'We have clearly failed': Property agents apologise for cultural appropriation in flat showcase video

PHOTO: Facebook/Jasen & Shiqi

Considering what’s going on around the world, it’s a tough market for real estate these days.

With Covid-19 brutalising the economy, property agents are finding new ways to stand out and make aspiring homeowners pay attention. 

In a case of creative marketing gone awry though, a real estate husband-and-wife duo attracted the wrong kind of attention. 

PropNex Realty agents who go by their collective name Jasen & Shiqi were the subject of online brickbats after a YouTube video they produced went viral for less-than-positive reasons. 

Shared on their YouTube channel on Sept 6, the video featured the two ethnic Chinese agents marketing a five-room flat in Jalan Bukit Merah for sale — while dressed in traditional Indian outfits, spouting phrases in Malay and Tamil, and performing a dance routine that was neither here nor there in terms of cultural accuracy. 

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

The head bobble was repeatedly imitated as well. 

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

The video by Jasen & Shiqi has since been set to private on Sept 13, but not before a Twitter user managed to re-upload a segment of it online

https://twitter.com/skeletonjacket/status/1304756958658871299

The reactions have not been great.

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

The backlash also resulted in the couple taking down their official Jasen & Shiqi Instagram page

‘Indeed insensitive of us’ 

PHOTO: Screengrab/Facebook/Jasen & Shiqi

The agents — Jasen Tan and Lim Shiqi — told AsiaOne that they are currently reflecting on their mistakes as they go through all the Instagram and Facebook messages as well as emails they’ve received on the matter. 

“Firstly, we would like to clarify that we have no intentions at all to mock, offend or disrespect any cultural race or minority and we sincerely apologise for sparking the unpleasant sentiments online,” they stated in response to our queries. 

The motivation behind the video was driven by the fact that the Bukit Merah flat can only be sold to non-Chinese buyers due to the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), commonly known as the HDB racial quota.

The EIP was instituted in 1989 to prevent ethnic enclaves in HDB estates. 

All ready for our next videoshoot! Stay tuned!! ✌🏻 ------------------------------------------------ 𝐓𝐎 𝐋𝐈𝐒𝐓 𝐘𝐎𝐔𝐑...

Posted by Jasen & Shiqi on Monday, August 24, 2020

“The reason we speak or tried to speak in Tamil and Melayu was because we want to appeal to the non-Chinese races, which we have clearly failed,” they admitted. The couple did seek out the unit owner’s consent before kicking off their marketing plan, devised in the hopes that it would garner attention from potential buyers.

“As you have seen from the recent vlog (Behind the scenes of 13 Jalan Bukit Merah Home Tour), we have put in a considerable amount of time to search for costumes, come up with a small dance routine to our best capability, and practising the Tamil and Melayu phrases repeatedly to make sure we don't mispronounce it,” they noted to AsiaOne. 

“However, we apologise that we have not considered thoroughly on the topic of 'cultural appropriation' and it is indeed insensitive of us to allow such an inappropriate event to happen.”

PHOTO: Screengrab/Twitter

The video has since been taken down and the team is in the process of crafting a “more appropriate way” of showcasing the property. 

“We admit that we have done wrong in our approach in this matter and vow to constantly look at things critically and from all possible angles from now on to avoid such events in the future,” they said, offering an apology to everyone affected by their video. 

“Do give us some time to correct our mistakes and become a better version of ourselves.”

ilyas@asiaone.com