“My first love is poetry. We have been together for 60 years. I never imagined this would bring me the Cultural Medallion award.” said Mr. KTM Iqbal to the straight times, hearing the news of his selection to the Cultural Medallionn of Singapore, the highest civilian cultural award of the nation.
The National Arts Council of Singapore on yesterday announced the Cultural Medallionn awards 2014 for three distinguished arts practitioners – poet and writer KTM Iqbal, sculptor Chong Fah Cheong and theatre director Alvin Tan.
Indian-origin Singaporean poet and writer, Iqbal learned the basics of Venpa, a form of classical Tamil poetry from a poetry-writing workshop. He has authored seven collections of poetry and written over 200 children’s songs for Radio Singapore’s programme in the 70s and 80s. He also contributed poems, essays and short stories for the region’s leading newspapers and magazines. One of his poems, Water, was selected by the NAC for display in MRT trains and for exhibition for EXPO 200 in Hanover, Germany.
“When I first started to write, I didn’t know the rules of traditional poetry, there are some very strict rules. So I just copied how people write. Later on, I learnt the rules of traditional poetry” he told Channel NewsAsia. “When people – readers, or your family or your friends – tell you they enjoy the poem, that is the encouragement.”
Now 74 years old, he has received numerous literary awards, including the Southeast Asia Write Award in 2001. He intends to publish a selection of his poetry, and after that, perhaps a collection of his poems.
The poet, also a retired bank executive, has received recognition in the education system of Singapore also. Iqbal’s compositions are studied in schools and some of them have appeared in the subway stations as part of efforts to bring the arts close to the community. Iqbal migrated to Singapore at the age of 11 with his father from Kadayanallur in South India in 1951.
Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam will confer the Cultural Medallions to the three recipients on Thursday at the Istana, the NAC added in its press release on Wednesday (Oct 15). Each of them will receive a grant of S$80,000 to develop their craft.