Singapore International Festival of Arts – 5 reasons to catch it!

Because FIFA is over and we now move to SIFA. (ha.)

No seriously, why catch Singapore’s most prominent arts festival? Especially since there are live shows happening everyday, cafes to visit, books to read and parks to stroll?

On the top of my head, I would say a) we do those things all the time already, how about some change? b) a bragging right to our friends (“Look at how cultureeed I am”) and c) witnessing high creative output is nothing short of inspiring. (Remember that time when you watched Shawshank Redemption and it made you blink back those furtive tears, in awe of how beautiful film storytelling is?)

Here I’ll break down the 5 serious reasons you should go trigger-happy on SISTIC.


But first, a little background story:

Previously known as the Singapore Arts Festival, the annual arts feast, after a one-year hiatus in 2012 for review and discussions with the arts community, has reemerged as the Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA).

SIFA had also finally gained automacy as an independent company to chart its path, as opposed to the previous 35
instalments part managed by the National Arts Council.

Cultural Medallion Ong Keng Sen is leading this year’s instalment, and has been appointed for four editions of the festival till 2017. Subsequent festival directors will also run for three editions. Known for his experimental and intercultural collaborations in Theatreworks (where he is artistic director of), we can expect bold, visionary and well-travelled productions
in this year’s programme.


1. Entertainment and consumerism? No, thank you.
Spoken like a true artist, Keng Sen rejects what he calls the “use and throw attitude” and want to hold a “serious, adult” festival.

In this crowded arts landscape, we have offerings for every palette – Night Festival for its street vibe, genre-specific bonanzas like Singapore Film Festival and M1 Fringe Festival, Yfest for youths and the giant Art Stage Singapore for visual art lovers.

So where do the best acts shine? Those of highest artistic integrity and excellence? In our national arts festival, of course.

2. Packed with blockbuster productions
When the media dubs you as “ America’s — or even the world’s — foremost avant garde ‘theater artist'”, you know you’ve reached
mastery and smelling success. American experimental theatre director Robert Wilson and the Berliner Ensemble (established by the celebrated German theatre director Bertolt Brecht) will be gracing our shores in the form of hypnotic yet fantastical storytelling of Peter Pan.Iranian playwright Amir Reza Koothestani, who has blazed the theatre world in the last decade, will also present Amid The Clouds with his theatre company Mehr Theatre Group. Amid The Clouds tells the poignant tale of 2 Iranian exiles’ perilous odyssey to the promised land, after being forced out of their home.Disabled Theater will also be making an appearance, directed by leading French choreographer Jérôme Bel and Swiss Theater HORA. Challenging both conventions of performance as well as common perceptions of mental disabilities, Disabled Theater
raises important questions of the representation of disability as well as reveal their capacity of art and joy.From Sambaso, the re-enactment of the Shinto harvest ritual by kyogen masters Mansaku Nomura and Mansai Nomura, against visual artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s breathtaking backdrop; to Miet Warlop’s masterful blend of visual art and theatre in Mystery Magnet, SIFA doesn’t fool around with its line-up.
3. Discuss what Legacy and Classic means
The 2014 festival theme is Legacy And The Classic, although what “classic” means is open to interpretation. Mr Ong says: “It
could be the classic as we know it, the contemporary classic or the expanded classic – going beyond conventional classics.”Naturally the word “Legacy” suggests long-term influence; and the festival stretches this theme across personal legacies, political, historical, social and art legacies.For one, Give Me Your Blood and I Will Give You Freedom, a specially commissioned performance art piece by SIFA and performed by Nikhil Chopra, sheds light on the Rani of Jhansi Regiment during India’s fight against the colonial power. Dance legend Martha Graham will also be paid tribute in
[email protected]… The 1963 Interview on the legacy that she has paved in this contemporary era through Richard Move’s uncanny depiction of her physical and linguistic mannerisms.
4. Participate in The O.P.E.N.

The O.P.E.N. stands for “open.participate.enrich.negotiate” and is held 4 weeks before the festival opening. It is created as a space for public discourse about humanity and our world, to prepare for deeper understanding and enjoyment of SIFA in the upcoming month.Mr Ong puts it best, “Too often, an arts festival is a U.F.O. which descends on the city and then leaves as suddenly as it arrives. The O.P.E.N hopes to create an atmosphere, a climate which will welcome the Festival and persist thereafter.”

The O.P.E.N. covers 5 branches – Legacies of Violence, Iconic Legacies, Digital Legacies, Personal Legacies and Legacies of Science. With purchase of your The O.P.E.N pass, you could attend a multitude of brunch talks about art trends and issues, soak in exhibitions, film screenings, as well as music and dance performances.

Noteworthy also is Ways of Wondering, a public engagement project where 150 volunteers aka. Wanderers, work with 5 notable artist-mentors (sound art, dance, theatre, multimedia art, visual art) to create a one-of-a-kind performance at 2 public showings. You can be kept updated on the happenings right now, at

Mr Ong has already started planning for future editions of the festival, which are all closely linked to one another. With 2015 marking 50 years of Singapore’s independence, the festival will focus on the theme of Post-Empire with a heavy emphasis on Singapore artists, while the 2016 edition zeros in on novelty; highlighting new artists and new directions. The final year of his tenure, Mr Ong dubs as the “joker year”. As the name suggests, would only spell crazy changes and surprises.Truly curated par excellence. Are you finally convinced? Good. So now put down that remote control, treat your family to some cultured fun and I’ll see you there.

The festival runs from 12 August – 21 September, with O.PE.N. starting next week from 26 June to 12 July. You can visit the whole line up in their websites and respectively. Tickets are on sale at SISTIC.









Share your thoughts!

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.