Critically acclaimed theatrical concert, I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron 我咽下一枚铁做的月亮, will kickstart its Southeast Asian premiere in Singapore for one night only at The Arts House on 14 March. Created and performed by Njo Kong Kie, former music director of the internationally renowned dance company La La La Human Steps (Canada), I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron pays tribute to the Chinese worker-poet, Xu Lizhi, and countless other migrant factory workers whose existence is oft forgotten.
Chinese poet Xu Lizhi (1990-2014) was born in the rural area of Guangdong province, China. At age 20, Xu went to the cities to look for work and landed a job in the assembly line of Foxconn in Shenzhen, making electronic parts for digital devices. Four years after the wave of Foxconn suicides garnered global media controversy, Xu committed suicide in 2014, aged 24, leaving behind a collection of about 200 poems that speak to the lives of migrant factory workers. Xu’s sparse and profound poetry, offers a glimpse into his interior life: his hopes, dreams and struggles under the unbearable weight of existence in brutal working conditions, and gained him recognition as one of the best in China’s worker-poet literary movement.
In I Swallowed a Moon Made of Iron, Njo Kong Kie sets some of these poems to song and delivers a lament for our digital age. “Most of us know about the latest iPhone 14 or Samsung Galaxy, but how many of us know how these electronic devices are created? Somewhere in a factory, a worker is toiling to create a cellphone, a laptop, or a television set,” says the Canadian-Chinese Njo.
“When I learnt about Xu’s passing, I was quite overcome by the news and greatly impacted as a human being and that led me to create this work in 2019. Since the pandemic, the work has taken on a new layer of meaning, and audiences have drawn parallels to what they had observed or experienced as essential workers during global lockdowns. This performance is my small part in helping us remember the struggles of the numerous people, unseen, unheard and forgotten who contribute to our day-to-day comforts.”
Njo’s solo show is performed in English and Mandarin with English surtitles.The work has toured across Canada, Europe and East Asia but the premiere in Singapore will mark the first time it is presented in front of a large Mandarin-speaking population. “I was immediately moved by Xu’s words when I first read his poetry. His language is direct, visceral and so imaginative. They left a huge impact on me. I look forward to sharing this work with Southeast Asian audiences and I am eager to see how the audience in Singapore will respond,” adds the Indonesia-born Njo.
I Swallowed A Moon Made of Iron plays on 14th March 2023, 730pm and 930pm at the Chamber @ The Arts House
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