Some of the most interesting conversations around race, coloniality, identity and belonging I have had in my life, have been with friends and colleagues from Singapore.
Both countries are cited as multicultural and multi-religious societies, with high standards of living – exemplars of contemporary, capitalist societies where competitive innovation promises much for those at the top of the food chain. Political types recall Australia as the first nation to diplomatically recognise Singapore, historians recollect the Fall of Singapore in Australia’s military memory. Our governments recently signed a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, citing “an ambitious vision for further cooperation and seamless economic integration between our countries in the years ahead”. On the darker side of the coin, both societies are marked by growing/marked inequality, complex cultural and racial relations, and elements of the nanny state. And yet, there are also marked differences between Australia and Singapore, ways in which both nations – and their peoples – have a specificity and singularity.
It is this sense of difference and overlap that makes me most excited about the Singaporean artists featuring as a part of the Queensland Poetry Festival, poet, Pooja Nansi and dance group, CHOWK. While the program as a whole has a strong focus on Indigenous and First Nations writers and performers from around the world, there are also incredible writers from the Asian region, including Poet in Residence Jeet Thayil. But let’s stick with Singapore for the moment!
Pooja Nansi (reading above) is the author of two collections of poetry, Stiletto Scars and Love is an Empty Barstool; editor of an anthology of Singaporean Poetry; and designer of teacher’s resources for Singaporean poetry, Local Anaesthetic. She curates a monthly spoken word and poetry showcase called Speakeasy and runs Burn After Reading a collective started for young, emerging poets.
Her one woman show, You Are Here will be showing at Queensland Poetry Festival at the Judith Wright Centre, Sunday 28 August at 4.00pm. For You Are Here:
Pooja Nansi is getting married, and planning a wedding in Singapore is making her think hard about where she came from. As with all migration stories, hers bears the weight of travellers past, a complex cultural map of her parents’ move from India to Singapore, and the border-crossing love stories of her grandparents.
At the same time, her life is a constant, often very funny struggle with finding a place for her culturally mixed voice within Singapore’s idiosyncratic ethnic rubric. You are Here is a one woman show, interspersed with Pooja’s trademark mix of poetry and storytelling, is an attempt to find a place for her family’s messy sprawl of stories in orderly Singapore.
Pooja’s writing is dynamic and thoughtful, her performance understated with a measure of strength within and we’re delighted to be able to offer two double passes to Peril readers based in Brisbane. First two readers to email:
Subject Line: YOU ARE HERE
will win themselves tickets to the show on Sunday!
In addition, CHOWK, one of Singapore’s most exciting contemporary dance groups will be sharing From Another Land, which marks Singapore’s 50th year of nationhood, through the lens of migrant labourers in Singapore, particularly in the construction and shipyard industries. Drawing on poetry of love, longing and belonging from the “displaced and often invisible builders of Singapore’s urban environment”, From Another Land creates “a complex and poignant reflection on ideas of land and nation-building”.
For those interested in cherry picking from the Queensland Poetry Festival for events featuring these artists with links to Singapore, here’s your schedule:
Friday 26th August
- THE BODY COUNTRY: PANEL 2:30pm-3:30pm, IMA Screening Room – FREE
Join poet & dancer Tishani Doshi, dancer & spoken word artist Amrita Hepi, and Singapore’s CHOWK as they explore the relationship between poetry and dance.
Saturday 27th August
- FROM ANOTHER LAND, 3:30pm-4:45pm, JWC Performance Space – FREE.
CHOWK presents From Another Land exploring the poetry of Singapore’s displaced migrant workers using contemporary dance, plus fefature sets by the author of Dirty Words poet Natalie Harkin & Singapore spoken word artist Pooja Nansi.
Sunday 28th August
- PAPER LANTERN HANDS, 1pm-2:15pm, JWC Performance Space – FREE
An ecstatic musical-poetry performance by mage-artist-outcast Erfan Daliri including feature sets by renowned Ruckus Slam member & local poet Angela Peita + Singapore spoken word artist Pooja Nansi.
- YOU ARE HERE, 4pm-5pm, IMA Screening Room, Tickets $12.50
Pooja Nansi’s intimate one-woman show You are Here, a mixture of spoken word and storytelling direct from the heart of Singapore, explores migration stories and the complex cultural maps we emerge from
Note: Eleanor Jackson is a Board Member of the Queensland Poetry Festival