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Celebrating the vibrant arts ecosystem in Singapore

Opening Remarks by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, at the Opening of 'Dapunta Hyang'

12 April 2018

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen

1. Good evening. Very happy to be here this evening to celebrate the homecoming of Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge by Zai Kuning, presented by TheatreWorks.

About Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge

2. Dapunta Hyang has been a significant work many years in the making. It brings to life the vessel steered by the first king of the 7th-century Srivijaya Empire, Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa, and encourages us to think more deeply about the long-standing historical and cultural connections in Southeast Asia.

3. To create this work, Zai conducted extensive research into the pre-colonial histories of the Riau Archipelago and its peoples. He first embarked on this journey during his residency at TheatreWorks in 2001, 17 years ago, and continued with the support of the National Arts Council through project grants. Dapunta Hyang has since gone through several iterations at different platforms, such as at Singapore’s Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, and Art Basel Hong Kong.  Today, it is entirely appropriate that its homecoming to Singapore is being opened in TheatreWorks’ multidisciplinary space.

Singapore’s participation at the 57th Venice Biennale

4. Last year, Dapunta Hyang represented Singapore at the 57th Venice Biennale – one of the most established platforms for contemporary art in the world. The artwork was well received –  and an international reviewer said that it “brings to light types of knowledge that tend to be forgotten over time; and it questions our responsibility in transmitting knowledge and digging golden nuggets out of history.” I am very happy to see Zai’s work back on home ground, and I hope that more Singaporeans will come and experience this powerful and breathtaking work together.

5. Singapore’s participation in the Venice Biennale provides a regular opportunity for our visual artists and their technical specialists to present their works to an international audience. The National Arts Council will continue to support Singapore artists, and commission top artistic works for the Singapore Pavilion every two years in Venice.

Vibrant arts ecosystem in Singapore

6. It is a great source of pride for Singaporeans when we witness our artists representing us on the international stage. Beyond highlighting what Singapore has to offer to the rest of the world, such successes also reflect the growth and vibrancy of our contemporary arts scene, and point to the rich and varied offerings which Singaporeans can enjoy, in Singapore, on a daily basis. These range from commercial exhibitions to displays of public artworks at places where we live, work and play.

7. There are also pinnacle platforms such as the Singapore Biennale and Singapore Art Week, which feature high-quality works from Singaporean, Southeast Asian, and international artists. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and the National Arts Council remain committed to building on these foundations to allow Singaporeans to experience even greater variety and higher quality of art in our daily lives. 

8. One example is the Singapore Art Week. This has become a major event in our arts and culture calendar, attracting Singaporeans of all ages and backgrounds as well as visitors from the region and beyond.  This year’s edition drew a record number of half a million visitors to its key events, and that is a three-fold increase from 20171.

9. For the next edition of Singapore Art Week, which will happen from 19 – 27 January 2019, visitors can expect even more opportunities to appreciate and be inspired by contemporary visual art. They can look forward to key exhibitions in our art institutions, curated programmes in our community spaces, private-collector showcases and collaborative exhibitions by local and international galleries. They can also attend forums where experts and thought leaders will share their views with audiences, and exchange ideas on critical and trending issues in the art world. Such new offerings aim to further strengthen the Singapore Art Week experience for artists and audiences alike.


10. In conclusion, I would like to express my appreciation to TheatreWorks for giving Singaporeans the opportunity to enjoy Dapunta Hyang. And to Zai and his team – thank you for supporting the making of this presentation. I wish all of you a very pleasant evening ahead!

1 There were about 180,000 visitors at the key events of Singapore Art Week 2017.

Last Updated: 16 April 2018

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