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Home owners welcome the public into their homes in SIFA's 'Open Homes' project. For participant Anthea Ong, 'Home is a state of being for me – it's when I am at ease and at peace with who I am. When how I live, love and lead are congruent and joy is present more than not.'

Interview: Anthea Ong of Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA)’s ‘Open Homes’

One of the more unique programmes at the 2017 Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) is the Open Homes segment whereby locals open their homes and entertain ticket holders with stories, poetry, song, and other communal activities.

Anthea Ong is one such home owner. She will be opening her home on the 19th of August, for 4pm and 6pm sessions.

We asked her about this very unusual project and this is what she had to say:

What inspired you to get involved with Open Homes?

Aside from a deep passion for community-building, I just want to show up and do my bit where I can add to the tapestry of what is truly the Singapore story from ground up. No machine adulteration please, this tapestry needs to be woven by the people for the people – thread by thread, one human story with another. I see Open Homes as a project that does just that.

How did you come to be involved in this project in the first place?

Jeffrey Tan who’s the conceptualizer and producer of the Open Home segment of SIFA invited me and I couldn’t say no to him.

Were you worried about exposing such a personal space to strangers?

No, because I have opened my personal space for a community meditation circle that I host and facilitate called Circle of Bliss every Monday evening, for the last five years! Also I’ve also opened my home for OH! Open House (another community art walkabout project) and friends who wish to use the space for their workshops, dance and poetry performances. I’ve also learned that when you see everything that you have as serving a larger purpose beyond you, you get so much more back in joy and love.

What would you personally like to take away from this experience?

To further along my healing and personal growth. The more I share and come out to the world, the more accepting I am of who I truly am (the good, bad and ugly). When I no longer need to hide or be someone I think I should be, I become more free to be me. That deepens my practice of being home with myself.

What would you like audiences to take away from this experience?

By sharing my story of losing everything and finding myself, I wish for audiences to take away hope, love and peace from the experience. The two [previous] shows [at 4pm and 6pm on the 12th of August] were deeply humbling – words like ‘release’, ‘peace’, ‘calm’, ‘courage’ and ‘enlightenment’ were shared.

What would be the themes with which you’ll be entertaining us? Why did you choose those themes/subject(s)?

My sharing is both performative and experiential for the audience. We explore the concept of silence in reflection, self-awareness and resilience. Audiences are led through an immersive journey of conscious breathing in silence as I take them through my pain and onto abunDance. I chose this because this journey of silence and resilience is the most defining of who I am. Also, I wanted to use this experience to share my social projects – which include the Circle of Bliss, Hush TeaBar etc.

What is ‘Home’ to you?

Home is a state of being for me – it’s when I am at ease and at peace with who I am. When how I live, love and lead are congruent and joy is present more than not.

About Sharmila Melissa Yogalingam

Ex-professor, Ex-phd student, current freelance critic, writer and filmmaker.

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