Saturday 20 November 2021

SWF: Quick Round Up Part 2

 Darling, You're Fabulous: An Hour With Tan France

A most enjoyable hour long chat moderated very smoothly by Maya Menon with Queer Eye host Tan France, who has not only written a memoir but now also runs his own fashion brand Was Him, a spin off of Tan France's middle name Washim, the back story of which was sadly from his childhood days of being bullied. Tan spoke about how he came to write his memoir and some of his most important values regarding style vs fashion, and why dress empowers and enhances self-esteem, how he loves to cook and how that came from being made to watch his mother cook, and how he loves styling women more than men. He spoke plainly about the discrimination faced by celebrities of South Indian descent in Hollywood, and how wearing a Sherwani on the red carpet was a political statement. Tan was not just entertaining and approachable and so likeable, but his political conscience and pride in his own culture was infectious. To him, styling people is to allow for self-expression, to bring out a quality that already exists in the wearer. Asked if he had any advice for stylish Singaporean men in terms of how to dress themselves, he couldn't resist making a gentle poke at the tightness of their clothes, which to him looked so uncomfortable: "save sexy time for behind closed doors, I don't need to see everything on the street." And in case you didn't know, Tan's comfort food is dhal, and he loves cake so much he eats it every day! Honestly, I so agree. There is nothing so dire in life that cannot be solved with a slice of cake.

For those of you interested in reading more about the theories surrounding dress: whether fashion is the same as dress, and the communication or political aspects of dress, check out Malcolm Barnard's Fashion  as Communication (Routledge, 2002) and Fashion Theory: A Reader (Routledge, 2020).

This programme is available from Nov. 19th to 28th for Festival and Festival Plus holders on SISTIC SWF: Video-on-Demand. VOD passes are also purchasable on SISTIC.

Meet The Author Yan Ge Ling

Lim Fong Wei chats with renowned Chinese author Yan Geling, who has written numerous books in Mandarin and one in English, as well as short stories and screenplays, and a couple of them have been adapted by famed director Zhang Yimou on film. Her most recent is The Secret Talker After remarrying, she now lives in Berlin. This was an interesting conversation that entailed a look beyond the facade into the writer's psyche and encompassed her process: Yan spoke about her productivity during the pandemic (putting out three works, as well as learning calligraphy and German), how her swimming routine allows her to germinate her novels before writing (one gets the sense that her previous background in dance and the proximity of the Grunewald forests behind her house similarly allow for movement to influence her creative process). She spoke also about her introverted personality and how this allows her to listen in on female friends' and relatives' stories, and if interesting, she would delve deeper. Asked if she is ever troubled about privacy issues and appropriation, she said that she changes enough about the original that her sources can't readily identify their own stories even if they catch glimmers of the original. She also professed her admiration for rural women with a pioneering and enduring spirit. She spoke a little about the differences of writing books versus screenplays (I would have liked to hear more about the granular differences beyond generics), but appreciated her shout-out to Tang and Song Dynasty poetry. You can read more about her oeuvre  here.

This programme is in Mandarin (no English subtitles however), available on VOD until Nov. 28th.

Shut Up! I'm Manifesting, with panellists Marylyn Tan, Zarina Muhammad and Hoa Nguyen, moderated by Zarina Muhammad.

A fascinating panel touching on the interdisciplinary practices of three writer-artists from the angle of the mysterious, the ghostly and the spectral, the occultic and magical. Muhammad touched on how place embeds a history of the spiritual realm, how particular energies of space are manifested, but often gets neglected, and her invocations and prayers before beginning her performances are a way to pay heed to these energies. Nguyen spoke about the sense of play that often attends her exploration into the invisible realms, seeking a deeper connection into love and remembrance. Tan spoke about emancipating ourselves from false symbols, the role of serendipity in our lives ('the discipline of the writer is to be still to listen to what the subject tells you'), rendering a cartography of ghosts and dealing with intergenerational legacies of trauma. All three artists' attentiveness to the parallels and intersections between the visual and textual were evident in their deliveries. This would have been a programme well worth watching again.

Unfortunately, this programme is not available on VOD.

Amanda Lee Koe in conversation with Akwaeke Emezi

Another rich, enjoyable conversation hosted by the energetic and vivacious Amanda Lee Koe with Nigerian Igbo-Tamil writer Akwaeke Emezi, author of numerous books, the most recent being The Death of Vivek Oji and their memoir Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir.  They spoke about the search for the self and how it correlated to the act of writing, how the act of questioning is an act of writerly exploration, rather than seeking answers. The idea of home is to reflect selfhood and embodiment, rather than geography. They spoke about having a Malaysian mother but was often disbelieved on trips to Malaysia, and how in Nigeria, they is not at home even when home. Koe asked about the interface of Nigerian blackness with American blackness to inhabit one's social and personal identity, and Emezi spoke about their need to then curate their own culture through their own narratives. They spoke about the process of getting Freshwater, their first book, to publication, and how they 'stood at the edges and let the world move over to where they was', a courageous act of self-definition. They spoke about being a hermit, 'going to hide in a swamp' as a shield for all the transphobia they had had to face after the nomination for the Women's Prize. Emezi was a dynamic speaker who brought a sense of the real into the 'media circus' that swarms around controversy and hitting a New York Times' bestseller list. 

Unfortunately, this conversation is not available on VOD. (And I was so engrossed I forgot to screenshot).