Cultural Medallion winner explains how MDA kills the arts scene in Singapore

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picture credit: SIFA's website

O.P.E.N. a Singapore International Festival of Arts’ (SIFA) pre-festival event kicked off today with an exhibition of award-winning Iranian photographer Newsha Tavakolian work, I Know Why The Rebel Sings. Her works movingly shows the terror of human conflicts as well as the oft-forgotten realities of those forced to pick up the pieces in the aftermath.

O.P.E.N.’s festival director, Ong Keng Sen, spoke at the launch of the event today and in his speech the Cultural Medallion winner explained the difficulties arts festival organisers like him faced in Singapore.

The following is a transcript of Mr Ong’s speech as transcribed by writer Ng Yi Sheng in the SIFA website :

“With all that I would like to launch the exhibition open. And you will see a blackout pictures. There were 33 photographs the MDA had issues with. This was not explained to us until Sunday. The photographs were not identified for two months and these photographs were only identified on Sunday.

And I will say for me they were a very difficult process, because these photographs had already been circulated in the April 13 2015 issue of Time Magazine. And these images were mostly from this. And no reason was given for why the Time magazine was not banned but these images were not allowed to be exhibited. But for me there is no official statement of why and there is no statement of which photographs.

So the permit is issued as permit allowed. So you can see the photographs have been removed. You can see the black spots where they were visually, because they are in a visual world tonight. And for me it was very surprising, they were women fighting ISIS. I suppose in Singapore if you have a cause, it can be a little too much. And you know Newsha has been very vociferous in her treatment of women subjects, and in these she reclaims a space talking about the large issues in the world.

We are still waiting for a lot more permits because they are usually given only two days in advance. And so we are living with a new terror where we don’t know, it is out of our control.”