation of literary features in support of the student’s creative and conceptual choices.

A selection of performative pieces were put together in a diverse line-up while the art works were curated as gallery walk.

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Sculpture by Dorothy Yuan (O7)

A response to The Guitarist Tunes Up by Frances Darwin Cornford

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Illustration by Nigel Low (O5)

A response to Long Distance II by Tony Harrison

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String Art by Xaxa Smith (O3)

A response to (Love Song, with two goldfish) by Grace Chua

(Love Song, with two goldfish) was also chosen by Ian Ng (O6) who presented his interpretation in the form of a rap which he performed at the Lower Years Literature Afternoon.

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Ian Ng with the setlist

In sharing about his processes and approach, Ian notes:

I decided on the medium of rap (which stands for rhythm and poetry) to simplify and help those who listen to my rap better understand the poem. If some may find it challenging to access the poem at first glance, they can understand the poem too by listening to my interpretation of the poem in a different form.  I chose to work on (Love Song, with two goldfish) as I am able to relate to the themes of love and loss. Deciding on the music was not a difficult task, the only challenges I encountered was in summarising my rap and to keep it short and concise. I enjoyed presenting what I had to those in the audience and for myself especially since the journey in appreciating poetry and literary techniques is my own.

Summing up the event, Year 1 student ambassadors Sumi Tang (R7) and Jamie Koh (R5) shares:

As ambassadors, our job was to explain what the Creative Book Response was for, and how we felt about the project. We thought that the experience was enjoyable. The visitor that dropped by the event were impressed by the booths that were set up, so it was fun showing them the different art works by our fellow schoolmates. We too were in awe of the effort put in by them, as well as the immense creativity. There were so many great things it’s hard to pick a favourite, but one of the bigger and more eye-catching artworks was a mini stage-set of Percy fighting Ares from Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief done by one of our fellow Year 1s. The performances were also delightful to watch, and it was interesting seeing what kind of songs, instrumental or raps our seniors composed. Another thing worth mentioning is the dumpling-like food offered by the Year Twos. They were incredibly delicious and alleviated our hunger. Being ambassadors for the event was a valuable experience and time we both feel was well-spent. We wish we could extend it to more people.

2017 Year 4 Enrichment – The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible - Obsession Series

In May to July, SOTA’s Theatre Faculty presented a series of Western stage classics which explores humanity’s tendency to be anguished over desires, and get tangled up in mayhem in the process. Within the series was an adaptation of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Serendipitous, The Crucible was read as a play in the Year 4 Literature syllabus. Attending the play for enrichment was therefore a rare opportunity for the students to see come alive, a text presented by their own cohort peers.

To Theatre teacher Mr Sazali Abu Othman, the process was just as important as the curtain call for the decisions and changes made together offers learning experiences in the theatre-making. In a collaborative process, the cast and director discussed scenes to focus on in this adaptation in an effort to draw out most effectively the play’s thematic concerns. Other considerations that Mr Sazali had to pay heed to also included the distribution of parts to best fit the make up and dynamics of the cast. To this end, some gender roles in the original play were reversed and two John Procters were used.

Instead of staging the play in puritanical garb of the 17th Century Massachusetts, the clothes donned by the cast were altered; the “afflicted” were dressed in schoolgirl uniforms decked with matching socks and shoes while the unmovable  judges wore powers suits and court shoes. Beyond suggesting strict conformity, the outfits made references to cultures of regimentation and the attendant repression.

As students of both Literature and Theatre, Brian Ko, Gabrielle Ng, Naqib Putra Zalman and Amber Goh share their thoughts on the the roles they played in this convergence of art forms.

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Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

What aspects of the character were you trying to accentuate as you played your role?

AMBER: I played the role of Betty as well as Goody Nurse. Though these roles were supporting characters, they also had great significance in pushing the plot forward. For instance, Betty’s “illness” triggered the witch hunt when she fainted after being found to have taken part in the forbidden rituals in the forest. For Betty, I mainly had to lie down without moving for the majority of the first scene. When Betty woke up, I tried to portray the kind of fear that all the girls were tangled in as they were threatened by Abigail not to tell the truth. I initially thought that it seemed like an easy task to lie down and close your eyes, but when I actually experienced it, it was very different from actually sleeping. I could only rely on my auditory senses for my cues to “wake up”. Furthermore, there were a lot of struggles that happened between the girls and Betty, and I think there was a lot of trust among the actors, such that we were able to perform the struggle without awkwardness.

