The Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society (SIFAS) has launched a book on the history of Indian performing arts in Singapore in conjunction with Singapore's 50th birthday.
The book, Kala Manjari: 50 Years Of Indian Classical Music And Dance In Singapore, was launched at the National Library on July 18. It is a project awarded by the National Library Board and supported by the Singapore Memory Project's irememberSG Fund.
Kala Manjari, which literally means "a bouquet of art", documents the development of the four major performing arts institutions in Singapore, namely, SIFAS, Bhaskar's Arts Academy, Apsaras Arts and the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA). The 208-page book also tracks how Indian arts have kept up with developmental changes through historical periods.
The book launch included a panel discussion in which pioneers from the four institutes - SIFAS president P. Selvadurai, Bhaskar's Arts Academy co-founder Santha Bhaskar, Apsaras Arts co-founder Neila Sathyalingam and TFA honorary secretary R. Srivathsan - shared personal stories of the evolution of the respective performing arts companies. They also discussed the importance of arts in preserving the Indian cultural identity.
Readers of Kala Manjari can expect to learn more such personal stories of leading Indian classical music and dance artistes who have contributed to the vibrant cultural scene over the years.
Mrs Bhaskar shared that in the past, there was no cultural funding for any production to encourage artistes. While she felt that it was challenging to perform and teach dance, she noted that Singapore had good theatres like the Drama Centre and Victoria Theatre where artistes had an avenue to showcase their talent.
Said associate professor of marketing (education) at Singapore Management University and the book's co-editor Dr Seshan Ramaswami: "Embedded in the learning of the Indian classical arts are lessons in history, in literature, in religion, in learning to live a meaningful life. Almost every story told of an artiste or institution in this book reflects that truth - that it is the classical arts that have kept the Indian identity alive for Singaporeans - even as they have assimilated into multicultural Singapore." The book also recounts how the Government, media, temples and the community promoted Indian classical music and dance in Singapore.
TFA president Vijaylakshmi Menon believes that the rich history in the book "will inspire the younger generation to be more involved in Indian arts".
Indeed, the book will give readers a peek into the history of the trials, tribulations and notable achievements of Indian arts and artistes in Singapore.
It will be available in libraries islandwide, local educational institutes and Indian cultural institutions overseas.
Said co-editor Sarita Alurkar-Sriram: "The book is a fitting tribute to the wonderful history of Indian arts in Singapore. The fact that a minority community has preserved and promoted its unique and diverse art forms across five decades is a testament to Singapore's strength and value systems."
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