The world is gravitating towards conservatism and we are becoming far-right in our political values. And increasingly, our conversations are framed by the mainstream media; nudging and taking us down a certain path where we find the liberals becoming disenchanted by the events that has been taking place in the last two years – from Brexit to the ascendancy of Trump as the President of the United States of America.

Lost in this era, are the conversations that make up the fabric of our society – lost in translation and sometimes muffled by the noise in social media. In the words of Ong Keng Sen, the founding director of Singapore International Festival of the Arts (SIFA), “we have stopped listening,” and it is not because the activists have stopped.

In his final installment of SIFA, Keng Sen brings to us “Enchantment,” a themed programme from 28 June to 9 September 2017 and it promises to be “an antidote against populism, alienation, (and) injustice.” The event will be initiated by The O.P.E.N., a pre-festivaal of ideas to engage diverse audiences with the ideas, issues and themes of SIFA.

The context of Singapore where there is often a centripetal force centralizing monolithic institutions at the expense of independent energies required us to diversify tastes, choices and horizons for our audiences. SIFA promised to venture into other terrains from Singapore’s established performing arts centre, The Esplanade. Singapore audiences deserve more complementation between our institutions and not duplication in thei little red dot. Hence, SIFA opted not to become another Esplanade and instead explored beyond that one success formula.

Event Highlights

28 & 29 June 7pm: Public Discussants, Commentators, Moderators and You!

A historic moment in Singapore, and definitely in the arts, where public discussants will have, for the first time, a dialogue in the open on a central question that has been referred to them. This year, opening the entire SIFA 2017, The O.P.E.N. looks at art as res publicae or art as public interests. The root word of ‘republic’, ‘res publicae’ is a Latin phrase loosely defined as ‘public interests’. In the spirit of this definition, ART AS RES PUBLICAE will be exploring open questions of artworks, dialogue and negotiation. The central question that has to be unpacked: What is the ‘intangible value’ in an artwork?

24, 25, 26 Aug 8pm Dragonflies

The year is 2021. Climate change is wreaking havoc across the globe, “Brexit” is causing chaos all over Europe and Donald Trump has been re-elected United States president for a second term. In the wake of escalating wars in the Middle East, famine in West Africa and relentless terrorist attacks by radical extremists, the United Kingdom – and many nations around the world – has enforced a ban on all immigration.

7 July : Make Food Not War

A visionary and a catalyst who is equally at home with grassroots farmers and the Harvard Mellon Urban Initiative, Kamal Mouzawak reaches many people in and out of Lebanon through his advocacy work, celebrating food traditions that unite communities. A 2016 Prince Claus Laureate, Mouzawak coined the slogan “Make Food Not War” – fitting for someone who knows what it’s like to come from a place scarred by lingering ethnic and religious tensions. He believes strongly that the common act of enjoying the same foods erases invisible barriers and strengthens a sense of togetherness.

As a concluding remark at the media launch, Keng Sen said that sensationalizing political issues doesn’t work anymore. What is more fundamental is get people to participate through arts and drama and to awaken their inner self through an immersion process. He calls on all participants to immerse themselves culturally. Tickets are available at www.sifa.sg