GABRIELLE: As an actor, I find that I get too comfortable with playing the more vocal and dramatic characters like Abigail Williams, and so when I was given the role of Elizabeth Proctor who is much more reserved, and quiet in nature, I was slightly taken aback. Our director, Mr Sazali, told me that he had made that role placement to let me broaden my range as an actor, and I am very grateful that he wanted to help me do that. What really helped me channel these aspects of Elizabeth was that he told me to picture her spirit animal. I imagined that hers would be a swan, an animal that displays poise, gentleness and peace. It was these aspects of her character which I thought were very important in portraying Elizabeth, and I tried very hard to incorporate this in my movement and speech.

BRIAN: His power hungriness. I wanted to portray an accurate version of Parris and according to the play, he is one power hungry reverend. At the start of scene one, it can be seen how desperate he is with regards to protecting his status and position in the community. He raises his voice at Abigail, forcing her to tell him about the witchcraft that his daughter was also part of. Parris fears that his opposition might use this scandal to stunt his career. Also in scene 3 at the courtroom, Parris attempts to deny the practice of witchcraft in his family when questioned by Judge Danforth. He breaks eye contact with the judge, he seats at the edge of the seat and stutters in denial. In this way, I tried accentuating Pariss’ power hungriness.

NAQIB: I was trying to portray John Proctor as a cold and analytical kind of person rarely showing his emotion but also vulnerable. It is only when he hears the news that his wife is accused of witchcraft that he shows that he does care. I was trying to portray him in such a way that the the audience will be moved to sympathise with him. I feel that an actor will only succeed in playing his or her character when the audience forms an emotional attachment towards the character, and roots for him or her to succeed. This can be enhanced by showing what the character stands to lose.

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Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

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Photo Credit: Denise Wang

How did you feel about being part of a production that your peers are also studying for simultaneously?

AMBER: It was the first time doing the same text for literature and theatre. Theatre and Literature both analyse the characters in different ways but leading to similar outcomes, so it was nice to see both approaches play out together. Analysis discussed in Literature was also relevant to our characters in Theatre.

GABRIELLE: The fact that we were studying The Crucible in Literature as a cohort made me more excited to perform it. I was happy that I could be part of bringing this play to life so that my peers could maybe further enhance their understanding of the text as they could have the theatrical experience.

BRIAN: In class, when your character’s name is mentioned, classmates will look at you in admiration…*clears throat* I mean, knowing that our peers are studying the play, it felt even more worthwhile to be part of this production. The play is relatable to them and hopefully helpful to them as they study it. At the end of the day, a play is supposed to be performed. Performing this play fulfills that purpose of it.

NAQIB: It feels like extra literature lessons that kills two birds with one stone. When memorising lines, I can remember them as quotes to use in my literature essays. I used bits of my character analysis of John Proctor as my character’s motivation giving me a better understanding of the text.

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Photo Credit: Denise Wang

The Crucible - Pictures by Tan Shao Qi 1

Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

How has your understanding or appreciation of the character you played in the production impacted the way you studied him or her in your Literature classes?

AMBER: For me, we did not delve deep into the characters I played (Betty and Goody Nurse). However, based on my observations in Literature lessons and in Theatre lessons, I noticed that the subjects focus on different aspects. In Literature, we analysed the characters’ speech, actions, and what they were thinking to understand the character. Theatre might have a different interpretation. However, putting ourselves in the character shoes and seeing how we would react to various situations might allow us to further relate and understand their thought processes. In Theatre, we used our bodies, and our interactions with each other to incorporate the thought processes of the characters. That was how we built our characters.

GABRIELLE: Working on The Crucible in Theatre helped me with my understanding of my character in Literature, and vice versa. I believe that these two disciplines work hand in hand, and that one cannot do without the other, especially in one’s understanding of classic plays like this. With Literature lessons, I was able to understand the theory behind my character’s intention and the plot functions of the other characters. In Theatre, I was able to literally go into the shoes of Elizabeth Proctor, further enhancing my understanding of why she did certain things, like her terse answers to her husband. Having both Literature lessons and rehearsals for The Crucible simultaneously, I was able to holistically understand the play inside and out.

BRIAN: This was my very first time playing a character in an fully staged play, so whenever, my character appears in the book or gets mentioned in class, a warm feeling emerges from deep within me. Studying my character just reminds me of the good times I had during the production and the memories of playing that character. I became more passionate than before the production in studying Parris. Playing the character forces you to examine your character closely so that your portrayal of the character is a convincing one. The production created this need for me to really study the character’s personality, motivations and characteristics thoroughly. Whenever my character is mentioned during literature class, I would be more attentive than usual.

