The Incredible Strength

Last year Nur Sabrina bte Dzulkifli, an emerging playwright from Singapore, won the first SU Fellowship (New York). The award was judged by Philip Holden, Constance Singam, and Tan Dan Feng. Nur Sabrina took up her fellowship by residing for two weeks in New York City in April this year. During the residence she was free to explore the city, in particular, its theater scene, and to find inspiration for her own work. She graciously participated in a launch event for Gaudy Boy's first title, Alfian Sa'at's Malay Sketches, and spoke movingly about what the short-story collection about the Malay-Muslim community in Singapore meant to her.

Nur Sabrina reading from Alfian Sa'at's  Malay Sketches  at Book Culture

Nur Sabrina reading from Alfian Sa'at's Malay Sketches at Book Culture

Below, she wrote about her experience as an SU Fellow in the city:

From the moment I stepped out of JFK, I knew that New York would leave an indelible mark on my perspective of the world. It's such a storied city - and for a kid from Woodlands in Singapore - such a far-away concept that the entire time I was there, it was like I was walking in a dream. Every city, every country I've been to has breathed in a different way, and New York has done for me something that not a lot of places have. It made me feel humbled. To be able to be there, to take in the sights, to commute as just another person in the city - it's broadened my understanding of how people are shaped by the landscapes they grew up in.

Most notably, my visit to the 9/11 memorial was very sobering. As a Muslim woman, I saw a lot of dignity in the way the tragedy was treated, and found an interesting moment of discomfort in myself. Not to say that I felt guilty for being there, because it is ridiculous to assume or even imply that I - or any other Muslim person that was not a part of that event - was in any way responsible for what happened. But it did remind me of the incredible strength of the human spirit. Of the capacity to love, and to care for others. Pictures of recovery work at Ground Zero will forever stay in my mind.

New York was a place that, in its own way, healed me, thanks to the community of people I found there. I was especially taken by the stories of other Singaporeans and foreigners who had moved from their own countries and rooted themselves in the city. Getting to talk to them about why they traveled, what is it that kept them in places other than where they were born - these are the stories that I think I will be endlessly fascinated by. I am so lucky to be able to say that the Singapore Unbound Fellowship has allowed for these experiences to happen. It is a trip that I think will bring not only a lot of inspiration, but also a lot of enlightenment with regards to the way different societies situate themselves, to any writer that has a chance to have it.

This year the first SU Fellowship (Thailand), judged by Alfian Sa'at, Kirsten Han, and William Phuan, has been awarded to the documentary filmmaker Jason Soo. The award event will take place in Singapore in July 2018. The 2nd SU Fellowship (New York) will be open for applications in March 2019.