Isa Kamari



Isa Kamari (b. 1960, Singapore–) is a prominent figure in Singapore’s Malay literary scene.1 He has gained critical acclaim for many of his works, which range from novels and short stories to poetry and essays.2 He is also a musician, and has crafted scripts for television and theatre.3 In 2007, Isa was conferred the Cultural Medallion, the most prestigious arts award in Singapore, becoming the first non-fulltime artist to receive the award.4

Education and employment
Isa obtained his bachelor’s degree (with honours) in architecture from the National University of Singapore in 1988.5 In 2008, he obtained a master of philosophy in Malay literature from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia).6 Currently a deputy director in the Architecture (Design) Division of the Land Transport Authority, he pursues the arts in his free time.7


Isa balances his various commitments by keeping to a disciplined and regimented schedule. On weekdays, he works office hours as an architect, after which he returns home to spend time with his family; he then writes from 10 pm to 2 am.8

Inspiration
As Isa does not drive, he uses the time spent on buses to generate ideas for his creative works. He derives inspiration from riding the public transport daily, and the aural and visual stimulation it brings. Many of his works are shaped by the identity contestations that mark his position as a Malay, Muslim and Singaporean. He perceives writing to be a way for him to be at peace with himself. He also believes that literary works can serve to record the sense of place necessary for reflecting on one’s identity and future.9


A trained architect, Isa sees a similarity between architecture and writing.10 He believes that both are guided by the aesthetic principles of balance, synchronisation, climax and space, and that one should be able to read a house like one would a novel.11

Isa is also musically inclined. He is a member of the spiritual music trio Sirrfillsirr, which has released two albums.12

Accomplishments
In 1997, Isa’s short story “Pertemuan” won the Hadiah Sastera, Anugerah Persuratan, a Malay literature award given by the Malay Language Council of Singapore.13 He received the award for the second time in 2001 for his essay “Milik Siapa Bumi Yang Satu Ini”.14


Isa has also received numerous awards for his other works, including his first novel Satu Bumi.15 First published in 1998,16 the novel has been translated into Mandarin17 and English.18 It was also selected for the launch of the National Library Board’s nationwide reading initiative READ! Singapore in 2005.19 Another novel of his, Kiswah, was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize in 2004.20

In 2006, Isa was presented with the Southeast Asian Write Award.21 He was honoured with the Cultural Medallion in 2007 and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang in 2009.22

In addition, Isa has served on various government committees, including the Ministry of Education’s Malay Language Learning and Promotion Committee in 2006,23 the steering committee for the Singapore Arts Festival in 2008,24 and the National Arts Council’s Arts and Culture Strategic Review Steering Committee from 2008 to 2010.25

Isa also speaks regularly at seminars, book club meetings and workshops, including creative workshops for children.26

Major literary works
1993:
Sumur Usia (poetry collection)27

1994: Sketsa Minda short stories)28
1998: Satu Bumi (novel)29
1999: Yi Pien Re Tu (《一片热土》; Mandarin translation of Satu Bumi)30
2002: Menara, Kiswah and Tawassul (novels)31
2003: Munajat Sukma (poetry collection)32
2006: Atas Nama Cinta (novel),33 Ka’bah, Lorong Wahyu and Cinta Arafah (three poetry collections, each with a compact disc containing songs and poetry declamation)34
2007: One Earth (English translation of Satu Bumi)35 and Memeluk Gerhana (novel)36
2009: Rawa (novel),37 Intercession (English translation of Tawassul)38 and Nadra (English translation of Atas Nama Cinta)39
2010: Celupan (collection of short stories)40
2011: Duka Tuan Bertakhta (novel)41
2013: The Tower (English translation of Menara),42 A Song of the Wind (English translation of Memeluk Gerhana),43 Rawa (English translation of Malay language novel of the same title)44 and 1819 (English translation of Duka Tuan Bertakhta).45
2014: Selendang Sukma (novel)46
2016: La Wa Bai Jiao Dao Bei Ju (《剌哇白礁岛悲剧》, Mandarin translation of Rawa)47 and Tweet (English language novella)48

Scriptwriting
2003:
Dua Wajah, a television drama for Suria (Singapore) and PRIMA Entertainment (Indonesia).49

