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Strengthening trust and mutual understanding through arts and culture

Statement by Mr Baey Yam Keng, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, for the Ministerial Discussion on the theme "Embracing the Culture of Prevention to Enrich ASEAN Identity"


24 October 2018



Delegates from the ASEAN family

1. At the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017, our Leaders issued the ASEAN Declaration on Culture of Prevention (CoP). The concept of the CoP is to promote a peaceful, inclusive, resilient, healthy and harmonious society in ASEAN. As a region characterised by rich cultural diversity and resources, the arts and culture can play a vital role in supporting the key thrusts of the CoP, and specifically in promoting a culture of peace and intercultural understanding.This is a critical component of our joint efforts to establish an ASEAN Community among the peoples of all 10 ASEAN Member States.

2. If we are successful in leveraging on the arts and culture to strengthen mutual trust and intercultural understanding, ASEAN will be better able to harness the unique cultures, customs, and talents of all its Member States. We can unleash our joint creativity, and develop strong and enduring friendships among our peoples.Through this, ASEAN can be greater than the sum of our parts.

3. Singapore strongly supports the celebration and promotion of ASEAN’s rich cultural diversity. One example of how this has been done is the annual showcase of the “Best of ASEAN Performing Arts”, which started in 2008 to promote the values and appreciation for each other’s culture that contribute to a shared ASEAN identity.

4. Singapore is continuing this meaningful initiative and will be organising it for the first time as ASEAN Chair, from 9-10 November at our historic Victoria Theatre, one of Singapore’s oldest performing arts venues and one of our National Monuments. Titled “One Voice: The Best of ASEAN Performing Arts”, the showcase will present talented musical acts from all 10 ASEAN Member States to celebrate the dynamic, innovative and vibrant spirit of ASEAN. “One Voice” will also feature two original songs composed by Singapore’s Young Artist Award winner, Philip Tan, which will be collaboratively performed by all ten music acts. We hope that “One Voice” will provide a platform for the musical talents from all ASEAN Member States to collaborate with one another and demonstrate how we can inspire each other when we work together. I would like to extend an open invitation to all of you to join us for what promises to be an exciting performance.

5. In multicultural Singapore, we believe that the arts and culture have the power to bring people together, and provide a common language that helps transcend boundaries. Our national cultural institutions such as the Singapore Art Museum, the National Gallery of Singapore and The Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, are therefore committed to researching, developing and presenting the arts of Singapore and ASEAN to Singaporeans as well as the world, through exhibitions, festivals and workshops.

6. The National Gallery of Singapore is the world’s first museum to focus on the research and exhibition of Southeast Asian art dating from the 19th century. It recently launched a new audio tour titled “Art in ASEAN: 10 Highlights” that explores the confluence of ideas and culture across ASEAN through significant works of art from all ASEAN Member States. Some examples include a painting of Indonesian literary icon Chairil Anwar by Malaysian artist Latiff Mohidin, an abstract painting by Bruneian artist Awang Sitai, a trapunto painting by Filipino artist Pacita Abad, including archival photos of Salon Natasha – a creativity workspace designed by Vietnamese painter Vu Da Tan. The audio tour was launched in conjunction with Singapore’s ASEAN Chairmanship.It can be found in the free Gallery Explorer app, and is available in 9 languages used by our ASEAN friends. Our hope is that this will encourage all visitors to the National Gallery Singapore to learn more about art in Southeast Asia, the fascinating stories behind them, and the similarities which bind us together as one community.

7. Other Singapore institutions such as the Asian Civilisations Museum or ACM, also help to showcase the historical connections between the cultures of ASEAN and Asia. The ACM will be opening three new permanent galleries in December this year showcasing collections on Islamic Art, Christian Art, and Ancestors and Rituals, complementing its recently revamped Ancient Religions gallery which includes Buddhist and Hindu art and artefacts.These galleries include highlights such as a rare Makara ornament for a palanquin used only in ceremonies in the north-eastern part of the Malay Peninsula, and a wooden hornbill figurine from Borneo. We recognise that such exhibitions would not be possible without a collaborative effort between ASEAN museums, underpinned by strong bonds and friendships. I would like to thank our ASEAN friends for your support and cooperation.This testifies to how culture can foster a greater sense of unity among the peoples of ASEAN, and promote an ASEAN identity through deeper intercultural understanding.

8. I am confident that there will continue to be more opportunities for collaborations and growth in cultural development within ASEAN.Looking at our agenda today, there are already some new and exciting initiatives in the pipeline such as the ASEAN Cultural Year 2019.These can help forge even closer bonds between our peoples, and keep ASEAN forward-looking and better prepared for the challenges and opportunities in today’s fast-changing world and interconnected community.Singapore looks forward to working alongside our ASEAN family to realise our shared vision of a peaceful, inclusive, resilient, healthy and harmonious society in ASEAN.

9. In conclusion, on behalf of my delegation, I would like to thank Indonesia for your gracious hosting and excellent meeting arrangements. Thank you. Terima Kasih.

Last Updated: 24 October 2018

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