The National Arts Council (NAC) has announced this year’s recipients of Singapore’s top artistic honours, awarding the Cultural Medallions to two veterans in jazz music and dance, and the Young Artist Award to five practitioners.
President Halimah Yacob presented the Cultural Medallions on Tuesday (23 October) to jazz musician Louis Soliano and dance choreographer Low Mei Yoke, while Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, presented the Young Artist Awards to playwright Faith Ng, visual artist Hilmi Johandi, sound designer and foley artist Lim Ting Li, dancer and choreographer Sufri Juwahir, and music director Zulkifli Mohamed Amin (see below for artist profiles).
Rosa Daniel, CEO of the National Arts Council said, “I congratulate this year’s recipients for being outstanding leaders in their fields who have contributed significantly to Singapore’s arts and cultural landscape. Their work, which resonates with many at home and abroad, expresses who we are as a nation and people.”
The Cultural Medallion was instituted in 1979 and has been conferred on 125 artists to date, while the Young Artist Award, first initiated in 1992, recognises artists aged 35 years and below whose works have shown clear artistic vision and potential for continued excellence. To date, 154 arts practitioners have received the award.
The Cultural Medallion Fund allows each recipient to tap on up to $80,000, in support of projects over the recipient’s lifetime. The Young Artist Award Grant provides an amount of up to $20,000 to support each recipient in continuing their artistic pursuits and development.
Cultural Medallion recipients
Soliano, 76, is one of Singapore’s best-known jazz musicians with career spanning over 50 years. He is a prolific percussionist and vocalist, and has played with international artists like Rosemary Clooney, Sarah Vaughan and Shirley Bassey.
Although he played the piano from a young age, he chose percussion and the drums as his primary instrument. He was also drawn to singing and dancing. He has received several accolades for his works and contributions, including the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Singapore International Jazz Festival in 2014.
Low Mei Yoke
Low, 63, is the co-founder and artistic director of contemporary dance company, Frontier Danceland. A pioneer choreographer, she enjoys creating works that represent Singapore’s vibrant and diverse society, and is known for infusing a unique style blending Eastern dance aesthetics with Western dance movements into her work.
Her acclaimed works have been showcased around the world. She continues to inspire a new generation of contemporary dancers as a resident choreographer and modern dance instructor at Nanyang Girls’ High School and Raffles Institution.
Young Artist Award recipients
Ng, 31, is a playwright with Checkpoint Theatre best known for her critically acclaimed work Normal (2015, 2017). Her writing captures slices of Singapore life, raising awareness and creating dialogue around pertinent social issues. She has also worked with The Necessary Stage, Drama Box, and the Esplanade, where she has branched into writing for senior audiences as well as for children.
Ng teaches playwriting at the National University of Singapore and is actively involved in mentoring other young aspiring playwrights. She organises, facilitates and presents workshops and platforms aimed at supporting and nurturing young theatre makers.
31-year-old Hilmi’s paintings push boundaries by incorporating synthesised images of film, archival footage and photographs, creating a distinctive style that explores temporal and physical dimensions. Besides reflecting his love for film, his works also highlight the social effects of rapid modernisation.
Hilmi has participated in several exhibitions, including holding his own solo exhibitions Dusk to Dawn / Fajar ke Senja and Framing Camellia in Singapore. His works have also been showcased at Art Stage Singapore and galleries around the world. Most recently, he was one of the five artists selected for the President’s Young Talents 2018, organised by the Singapore Art Museum. He is an adjunct lecturer for fine arts at LASALLE College of the Arts.
Lim Ting Li
Lim, 33, is a sound designer for film. She is the Director of Sound at Mocha Chai Laboratories, and has worked on sound design for many international commercial and arthouse feature films, earning multiple accolades for home-grown films including Sandcastle and Pop Aye.
Lim has trained and mentored young practitioners, and conducted sound design workshops for various educational institutes in Singapore. She is a regular invited speaker at industry programmes such as Broadcast Asia and Singapore International Film Festival.
Sufri, 35, is an independent dancer and choreographer who is the co-founder of Soul Signature, a dance collective that seeks to redefine contemporary dance and develop a new generation of young dancers.
Starting out in hip-hop, Sufri went on to join Maya Dance Theatre, picking up different dance genres including contemporary dance and the Indian classical form bharatanatyam, emerging as one of Maya’s most outstanding talents.
Zulkifli Mohamed Amin
Zulkifli, 35, wears many hats as a conductor, musician, music director and composer, and is known for his fusion of traditional Malay and contemporary styles. Currently the Youth Leader at People’s Association Talents, he leads the Orkestra Melayu Singapore youth wing as their music director and conductor, and co-founded Nusantara Arts with the aim of integrating literary and traditional arts. He has performed regularly in Singapore and overseas.
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