SINGAPORE - An all-male interdisciplinary dance performance aims to show that abuse and violence are not just a woman's problem.
Kotor by -wright Assembly runs from March 7 to 10 at Stamford Arts Centre, in solidarity with International Women's Day on March 8.
The word "kotor" means "dirty" in Malay and can be used to describe a menstruating woman or a sex worker. Creative producer Farhanah Diyanah and choreographer Ismail Jemaah developed the idea of male artists responding to physical and sexual violence and countering the idea that only women are responsible for standing up for women's rights.
Farhanah, 30, says: "I wanted the performance to have an all-male cast. I want to live in a world where I can co-exist with men who can deal with these issues."
On another level, Ismail, 29, says: "It's not about gender. It affects everyone. When you talk about rape, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, men do face it as well. So the first thing in my mind was that we shouldn't talk about it as a one-sided issue."
Work began on Kotor in April last year. The work responds to texts from local poet Natalie Wang's debut collection, The Woman Who Turned Into A Vending Machine, published last year by Math Paper Press.
In the titular poem, Wang considers female labour, especially domestic chores, and the frightening reality of how many ignore the human needs of the person doing this work. Sound by multimedia artist Aqilah Misuary captures the chink of coins and rattle of vending machines dispensing objects.
BOOK IT / KOTOR
WHERE: Rumah P7:1SMA, 03-01 Stamford Arts Centre, 155 Waterloo Street
WHEN: 8pm March 7 and 8; 3pm and 8pm March 9; 3pm March 10
ADMISSION: $25 (standard), $22 (concession) from kotor.docket.sg
Performers include dancers Sufri Juwahir and Shaun Lim, as well as Kaykay Nizam, a theatre-maker with a dance background. The performance space is the third-floor studio of dance group P7:1SMA, which overlooks the Sri Krishnan and Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temples. Kaykay says the sights and sounds associated with both form part of the production design. "It's quite refreshing to perform in a space that's not the traditional black box. The air is more vibrant," adds the 29-year-old.
He says that the original title of the show was "Perempuan Kotor" or "dirty woman" but the team soon decided to "make it more universal". After all, Kotor is about breaking with the idea that violence, abuse and gender bias are mainly "women's problems".
Ismail adds that changing the status quo begins with personal change. Artists cannot expect a single show to change the world but they can change themselves. "We have to believe in it so the audience can come in," he says.