chapter  5
19 Pages

Cultural intermediaries: the media and the

WithArts Education Program

The performer cut a ghostly figure under the balmy night sky. Moving between the lights of the Substation, Julianna Yasin covered her head with a black veil in slow deliberate movements. Using the veil as a theatrical prop to explore the idea of sexuality and identities of Muslim women, Yasin’s performance for Kampong 2000, organized by Teater Ekamatra in 2001, aroused both praise and controversy from different quarters. Shortly after the performance, Malay-language newspaper, Berita Harian, published a letter from a member of the public attacking the performance based on what the press had written about it and accusing it of humiliating Muslim women, even though the letter writer had not watched the performance. The letter drew the attention of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) who requested a meeting with Teater Ekamatra. “In the end the meeting did not happen because we sent a letter to Berita Harian, not to defend the performance but to explain its context.”1 In another incident, some five years later, some local theatre practitioners and The Straits Times reviewers were mingling at the end of a private play-reading session. Predictably the conversation turned towards the English-language broadsheet’s coverage of the arts scene in Singapore. Unhappy with the lack of depth and breadth of the newspaper’s coverage, a playwright told a reviewer, “the Great Singapore play could be produced and no one would know about it.”