Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia

Mass inclusion: thoughts on Teo Yeo Yenn’s ‘This is what Inequality looks like’ (via Dumbriyani)

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In recent days, I have been absorbed heavily into a book my wife brought home from Kinokuniya. While she absorbed it in a mere few days, I took longer to read it because I realized that this book should have been entitled (insert here names of a few people I know). There are entire chapters describing their behavior which sometimes poses a challenge for me to show empathy, and some paragraphs that deconstruct the systems I exist in, that contribute to how a specific group of people behave or live their lives. This book is entitled ‘This is what Inequality looks like’ by Teo Yeo Yenn. The thing about this book is: it is easy to see why it is hated, generally taken down constantly by critics and government agencies, social workers giving it flack for a narrative they feel is unfairly representative of their kind. Everyone often finds fault in a story that puts them in a negative light, or blames them for the inequality that exists. But of course, no one acknowledges that they are all part of the system, and somehow one single book cannot be representative of so many threads of narratives.

The main message I got from what little I browsed through it was: Dignity. A powerful tool in making people feel like they are less, or deserve less, and thus result in their self-exclusion from spaces that the larger community reside in: is to make them feel like they deserve being treated this way. I imagine that was what a lot of my family members felt growing up, and thus they burrow into a hole of self-esteem issues, having families with children that also grow up believing they are less, and are constantly reassured by the system and its various tools, that they are less.

What more the Arts.

I refer to theatre here, because generally I have little or no experience in music, dance or visual art, also these art forms are so exclusive, that even my segment of the community i.e. middle class Indian educated English Speaking professional, am unable to access for a variety of reasons: lack of education in these art forms which generally require economically higher access points, a certain attitude towards an understanding of intellectualism and theory (And cultural art history which I did not receive a formal education in) and an openness to different styles, only afforded to those who are keen and avid followers of art in the first place. Theatre still is the most accessible art form to this date: consisting of sometimes dialogue, but mostly performance of roles, which people are familiar with on a daily basis. We all perform the various roles we are expected to play.

What then, when this community are also extensively excluded from the only art form that they can access with minimum formal education in the arts? I’ve observed a few things about theatre in Singapore that we can say for sure, excludes this entire community, and more insidiously, pretends to include them.

 

Read the full article on DUMBRIYANI.

ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region.

 

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