Festival Commission



by The Observatory (SG)

31 May
Fri, 8pm

1 June
Sat, 3pm & 8pm

SOTA Studio Theatre

Photo Credit: Arabelle Zhuang

Message from ED


As we embark on another exciting journey with the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) 2024, I am filled with immense pride and anticipation for what lies ahead. At Arts House Limited (AHL), we cherish the spirit of creativity and innovation, and SIFA 2024 embodies this ethos to its core.

Sharon Tan



People exist along the tension of things that unify and split them apart. The themes across three Festival years – Ritual (2022), Some People (2023) and They Declare (2024) were named to reflect this notion of sameness and difference between us.
Natalie Hennedige

Message from The Observatory

Message from The Observatory

Our fascination with caves began in early 2023 when we embarked on a project led by Lucy Davis, which brought us to a cave in Kinta Valley. It was there that we got the opportunity to explore a part of this cave that was off the beaten track. A collective encounter with silence and darkness was what sparked the initial inspiration for REFUGE. This came at a point when we emerged from finishing REFUSE, our exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum, where we delved into mycelial networks by working with fungi. Recognising the vast subterranean networks of caves as a fitting complement to our previous work, we started researching and realised Malaysia has extensive cave systems, prompting a series of research trips to various caves in the region. The caves, once a refuge teeming with life, now harbours bones, fossils, and cave art—silent artefacts that mark the passage of time. We started gathering literature about caves, archaeology, and the natural environment, and collected information from the local guides who trekked with us through these terrains. The flora and fauna, the myths and stories, the politics of the land—all of these sparked deep conversations about time, memory, our existence, the human condition and our beliefs. As stalagmites and stalactites silently accrue over millennia, are we but a speck of dust? We express our gratitude to the land, particularly Lenggong Valley in Perak and Dharma's hometown, Ipoh, Malaysia; and to all living and non-living things that we have encountered through the process. Special thanks to all the local guides who accompanied us on our treks, navigating the landscape and patiently sharing knowledge with us. We extend our appreciation to our manager and producer, Deanna, for keeping us in check and making all of this possible. To our creative collaborators, Ton & Ching from Duck Unit, Rully Shabara, and Justin Shoulder—thank you for taking this plunge into the underground with us and for your patience throughout this discovery process. Grateful to the entire team of REFUGE for translating our ideas from a mere Excel sheet into reality. Through this journey, we have unearthed many questions, yet many remain unanswered as we continue to traverse this path of exploration.

Dharma: I grew up in Ipoh but had never ventured into caves beyond cave temples and show caves. It wasn't until heading back to Ipoh on research trips for this project that shed light on the issue of rampant quarrying. I had first noticed this in the early '80s and reflected on how it became even more prevalent from the '90s onwards. Considering that quarrying involves blasting to extract limestone, the main ingredient for cement and concrete, I couldn't help but wonder if these products were being used in various constructions here in Singapore, including our HDB flats. It made me ponder our complicity in the destruction of the beautiful hills, mountains, and caves in Perak, not to mention the impact on wildlife.

Chee Wai: The tinnitus has been getting louder these days. As much as I was in search of silence within the caves, the deeper I ventured, the louder the tinnitus got. I began to wonder if this disquietude stems from within, something physiological, psychological or emotional. Or is this sound actually seeking refuge within me all this while, like an embedded message from a different time? In many ways, the cave is like an ear to me. Me navigating through the contours and undulations of the caves, was like me getting deeper into the ear. When I reached the end of it, where cave art decorated the cave walls, was where the eardrum was. It also seems like the external noises have damaged my internal psyche. I remember my very first visit to a cave was to Batu Caves with my family when I was 6 years old. I vomited when I emerged from Batu Caves.

Cheryl: In the realm of creative pursuits, particularly within the Singaporean landscape, it is easy to burn out and lose sight of what you actually want to do. There is so much spent on deciphering administrative intricacies and navigating bureaucratic red tape that detracts from the work itself. Journeying into the caves offered a respite, a change of pace. There were moments to sit and just be. Surrounded by these rock formations, I couldn't help but wonder about the lives that lived in those same spaces millennia ago. Yet, in this tranquil embrace, there are complexities lurking beneath the surface – nature and co-existing with nature is not without its dichotomies, its own politics and systems to navigate. The local guides from Ipoh told us that numerous temples were constructed in caves to cater to the local community, inadvertently causing some damage to the natural environment. Nonetheless, these temples are now protecting the caves from being blown up for raw material. How do we then seek to achieve this balance? Maybe sometimes, we cope by imagining alternate realities, a fleeting escape from the complexities of the present. And amidst the ambiguity, there are flashes of beauty and clarity that pierce through the fog. Yet, the path forward remains shrouded in mystery, the solutions elusive, at least for now…