NAQIB: During theatre lessons, my understanding of my character slowly increased over the process of creating the production. This was achieved through line reads and doing our own analysis. However, we change the staging of The Crucible in our adaptation, thus making my character and his motives quite different, so my views on the character had to likewise adapt. However, it does not detract from the fact that it has had a great impact for I understand the story and the character John Proctor much better compared to before the production. I understand his relationship with his wife, Abigail and the dynamics in court much better.

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Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

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Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

What are your thoughts on the set of the production? What do you think worked to heighten the tension of the play?

AMBER: We set it in a more modern context, in a school. I really liked the use of chalk as our set was all painted with chalkboard paint, including all the blocks, the steps, as well as the swivel door. At John and Elizabeth Proctor’s final moments together in the last scene, actors came on stage to scrawl on the set using chalk. We destroyed all patterns and texts previously written, and made it into a mess and a bunch of indiscernible markings. This was a very intense moment. The resulting mess contrasted starkly from the original clean state of the blocks to mirror the destruction inflicted on Salem by the witch trials.

GABRIELLE: On the contrary, I think some of the features in the set unintentionally broke the tension. Some of the actors had to enter through the swiveling doors during an intense moment in the play, changing the atmosphere with each new beat.

BRIAN: Listening helps heighten the tension of the play. Tension is aroused by good character interaction and listening makes interaction between characters much more powerful. Listening forces you to be in the moment. It takes away any unnecessary thoughts, fears or rehearsed staging in your head. Listening makes you think as the character as you listen to the other characters, which then gives you the clarity to respond much more truthfully. Tension comes from the genuine interaction between characters because characters always have conflicting desires when they talk to each other. Reacting truthfully with the aid of good listening shows the conflicting desire and hence arouse the tension on stage.

NAQIB: The set was minimalist and sparse. I say this in a positive way. Having too many things on set would be too complicated in a short amount of time. The space established by the set helps to sufficiently contextualise the interactions among the characters. The set has two spinning doors at the centre back of the stage with blocks that form stair to it with a bench on the far left and grilles that descend from above to act as jail cells. The set does not actually give us an established setting, time or location, making it timeless and at the same time allowing the actors to interact suitably. Therefore, having a minimalist setting is good as it balances the performance against the backdrop.

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Photo Credit: Denise Wang

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Photo Credit: Denise Wang

In your opinion, which character was “brought to live” in the production, why?

AMBER: For me it was the interaction between John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor. Compared to the suspicion Elizabeth had of Proctor in the earlier part of the play, there was a big change at the ending where they reconciled, knowing that there was little time to bear grudges against each other. This change in relationship between the pair was “brought to live” for me.

GABRIELLE: Personally, I think that everyone did brilliance to their characters, and brought their own flavour to the characters. However, I do think that John Proctor, played by both Naqib Zalman and Taylor Belliston, was especially well played because both of them managed to portray different perceptions of his character. The Proctor played by Taylor appealed to Abigail’s desires and her version of reality whereas the Proctor played by Naqib portrays Proctor’s truer self and the truth he tries to live out.

BRIAN: I think John Proctor was “brought to life” by Naqib. Proctor is the main character of the play and I felt that Naqib had enough weight to pull through. He could vary his emotions very well. He had that stage presence, especially in scene two where he interacts with his wife Elizabeth Proctor and his servant Mary Warren. My favourite part of his performance was when he raised his voice at Mary Warren and told her “If you wish to seat up, then seat up!” That was humorous and at the same time reveals that strict and unyielding side of him. The little choices that Naqib made in delivering the line consistently showed how Proctor was a firm and confident individual who would stand up against fraudulence. He also had good foundation on his face.

NAQIB: I believe that the character of John Proctor was brought to life most. This is due in part to the fact that the character is played by two actors. This depicts a duality; my portrayal of Proctor in more control whereas compared to Taylor, Proctor’s emotions just burst out of him – anger, sadness, and joy. It shows the distinctions of John Proctor’s emotional states in the play. In the beginning, he is more composed but at the end, he is more given to his emotions.

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Photo Credit: Denise Wang

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Photo Credit: Tan Shao Qi

2017 Year 4 Literature Arts Integration with Ceramics

The first two Year 4 Visual Arts ceramics modules this year was crafted and assessed in collaboration with the Literature Faculty to further facilitate the student’s exploration and experimentation with symbols and symbolism employed as a poetic device and in ceramic works.

In analysing and extrapolating layers of meaning in both literary texts and ceramic, students deepened their conceptual grasp of symbolism in this multi-modal environment.

