Kai was Visual Director and Communications Director of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG), commissioned by Sport Singapore. The APG — the ‘Paralympics’ for South East Asia — welcomed 3000 athletes and officials from 10 nations. The multimillion-dollar, multi-media Opening and Closing Ceremonies, Celebrate the Extraordinary, was attended by Heads of States, enjoyed by 6000 people at the Singapore Indoor Stadium (3 December, Opening) and many others at the Marina Bay Sands (9 December, Closing), broadcasted to 600 million in the region and live-streamed (with live captioning) to many more. Kai worked with the critically-acclaimed Creative Director Philip Tan,whom Kai has worked with since 1998. Tan was also Music Director and Composer for the Ceremonies. Over a two-year period, Philip and Kai honed the shows’ bold message, that of the celebration of the mental and physical strengths of people of different abilities. Created by, with and for people of all abilities, the 75-member strong Creative Team consists of well-known cultural practitioners, including Movement Director Pua Jin Wen, as well as emerging talents such as Associate Visual Director Timothy Chan (born 1990), who is also a champion para-athlete (chess). Fusing sport and art, Celebrate is an extension of Kai’s research on running as an artistic discourse.
IMPACT BEYOND SPORT AND THE ARTS
The Ceremonies were an overwhelming success. Referring to the REF criteria, the project may qualify as a three-star REF project, being one that is ‘internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance and rigour’. The Ceremonies were multimedia extravaganzas that dazzled, and made positive contributions to help advance the disability discourse in Singapore and the region by presenting disability with a face and voice that is neither tragic, grotesque nor maudlin, but confident, proud, talented and stunning The Ceremonies also received critical acclaim from educational institutions, cultural practitioners, athletes and officials, government bodies (such as as the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth) as well as heads of states. The Games has been described as the best ever ASEAN Para Games, as one has set a new precedent not just for Para Games in the South East Asian region, but with broader implications for inclusivity (The Straits Times, The New Paper, Berita Herian et al). There were several firsts, such as the Opening Ceremony being beamed live to Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand, as well as being accompanied by live interpretation and live captioning, which, according to Deputy Director of the Singapore Association for the Deaf Alvan Yap, ‘marks a giant step towards an inclusive Singaporean society”. A complex level of teaching-and-learning was meticulously weaved into the project as the Team worked closely with the 454 students from special education and mainstream primary, secondary and tertiary education institutions. The shows were unique also because the contents were co-created with not just students, but members of the community from all walks of life. They include 661 performers, 174 volunteers (such as Alice Bee, aged 78 and blind in one eye), and 120 motivators. 2 years in the making, the Ceremonies generated a range of outputs, such as photographs and video clips of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and programme booklets (which came with Braille versions, too). The ASEAN Para Games may have created significant impact in not only the sport but arts and academic worlds in Singapore and the region. Celebrate has repeated the success of another performance that Philip and Kai showcased at the 27th South East Asian Games (Myanmar, 2013), which was praised by a diplomat to have ‘set the bar high’.
KAI’S ROLES, QUOTE AND INTERVIEW
As Visual Director, Kai handpicked and directed a group of 10 Associate Visual Directors, who in turn lead other professionals and students (from HEIs, primary and special schools). As Communications Director, Kai led a team that consisted of, amongst others, writers, a lyricist and a graphic designer, to work on the dramaturgical direction of the shows, develop the contents, tone and aesthetics of the official programme publications, as well as the narratives of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
Having always had an expanded understanding of difference, disability and diversity, Kai’s involvementin the Ceremonies was given an additional level of significance after she was (finally) diagnosed in September 2015 with ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia. Kai says,
‘Each of us is ‘special’. It is our man-made narrow-mindedness that dis-en-ables us. I’d never been screened as I’ve always been a high-achiever. And I achieve because, not in spite, of my ‘disorders’. My ADHD, dyspraxia and dyslexia are my gifts, my distinct programming systems that en-able me to see, intuit and intellectualise about the world in my own unique ways. Working on the shows has been challenging. I love a cracking challenge. Who needs a boring, easy life?’
‘On behalf of our deaf and hard-of-hearing clients at SADeaf, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for everyone’s efforts in making the ASEAN Para Games ceremonies more accessible to our community. This, as far as we know, is the first time ‘’live’’ captioning has been offered for such a big event and at a national level too, and also marks a giant step towards an inclusive Singaporean society.”
— Alvan Yap, Deputy Director, Singapore Association for the Deaf
“It’s the most accessible live show by far I ever had the pleasure of watching. Kudos to your team!”
— Alvan Yap, Deputy Director, Singapore Association for the Deaf
‘Congratulations for the picture perfect Opening Ceremony. I believe the wonderful extraordinary experience will be engraved in the mind and heart for the rest of their lives. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to be part of this once in a life time journey and do let me affirm that our hard work and creative mind had captured the heart of the audience yesterday.. Kudos to you and your team! You havecreated exceptional work in letting the status of our students with disabilities soar to greater heights’.
— Anuwar Abdul Wahab, Vice Principal, Metta School
‘Congratulations on Your Opening Ceremony. So much work, passion, planning and care clearly went into it. I hope Kelly and I were able to give it the verbal and commentary enhancement it deserved.’
— Dez Corkhill, TV Commentator for Opening Ceremony, Mediacorp
‘It was great, you guys did a great job! So proud of everyone!’
— Associate Visual Director Bertrand Lee, whose film commissioned for the Ceremonies can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUXCH-FKRIM&list=PLqAmVfhsW7xNNt2v-zHFvtGAmWyPoI_kr&index=1
‘I just wanted to congratulate you both on a wonderful show. i just can’t imaging the amount of work that must have gone into coordinating and producing such a vibrant and rich event. Lasalle was extremely happy to have been invited to contribute.’
— Khalid Al Mkhlaafy, Programme Leader, Broadcast Media, LASALLE College of the Arts
‘I am certainly going to raise your event as role model for other organisers. It’s excellent! In all my almost 25 years with the Deaf Community, I have seen nothing like this. Thanks for the support all round! What you are doing is a first here!’
— Claudine Chan, Singapore Association for the Deaf
‘Awesome awesome awesome! … It is the first time my hubby, who is Deaf, sat down to watch it at home with me. I dashed back home in time to catch the tail end of the country Parade. In the past, he seldom watches any ceremonies or parades cos there wasn’t any captioning but not this time!’
— Claudine Chan, Singapore Association for the Deaf, after the Opening Ceremony
PROFILES OF CREATIVE TEAM AND CAST (selection)
Creative Director Philip Tan on the agendas of the shows