Honouring artistic excellence at the 13th Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards

For NUS’ performing arts community, the past two years of the pandemic felt very much like sailing through the unknown, having to adapt to evolving safe management measures for live performances and learning to connect with virtual audiences via a screen. Now that almost all restrictions have been lifted and live in-person events can resume at maximum capacity, the University’s arts groups are embracing the return to familiar waters, akin to coming home to a safe harbour.

This was the sentiment shared by many members of the NUS Centre For the Arts (NUS CFA), including students, artistic directors, and staff, who gathered in-person for the 13th annual Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards ceremony on 28 October at the University Cultural Centre Theatre. The Awards were not held in 2020 due to disruptions from the pandemic, while a smaller-scale ceremony was held in 2021 with social distancing restrictions in place.

Inaugurated in 2009 with the generous support of the Tan Ean Kiam Foundation, the Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards celebrate artistic excellence in NUS, and recognise undergraduate students and alumni who have raised the artistic bar and contributed to the growth of the arts scene in NUS and beyond. A total of eight awards were given out, namely, the Outstanding Community Service of the Year Award, Original Work of the Year Award, Outstanding Alumni Award, Student of the Year Award, Digital Production of the Year (Short Form) Award, Digital Production of the Year (Long Form) Award, Production of the Year Award and Group of the Year Award.

For the very first time, the Digital Production of the Year categories were also opened to the larger NUS community beyond CFA’s 20 Arts Excellence Groups, to spur artistic exploration and expression among students across campus and encourage them to take pride in their original works.

“It has been a truly epic voyage, and I am proud of everyone in NUS CFA, staff and students alike, for navigating uncertain waters with courage, optimism, and good humour,” said Associate Professor Daniel Goh, Associate Provost (Undergraduate Education) and Vice-Dean (Special Programmes) at NUS College.

“Tonight’s nominees embody the best of these traits, exemplifying the excellence and passion for the arts that these Awards hope to encourage,” Assoc Prof Goh added.

Chairman of the Tan Ean Kiam Foundation, Mr Homer Tan Keng Soon, said the  foundation “believes in the importance of the arts in broadening the minds of the youth and sparking their innovation and creativity”.

“We are proud to journey with CFA in enabling young artists to explore new horizons, and constantly push the boundaries of their craft,” Mr Tan said.

Shining stars of NUS’ campus arts scene

One notable award recipient this year was NUS Dance Synergy, who received the Outstanding Community Service of the Year Award for their Design-Your-Own-Module (DYOM) project, Helping Hands, Moving Bodies 2.0. Building on an earlier iteration of the same project, NUS Dance Synergy students experienced first-hand how the arts could go beyond academia and theory to benefit the wider community. Partnering with NUS’ Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies and social service agency Lions Befrienders, the team from NUS Dance Synergy dived into dance pedagogy to better understand seniors’ needs. The students then created a special community dance programme and taught the dance routine to seniors in Lions Befrienders’ various Senior Activity Centres. The choreography was specially designed with the seniors’ physical and cognitive abilities in mind.

“This project was a challenging undertaking, involving many unforeseen circumstances and five-hour phone calls. However, looking back at how far we’ve come, we’re excited to see how NUS Dance Synergy can continue to reach out to the community using contemporary dance as a medium,” said Ms Pu Fangxin, President of NUS Dance Synergy (AY2021/22).

Another notable recipient was Student of the Year Award winner Mr Tan E-Reng from the NUS Electronic Music Lab (EML). Going by the stage name Falling Islands, E-Reng, a Year 4 student from the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, was recognised for his artistic achievements in the electronic music scene. These include his foray into video production for EML’s annual group presentation Omniverse Cyberpunk which was held in virtual format due to the pandemic, and his original compositions for Past. Presence. Future, a musical item staged at the NUS Arts Festival 2021 which fused the art of dance theatre with the power of visual storytelling in photography and film. Beyond serving as EML’s President in Academic Year 2020/21, and Publicity Head in Academic Year 2021/22, he was also recognised for actively encouraging EML members to bond with artistic sub-communities both within and outside of NUS.

When asked about his thoughts on receiving the award, E-Reng shared, “Awards like this are instrumental in helping us keep the faith and reaffirming that we have an audience that is watching and cheering us on. Electronic music can sometimes be a solitary art form to partake in, but thanks to and together with my fellow EML members, I have learnt so much more as a musician.”

Modern Indian dance troupe NUS Naach was the first non-CFA Arts Excellence Group to be awarded the Digital Production of the Year (Long Form) for its production Kiwaad (Door). Through eight uniquely choreographed and themed dance pieces, Kiwaad explored the idea of finding inspiration in a seemingly mundane existence. While some of the pieces were infused with light-hearted elements of comedy and romance, others dealt with heavier, thought-provoking topics such as gender stereotypes.

“All of us at NUS Naach are elated and have worked hard for this win, and it’s a testament to all our years of learning, and of pursuing new creative ideas. This award encourages us to continue to find new ways of storytelling to further the arts scene in NUS,” said Ms Geetali Gupta, President of NUS Naach (AY2021/22).

Impressed by the creativity and resourcefulness of NUS’ student artists, Guest-of-Honour Professor Sir Konstantin Novoselov, Director of the Institute for Functional Intelligent Materials and Distinguished Professor from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the NUS College of Design and Engineering, said in his speech: “You’re all extremely creative, innovative and bold. Don’t let the boundaries of your courses, of this prize, of this University, or even of this universe, be the limit for you. Your own brain is your only limit…so be bold, dream and explore!”

13th Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards – Full List of Awardees

Outstanding Community Service of the Year

Helping Hands, Moving Bodies 2.0           

by NUS Dance Synergy

Original Work of the Year

Confluence (Sangamam)                           

by NUS Indian Instrumental Ensemble

Outstanding Alumni

Christopher Chee
from NUS Stage

Koid Chia Sing 
from ExxonMobil Campus Concerts Crew

Student of the Year

Tan E-Reng

from NUS Electronic Music Lab

Digital Production of the Year

(Short Form)

Tak Lurus (Not Straight)
by NUS Dance Blast!

Digital Production of the Year

(Long Form)

by NUS Naach

Production of the YearNUS Dance Synergy
Group of the YearExxonMobil Campus Concerts Crew



Click here to see highlights of the 13th Tan Ean Kiam Arts Awards ceremony.