At junctures during the Visual Arts periods, Literature teachers referred to selected poems to discuss connections between the use of symbolism in the literary texts and ceramic. Among the various aspects of the poems discussed were the evaluation of effects created through symbolism. The selection of poems thematically made references to the human anatomy to draw parallels with the Visual Art investigation into votive offerings. Some examples of the poems discussed were My Father’s Left Hand by David Bottoms, Laundry by Ruth Moose, Heart to Heart by Rita Dove and The Fist by Derek Walcott.

Equipped with a clearer appreciation of how symbolism can be used effectively in poetry, students composed an original poem that aimed to demonstrate application of symbols while depicting anatomical conditions previously assigned to each student for a ceramic task. With the Literature teacher in this session, students brain-stormed concepts for the poem and discussed their approaches.

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Towards the end of the ceramic module, the students shared a draft of their poem and provided insights to their inspiration and creative impetus during a follow-up session with the Literature teacher. During the discussion, students considered the connections perceived between the use of symbolism in both mediums in their role as potter and poet. Such processes were consolidated in their Visual Art research journal to document their developing thoughts.

Within another few days, students finalised their poems and accompanying rationale for the Literature Teacher to provide feedback. Around this time, the corresponding ceramic works were also being readied for firing.

Audrey Lum

Condition assigned: Ménière’s Disease

Ceramic Sculpture:
Ménière's Snail

Poem: Meniere’s Snail
Ménière's Snail

 

Rationale:

Meniere’s snail is a symbolic poem about the ear. The shell of a snail usually has a spiral pattern, which very closely resembles the auricle of an ear. The use of “slow and steady” in the first five lines is used to describe the pace of the snail, but it is also used to represent one of the symptoms of Meniere’s disease. Someone with Meniere’s disease would suffer from giddiness and imbalance, therefore slow and steady is used to show the patient’s ruminations while attempting to be stable. The repetition used also incites a sense of fear, and wariness and gives the reader the impression that the patient is trying to reassure himself. Another symptom is introduced when rain is mentioned, because the patient feels a sense of fullness, almost as though there is water trapped in his ear, therefore rain is used. The snail hides itself away from the rain, and this creates imagery of feeling trapped and alone. The word “silence” is used twice in the poem, hinting at the symbolism of the ear. “Crack” and “silence” in the last three lines shows how in being stepped on, the snail dies. This imagery is used to represent how “invisible” patients with Meniere’s disease are. Meniere’s disease affects the internal structures of an ear, and someone with Meniere’s disease, like the snail is not easily  recognized. The overall mood portrayed is somber with “threatened”, “afraid” and “silence” used.  The patient’s or snail’s fear and cautiousness with the environment is emphasized. The poem is structurally visual, and places an emphasis on the underlying context, which is the ear. The negative space of the structure creates a spiral, which represents the shell of a snail, linking the snail to the ear.

Isha Gupta

Condition assigned: Rhinophyma

Ceramic Sculpture:
Rhino

Poem: Perspective
Perspective

Rationale:

In this poem the symbolism used is a rhino put on display in a zoo. I used this symbol as I found that it successfully portrays the idea of people with rhinophyma constantly being stared at and distanced from society due to their affliction. Being trapped in a cage represents the alienation from others and confinement those afflicted face in society. The animals are kept in zoos to be viewed, discussed and judged by the public, which is what happens to those who have rhinophyma which disfigures the nose, an area which is in the centre of the face and attracts a lot of attention like the sight of a “rare creature” in the zoo. I chose a Rhinoceros as its horns best represent the enlarged nose caused by rhinophyma and in both cases the horn and nose becomes the defining feature of the animal or the person. In my poem I used imagery related to a rhinoceros such as “charging”, “hooves” and “bellows” (the sound a rhinoceros makes) with words such as “bulbous” which is one of the most common adjectives used to describe rhinophyma. About half way through the poem at the line “while parents and children gawk alike” the perspective of the poem changes from a visitor at the zoo to the rhinoceros itself. The visitor views the animal with amusement not really thinking much about or noticing the rhino’s distress, comparing the rhinos movement to dance however when the perspective switches to the rhinoceros and it can be seen that it is angry and frustrated, pacing rather than dancing, believing that the visitors will never truly understand them and they are just a “sight” to the visitors and nothing more. This contrast in views shows how society may think they are sensitive to those with disfigurements however small things like staring start to accumulate and emotionally weigh down those affected. Emphasis is brought to this change in viewpoint by the structure of the visual poem. The lines from the outsider’s perspective is aligned in the centre of the page however the lines from the animal’s perspective deviate from this and cut across the page breaking the order and thought process of the outsider. The zigzag structure at the bottom also represents the constant movement of the rhino in the cage from “left to right” and “right to left” out of suppression and the need to try to find a way out. This sense of movement is also seen in the first line “forward” and the last line “backward” which represent the everlasting struggle to get society to understand the emotional trauma of those affected but ending up nowhere due to the lack of communication seen in the poem as the visitors whisper and the rhinoceros bellow.