The Observatory, Creator & Director
The Observatory, Creator & Director




Conceived and Directed by:
The Observatory
Deanna Dzulkifli
Moving Image, Scenography and Lighting:
Duck Unit
Sound and Performance (Live):
Rully Shabara with xhabarabot
Creature Creator and Performance (Moving Image):
Justin Shoulder
Sound System Design and Engineering:
Technical Production:
Production Assistant:
Zasha Zahri
Research Trip Documentation:
Arabelle Zhuang
Isaiah Cheng

Local guides (Ipoh):
VENTREX, special mention to En Rosli, Don Ventrex, Najwa and Billy

Additional footage:
Isaiah Cheng
Gua Gunung Runtuh
Bukit Bunuh
Toh Semelah
Naga Mas
Lang Cave (Ipoh)
Lang Cave (Mulu)
Niah Cave (Miri)
Gua Geroh
Gol Ba’it
Gua Teluk Kelawar
Gua Tambun
Clearwater Cave
Gua Puteri
Gua Kajang
Gua Ngaum
Special Thanks To:
Local guides (Sarawak):
Andyson Sulang
Henry Amita
Dramaturgical Assistance:
Tang Fu Kuen
Adeline Setiawan
Chi too
Chris Yeo Siew Hua
Daryl Goh
Faisal Husni
Farizi Noorfauzi
George Chua
June Yap
Koichi Shimizu
Low Kee Hong
Lucy Davis
Madam Data
Mok Cui Yin
Nuh Peace
Pete Kellock
Ruby Tan
Rumah Rimau Dapur
Russell Morten
Shridar Mani
Vincent Yap
Yee I-lan
Yun Xiang



The Observatory
Creator & Director

The Observatory - far from silent and objective as its name suggests - is a band whose music and cultural ethos is to respond and speak back to the contemporary afflictions in Singapore and the global milieu.


About SIFA

As Singapore's annual pinnacle performing arts festival, the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA) presents captivating and diverse works across theatre, music, dance, film and visual arts. First launched as the Singapore Festival of Arts in 1977, the festival has gone through several evolutions and inspired generations of arts lovers and practitioners. Today, the highly anticipated festival is a high point on Singapore's arts and cultural calendar. SIFA continues its festival mission to champion the creation and presentation of Singaporean and international works.

About Arts House Limited

Arts House Limited (AHL) is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to inspiring and enriching lives through the transformative power of the arts.
We proudly organise two flagship national festivals: the Singapore International Festival of Arts, a celebration of the local and international performing arts, and the Singapore Writers Festival, a multilingual festival presenting the world's leading literary talents.
At the heart of AHL's mission are six arts spaces designed to support our vibrant arts sector and forge connections within communities. It includes two national monuments - The Arts House, multidisciplinary arts centre, and Victoria Theatre & Victoria Concert Hall, a heritage building that is home to the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
AHL also runs the Drama Centre, a dedicated performing arts space, as well as three creative enclaves for arts groups and innovative enterprises: the Goodman Arts CentreAliwal Arts Centre, and Stamford Arts Centre.
Established in 2002 as The Old Parliament House Limited, AHL transitioned to its current identity as Arts House Limited in 2014. As a public company limited by guarantee under the National Arts Council, we remain steadfast in our mission to champion the arts as a powerful force for positive change.


Arts House Limited extends our heartfelt thanks to the following supporters

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Supporting Outdoor Media

Singapore International Festival of Arts 2024 is

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SIFA Advisory Panel
Lynette Pang
Sushma Soma
Magdalene Ew
Nelson Chia
Norhaizad Adam
AHL Programming Committee
Madeleine Lee
Zulkifli bin Mohamed Amin
Yasmin Hannah Ramle
Eugene Lim Yingjie
Kenneth Kwok
Executive Director
Sharon Tan
Festival Director
Natalie Hennedige
Programming & Producing
Sim Wan Hui
Ye Junmin
Lisa Marie Lip
Christie Chua
Mervyn Quek

Victoria Lim
Celestine Wong
Melissa Chin
Huang Xiangbin
Chong Weenee
Melvin Lee
Chan Silei

Marketing & Communications
Jasmine Gan
Elizabeth Wong
Valerie Koh
Jacqueline Wong
Akanksha Raja
Lia Tan
Lemon Ong
Megan Lee
Rachel Lim
Shayna Heng

Event Operations Management
Emma Lim
Sharon Wang
Sandhya Silva
Jess Chiang
Luc Toh
Soo Yn Ay
Nur Iffah Shairah Binte Jeffry
Nur Mufidah Binte Sapari
Rabiatuladawiyah Binte Abbas
Partnership Development
Rita Targui
Emmanuel Paul Ng
Mohammad Firdaus Bin Wari
Mylin Soh
Flo Goh
Huang Yi Chen
Eizlyn Natasha
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