CHARLIE CHAN’S SUCCESS

Was arts council wrong in revoking grant?

Sonny Liew's graphic novel, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, is on international bestseller lists compiled by Amazon and The New York Times.
Sonny Liew's graphic novel, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, is on international bestseller lists compiled by Amazon and The New York Times. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Sonny Liew's graphic novel, The Art Of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, roused my raw and primordial love for Singapore in ways that no other local fiction has come close to doing.  

It is even more amazing that a seemingly parochial tale of Singapore can resonate far beyond our shores (Sonny Liew Book An International Bestseller, The Straits Times, March 19).

Given its lauded trajectory, the National Arts Council's decision to revoke the $8,000 publishing grant for the book seems myopic and misguided.

The council claims that the book's "sensitive content, depicted in visuals and text, did not meet funding conditions".

I have two questions about this claim.

First, was the council wrong to have deemed the content sensitive?

Exactly which parts of this novel are sensitive and why were they considered so by the council?

Second, should the council's funding conditions be re-examined?

It is often said that the appreciation of art is subjective and for a person to not see the beauty of art, even if the rest of the world sees it, is unfortunate but understandable.

However, for an organisation whose goal is to promote Singapore arts to not see the complex beauty of Liew's work is tragic and ironic.

Harvey Neo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'Was arts council wrong in revoking grant?'. Print Edition | Subscribe