Selena Chua

Condition assigned: Takotsubo

Ceramic Sculpture:
Takotsubo

 

Poem: Takotsubo
Deceptively reserved and flat,
It lies in tranquil, and in depth.
Beneath the rocky den it lay,
Waiting for the time to catch its prey.
With a sudden swing of its bendy limbs,
Its tentacles sucking out the life it seems.
A big beat pulse,
The fragile graspings.
A pumping squeeze
And the deep dark freeze.
Creeping back its way it goes,
That’s just how the cycle flows.

Rationale:
This poem depicts the experience of having the heart disease, takotsubo. As a translation of takotsubo is “octopus pot”, the octopus takes on symbolic significance in the poem and ceramic. Instead of having the octopus portrayed as the victim caught in an octopus trap, it is shown as the fierce predator. Through the imagery of the octopus grasping for its prey, parallels are drawn to the symptoms shown by this condition. With symptoms similar to a heart attack, the condition can cause the patient to experience sudden shortness of breath and unstable pulse. To portray this, the poem begins with a calm and tranquil atmosphere, with the octopus as the predator creeping up on its prey, ready to pounce on it. Suspense is intensified when the octopus appears from its hiding place. Described by the “big beat pulse” and “a pumping squeeze” to suggest heart palpitations, the sudden seizures parallels with  the sudden lurches of the octopus. The cunning and swift act of the octopus is portrayed in the ceramic votive, having its tentacles peeking out from the pot while its head stays hidden inside. The “cycle” that “flows” in the poem refers to a cardiac cycle. The ending of the poem suggests that the heart disease is reversible, thus similar to the retreat of the octopus. The woody and fibrous texture of the ceramic work symbolises the strength and endurance of the heart.

2017 Literature Enrichment for the Foundation Years

2017 Literature Enrichment for the Foundation Years 1

“If you don’t feel anything when you take a photograph, people won’t feel anything when they look at it.”

Indeed, this quote shared by visual storyteller and photojournalist, Zakaria Zainal, stuck with our students who attended the Literature Enrichment Talk on Visual Storytelling.

When asked to reflect on the session, this is what some of them said:

“The talk was about photography and journalism. I learned about how journalism and meaningful pictures could stimulate your emotions. I felt grateful that we had the chance to listen to the talk as it made me realise that photos and pictures could move so many people, and in some cases, help people. It was interesting how different pictures told different stories. I enjoyed the experience and would not mind listening to another one of Mr Zak’s talks in future.” (Christa, R2)

“I enjoyed when Mr Zak talked about accompanying his photos with a write-up. The images of special and important life moments or milestones are powerful, but with descriptive words, I saw how the reader could get a better understanding of the photograph’s message and be able to appreciate it better.” (Rochelle, R7)

“I learnt that though the composition of an art piece, whether it be photography or visual arts or performing arts, they all had to have a story behind them to really succeed. If a photography or painting was made just for the sake of it, it would be bland and anyone would be able to tell.” (Charlotte, G6)

“I learnt that taking a good photo doesn’t mean one needs a good quality camera but it’s about the concept behind it or what message one wants to portray through the photo.” (Kar Yi, G5)

On 2 and 9 March this year, the Years 1 and 2 were given the opportunity to learn more about the medium of visual storytelling, and more importantly, how and why stories are told through photographs.

Zakaria shared the inspiration behind his work, which started off with photographing global issues far removed from home and self, and how he experimented with form when he felt that he was stagnating in his craft. As he grew and matured as an artist, he started to look inwards instead, asking himself what it meant to be a Singaporean Malay-Muslim, and how his work was informed by his identity. He also developed an interest in engaging with local social issues such as documenting the stories of retired Gurkhas as well as Southern islanders like the Bubu fishermen who had to give up their homes for the progress of the nation.

The students also learned about how photographs work with the copy or text to tell a story that should move the reader emotionally. Zakaria also left students thinking about what makes a good photograph by saying that if a photograph is not good, it is because the photographer is not close enough to the action. This made students think about the subject matter of any photograph, and what issues they themselves might be passionate enough about to take risks with.

Overall, the talk was an eye-opening experience which enabled students to see the connections between Literature and storytelling beyond the literary form.

2017 Literature Enrichment for the Foundation Years 2

Year 2 Literature Enrichment @ Botanic Gardens – Rain Forest Trail

2016 Year 2 Literature Enrichment - Botanic Gardens 10

The Year 2 Literature Enrichment on 25 and 26 October 2016 provided students the opportunity to go on a guided tour of the Rain Forest Walking Trail located at the Central Core of the Singapore Botanic Gardens. This six-hectare patch of primary rain forest is what is left of the original vegetation that previously covered most of Singapore. With over 300 species of plants, it is home to a vast array of biodiversity. What the students perceive with their senses serves as inspiration material for a poem that they produced in the midst of the lush greenery in the form of a sonnet.

2016 Year 2 Literature Enrichment - Botanic Gardens 4 2016 Year 2 Literature Enrichment - Botanic Gardens 13

2016 Year 2 Literature Enrichment - Botanic Gardens 12

2016 Year 2 Literature Enrichment - Botanic Gardens 18

Alicia Tay shares her experience on this Literature Enrichment.

Being near nature helps to calm myself down and turn my focus away from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The nature walk also helped me gain a greater knowledge of flora and fauna at the Botanic Gardens. I enjoyed bonding with nature and the time spent with my friends. This programme was a great way for us to generate inspiration to write our poems.

Poems come in many different forms. I explored the structure of the sonnet during this enrichment and became more aware of the differences between the rhyme schemes of the Elizabethan and Petrarchan sonnets. This enrichment helped me to appreciate poetry better. In trying compose a sonnet, I better understood the demands that this form requires of the poet.

2016 Year 2 Literature Enrichment - Botanic Gardens 19

Sonnet by Nadra Ahmad & Matilda Tan

The Vanda Miss Joaquim tilts its head upright
Its petals a burst of vibrancy
Radiant under the sunlight,
It flourishes silently.
At the centre is a sunset,
Hues of yellow and purple intermingling
In a harmonious duet
Like songbirds singing.
It perches its lips gingerly,
In hopes of pollination
For a bee to land tenderly
To carry to another location.
The Vanda Miss Joaquim tilts its head upright.
A bold and treasured sight.

Year 1 Literature Enrichment – Buds Theatre Company Workshop

Year 1 students attended a workshop by Buds Theatre Company on 24 October 2016 that introduced them to basic theatrical conventions in preparation for their drama module in 2017.

Students learnt to
• Clarify context
• Appreciate and value space and performance
• Understand and appreciate character
• Understand and appreciate staging
• Work in groups and accept constructive criticism

Students were given a set of diverse and interesting scripts from different genres in drama to read. This gave them an opportunity to engage in different scenes and reflect on character, placement of set and the general layout of performance.

Feedback from students shows that they thoroughly enjoyed the workshop while learning about the conventions of drama in a fun and thought-provoking way.

“I learnt that we can tell a lot about a character from the way they walk, talk and hold themselves.” Anusha Lara (R1)

Buds Theatre Company Workshop - SOTA 3

“I enjoyed the relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere in the classroom.” Angela Ananya Ramkumar (R8)

Buds Theatre Company Workshop - SOTA 2

“I loosened up and went all out in acting and had lots of FUN.” Eryn Lim (R8)

Buds Theatre Company Workshop - SOTA 1

“I enjoyed the space and freedom we were given to interpret the scripts.” Tasneem Begum (R6)

Buds Theatre Company Workshop - SOTA 4

“I really like how I was able to learn another art form other than dance. I have always wanted to act and being able to do so today really made me happy.” Anneli Tan (R3)

Buds Theatre Company Workshop - SOTA 5

Year 3 Literature Enrichment – Treasures Retold @ ACM

Borrowing from the phase Treasures Untold, this Year 3 Enrichment is titled Treasures Retold to suggest that when we engage and interact with them, treasures and cultural artefacts can inform us more about our ancestry and be given a new breath of life.

In learning more about the selected artefacts during the guided tour that formed the first part of the programme, students gained a deeper understanding of how cross-cultural interactions happen and, came to recognise the results of such intermingling as evident in the artefacts’ purpose, provenance and creative impetus.

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 12

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 16

Directed by their inspiration, students revisited their artefact of choice and tried their hand at penning a poem inspired by the artefact. In doing so, students were further exploring the ekphrastic poetic form. Meaning “description” in Greek, an ekphrastic poem is commonly based on a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning. (source: Poetry Foundation)

To support their understanding of ekphrasis, students reviewed two such examples. Firstly, the poem Not My Best Side by U. A. Fanthorpe based on the painting of Paolo Uccello, St. George and the Dragon, and secondly the lyrics of Starry Starry Night by Don McLean based on the works and life of Vincent van Gogh.

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 13

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 19

The Year 3s were treated to an energetic dramatisation of Not My Best Side by Jaanvi Agarwal, Rukshana Driver and Natasha da Costa who brought to live the distinctive tones of the different personas to show how U. A. Fanthorpe had subverted discourses in chivalry and the other. Another element of surprise that was delightfully sprung was the lovely a capella rendition of Starry Starry Night by Natasha da Costa.

In retelling the stories of these artefacts students are challenged to put themselves in the shoes of a voyager, craftsman, entertainer, or scholar to imagine their hopes and dreams and perceive these artefacts through various lenses such as anthropology, history, geography, literature and the arts.

We would like to make a special mention of thanks to Sharon Chen, ACM Education Officer, and the dedicated and thoroughly delightful team of docents for making this enrichment possible.

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 1<

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 2

Faith Lee (O7) relates her experience:

As a VA student, I really appreciated and enjoyed seeing all the reliefs and sculptures in the gallery. They were so intricately carved, and knowing how difficult it is to sculpt, I admired their skill. I learned a lot through the tour. It was really interesting to learn about the context of their creation. It was interesting how the wealthy sailors would commission such sculptures as an act of gratitude for protection on the seas. I was surprised to learn how each depiction of Buddha evolved depending on which country the religion spread to. The sculptors carved some of the statues with features or into poses that resembled those of deities already worshipped in the native country. This helped Buddhism be accepted more readily and spread quickly.

It was also interesting to learn about the origins of Buddhism. I was captivated by the story of how Siddhartha Gautama gave up his princeship and everything he possessed, and wanted to write a poem to reflect this. It was quite a unique experience to write a poem based on another older artistic creation. This was like adding a further layer of meaning to the sculpture, and writing my interpretation on it was almost like bringing it to life.

Poems and artworks can be experienced by the viewer in two ways. Firstly, through a quick glance to admire its beauty, or through close analysis, which uncovers deeper details and meanings that may not have been noticed before. Examining a turn of phrase in a poem, or the composition and brushstrokes used in an artwork can allow one to fully appreciate the intention and skill of the poet or artist.

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 11

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 20

Jaanvi Agarwal (O6) shares her insights:

I enjoyed looking at the different artefacts and artworks from different parts of the world, and seeing how art influenced the lives of the people over the centuries. The artworks were preserved very well. For example, cloths from India still had their patterns and colours clearly imprinted which showed how dedicated the artists of that time were to make quality work. This taught me as an artist to also put a lot of dedication into my work, and make it valuable enough to transcend time and become part of the collective culture.

During this enrichment, I learned that the world has always been very multicultural, and a lot of artefacts were created, exchanged and transacted as a result of economic trade and business. For example Vietnam started making blue porcelain with designs inspired by Indian myths, when China ceased the export of cobalt.

Adapting a work of art into creative writing was an interesting experience because before this I had never thought about how an art piece and its history and background can help me craft a poem. I decided to do a shape poem to discuss the artefact and its creation though the structure of the poem. I found my work aesthetically pleasing in a similar way that the artefact is aesthetically pleasing as well.

The programme made me realise that poetry does not necessarily have to be abstract or distant. Many people can appreciate poetry that has been inspired by almost anything such as object, an event, or a person.

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 10

The Enlightened One by Faith Lee (O7)

Artefact: Bodhisattva
Accession number: 2014-00570

Abandoned princehood
Exchanging a golden crown
For pearls of wisdom

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 9

Cabinet by Rukshana Burzeen Driver (O6)

Artefact: Cabinet
Accession number: 2013-00164

When opened,
A pearl comes out of an oyster,
It shimmers like the sun,
The perfection of a craftsman,
The cabinet need not be filled,
As it is filled with a glittering emptiness,
Which is fullness.

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 5

عالم الفلك (Astronomer) by Isabella Ocampo (O5)
[read as ‘ealim alfulk’]

Artefact: Planispheric Astrolabe in the River
Accession Number: 1998-01545

Qibla; Mecca; Hajj
are
words I will never understand.
ancient people,
they follow a golden path of
stars and
planets
and
(life death rebirth)
the universe’s slightest
whisper of a map to the ends of time.

we are not them.
-caught-
we are a middle generation,
strung along temple visits and prayer times
before we stop
and light becomes big burning balls of gas and
the path to Jannah disappears
but they remain
with the Adhan and Iqama of their fate.

We will never know the meaning of stars.

Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 17

Blue Velvet / Sandstorm Seas by Oliver Noel Phillips (O4)

Gallery: Tang Shipwreck

Blue.
They carried the seas with them
Lines that once guided,
Blue velvet waters
Now frozen with time and varnish

Jade.
Sand dollars awaiting an unfulfilled exchange,
Hope was suffocated in silt, sand and clay
Centuries of sleeping dormant
Awakened by the humble and curious sky

White.
Spirits arranged in ceramic bloom
Glazed over eyes imprisoned
A glistening barrier between
The voices of the past and minds of the present

Beige.
Depressed bowls filled,
Each with one undying soul
Memory enslaved by the patterns,
Both engrained in the sandstorm browns

Maroon.
Embellished mirrors turned asunder,
Protecting cried faces of antique people
From those who stare with modern empty wonder
As burgeoning chapters of history are subtly unwritten

Black.
Greedy creatures had stolen them from rest
Pulchritude of the living dead
Hollow sight and marvelled glares
On ever-passing dates

Emancipate.

]Year 3 Lit Enrichment @ ACM 15

A series of uprooting by Aditi Bharade (O8)

Artefact: Storage Jars, containerised shipping in antiquity
Accession Number: 2005-153087

Unaware, I was uprooted from my earthy habitat, chiseled against my will into a fine, utilitarian form.

Unaware, I was loaded unto a vessel with hundreds of others like me, equally unsure and uncertain.

Unaware, I plunged into the saline depths of the sea, and dark and unforgiving as my future.

Unaware, I landed amongst a colony of colourful creature, who were taken aback by this intrusion.

Aware, I was embraced by the aquatic life, and content, I lived this way for many dynasties, oblivious to the wars above me.

Unaware, as an old man I was uprooted as I had been as a child, again by those loathsome hands, to beautify me, shape me, in foreign white spaces.

Unaware, I was placed with precision onto a spotless white stool, where I glowered down upon those who gave me a disgusted eye, those who had no concern of my story, those who shuffled away in the unearthly quiet to prevent getting another glimpse of me.

Aware, that the colourful aquatic beings who had latched themselves upon me were slowly conforming to the surroundings, becoming unremarkably white.

Unaware, that my life would continue to be a series of uprooting.

2016 Literature Night

Twilight and the Witch Lit Night 2016

Literature Night is an annual event where students come together, bound by their mutual love for literary expression, to perform interpretations of literary works as well as original works inspired by a literary theme. This year, a few intrepid students decided to take on the challenge of organizing this event as a CAS project, and what you see tonight is the result of their unflagging conviction and hard work, along with that of our pioneer Literature and Performance students who are getting a first taste of the process required of them in the performance component of the IB assessment. We would also like to extend our deepest appreciation to our dedicated alumni (too many to name here) who have supported and performed at this event over the years. We are gratified to see them continuing to pursue their dreams at some of the world’s preeminent colleges and institutions.

As we are almost a week away from the Hallowmas season, this year’s theme seems fitting. From contemporary retellings of children’s stories to interpretive mash-ups of classic songs, some students have adapted coursework for the stage while others have extended the theme in their devised pieces to encompass the fissures and instabilities in family structures, exploring the symbolic heart of the fairy tale, where anybody could be a witch or a little girl lost in the woods.

Featured below are some performances from the event.

1 Nadya Zaheer

Nadya Zaheer

“Letting Go”

3 Mona Hanae Gomez

Mona Hanae Gomez

“Ghost by Anne Sexton”

6 Naja Surattee

Naja Surattee

“Darah Keturunan Keling”

7b Irsyad Dawood and Grace Chew

Irsyad Dawood and Grace Chew

“Bemused”

8 Shermaine Lim

Shermaine Lim

“I Do Not Speak Your Language”

9 Ashna Verma, Amber Lieu, Christina Cai, Regene Lim, Lim Yu Juan

Ashna Verma, Amber Lieu, Christina Cai, Regene Lim, Lim Yu Juan

“The Ash Girl”

10b Anivin Narayan, Farizi Noorfauzi, Ashvine Pandian

10a Anivin Narayan, Farizi Noorfauzi, Ashvine Pandian

Anivin Narayan, Farizi Noorfauzi, Ashvine Pandian

“People Are Strange”

Teacher Advisors

Mark Rozells
Mark Tan
Audrey Chan (Stage Management)

Organising Committee

Nicole Tong
Mona Hanae Gomez
Ashley Ho
Megan Lim En
Rachel Leia Devadason
Goh Sze Kei

Photography

Ashley Jane Leow
Kimberly Wee

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The views and opinions expressed on this website does not represent those of the School of the Arts, Singapore.
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