2004: Mengejar Bayangan, a television drama for Suria and PRIMA Entertainment.50
2006: Pintu, Isa’s debut play staged by Teater Ekamatra at The Arts House.51
2008: Sidang Burung, a play staged by Teater Ekamatra at the Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.52

Albums
2005:
Cinta Arafah53

2010: Kurnia54

Nominations and awards
1993:
Merit Award, Hadiah Sastera, Anugerah Persuratan, Majlis Bahasa Melayu Singapura (MBMS)

1995: Merit Award, Hadiah Sastera, Anugerah Persuratan, MBMS
1995: National Book Development Council Award, for Sumur Usia)
1995: Merit Awards for poetry and short story, Saadon Ismail Award, organised by the Malay Journalists’ Association
1997: Merit Award, Anugerah Persuratan, MBMS
1997: Hadiah Sastera, Anugerah Persuratan, MBMS (for “Pertemuan”)
1999: Merit Award, Hadiah Sastera, Anugerah Persuratan, MBMS (for Satu Bumi)55
2001: Hadiah Sastera, Anugerah Persuratan, MBMS (for “Milik Siapa Bumi Yang Satu Ini”)56
2003: Merit Award, Hadiah Sastera, Anugerah Persuratan, MBMS (for Menara)
2006: Southeast Asian Write Award57
2007: Cultural Medallion, Singapore58
2009: Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang, Singapore59

Family
Isa met his wife, Sukmawati Sirat, at the National University of Singapore in the 1980s.60 They were married in 1989 and have two daughters.61 His wife has translated many of his works.62




Author
Nurhaizatul Jamila Jamil




References
1. Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99; Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Eric Khoo and writer Isa win top arts award. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99; Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34; Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
6. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html; Read! Singapore. (2014). 2014/15 Malay novel. Retrieved from National Library Board Singapore website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/readsingapore/adult/malaynovel2014/
7. Government of Singapore. (2016). Architecture Sub-group, Architecture (Design) Division. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from gov.sg website: https://www.gov.sg/sgdi/ministries/mot/statutory-boards/lta/departments/ide/departments/arch/departments/archd#Isa-Bin-KAMARI_Deputy-Director; Yaakub Rashid. (1992, February 13). Lines and rhymes. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34; Tan, T. (2008, October 26). When disturbed, he writes. The Straits Times, p. 63. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, T. (2008, October 26). When disturbed, he writes. The Straits Times, p. 63. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Yaakub Rashid. (1992, February 13). Lines and rhymes. The Straits Times, p. 10; Tan, T. (2008, October 26). When disturbed, he writes. The Straits Times, p. 63. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34; Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99; Nanda, A. (2011, February 7). Seeker of truth. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html; Tuminah Sapawi. (1998, February 23). Modest all-rounder wins $7,000. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Hadijah Rahmat (Ed.). (2015). Yang terukir: Bahasa dan persuratan Melayu [The engraved: Malay language and literature]. Singapore: Majlis Bahasa Melayu Singapura, p. 244. (Call no.: Malay RSING 499.28 YAN)
15. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 –Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
16. Isa Kamari. (1998). Satu bumi. Singapura: Pustaka Melayu Publisher. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.28 ISA)
17. Isa Kamari. (1999). 《一片热土》 [Yi pian re tu] (M. H. Chen, Trans.). 新加坡: 健龙科技传播贸易公司. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 899.283 ISA)
18. Isa Kamari. (2008). One earth. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING 899.283 ISA)
19. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html; Read! Singapore. (2014). 2014/15 Malay novel. Retrieved from National Library Board Singapore website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/readsingapore/adult/malaynovel2014/
20. Mohamed Hizammuddin & Mohamed Yusof. (2004, December 1). Tak duga dianugerah hadiah sastera tertinggi negara. Berita Harian, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Roslie Sidek. (2006, October 17). Pengiktirafan. Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
22. Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Writer and film-maker are tops. The Straits Times, p. 99; Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang untuk Isa. (2009, November 8). Berita Harian, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Read! Singapore. (2014). 2014/15 Malay novel. Retrieved from National Library Board Singapore website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/readsingapore/adult/malaynovel2014/
23. Ministry of Education. (2006, February 13). MOE sets up Learning and Promotion Committees for Malay and Tamil languages. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Ministry of Education Singapore website: https://www.moe.gov.sg/media/press/2006/pr20060213.htm
24. National Arts Council. (2009). Arts on the rise: National Arts Council annual report FY 2008/2009, pp. 90, 113. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
25. National Arts Council. (2011). Setting the stage: National Arts Council annual report FY 2010/2011, p. 105. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

26. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
27. Isa Kamari. (1993). Sumur usia. Singapura: Pustaka Nasional. (Call no.: Malay RCLOS S899.2305 ISA)
28. Isa Kamari. (1994). Sketsa Minda. Singapura: Pustaka Nasional. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.2305 ISA)
29. Isa Kamari. (1998). Satu bumi. Singapura: Pustaka Melayu Publisher. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.28 ISA)
30. Isa Kamari. (1999). 《一片热土》 [Yi pian re tu] (M. H. Chen, Trans.). 新加坡: 健龙科技传播贸易公司. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 899.283 ISA)
31. Isa Kamari. (2002). Menara. Singapura: Pustaka Nasional. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.283 ISA); Isa Kamari. (2002). Kiswah. Singapura: Pustaka Nasional. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.283 ISA); Isa Kamari. (2002). Tawassul. Singapura: Pustaka Nasional. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.283 ISA)
32. Isa Kamari. (2003). Munajat sukma: Bingkisan puisi Tanah Suci. Singapura: Pustaka Nasional. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.281 ISA)
33. Isa Kamari. (2006). Atas nama cinta. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay R 899.283 ISA); National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
34. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html; Isa Kamari. (2006). Ka’bah: 33 puisi tanah suci. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay R 899.281 ISA); Isa Kamari. (2006). Lorong wahyu: 33 puisi tanah suci. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay R 899.281 ISA); Isa Kamari. (2006). Cinta Arafah: 34 puisi tanah suci. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.281 ISA)
35. Isa Kamari. (2008). One earth. Singapore: Ethos Books. (Call no.: RSING 899.283 ISA)
36. Isa Kamari. (2007). Memeluk gerhana. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay R 899.283 ISA); National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
37. Isa Kamari. (2009). Rawa: Tragedi Pulau Batu Puteh. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.283 ISA)
38. Isa Kamari. (2010). Intercession (Sukmawati Sirat, Trans.). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions. (Call no.: RSING 899.283 ISA)
39. Isa Kamari. (2009). Nadra: Novel (Sukmawati Sirat, Trans.). Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen. (Call no.: RSEA 899.283 ISA)
40. Isa Kamari. (2010). Celupan: 16 cerita jiwa resah. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.283 ISA)
41. Isa Kamari. (2011). Duka tuan bertakhta. Kuala Lumpur: Al-Ameen Serve Holdings. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.283 ISA)
42. Isa Kamari. (2013). The tower: A novel (Alfian Sa’at, Trans.). Singapore: Epigram Books. (Call no.: RSING 899.283 ISA)
43. Isa Kamari. (2013). A song of the wind (Sukmawati Sirat & R. Krishan, Trans.). Kuala Lumpur: Silverfish Books. (Call no.: RSING 899.283 ISA)
44. Isa Kamari. (2013). Rawa (R. Krishnan, Trans.). Kuala Lumpur: Silverfish Books. (Call no.: RSING 899.283 ISA)
45. Isa Kamari. (2013). 1819 (R. Krishnan, Trans.). Kuala Lumpur: Silverfish Books. (Call no.: RSING 899.283 ISA)
46. Isa Kamari. (2014). Selendang sukma. Kuala Lumpur: Institut Terjemahan & Buku Malaysia, PENA. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.283 ISA)
47. Isa Kamari. (2016). 《剌哇白礁岛悲剧》 [La wa bai jiao dao bei ju] (M. Chen, Trans.). 新加坡: 水木作坊出版社. (Call no.: Chinese RSING 89.283 ISA)
48. Mohd Raman Daud. (2016, October 31). ‘Azam Chan perlu dicontohi’ [Azam Chan should be emulated]. Berita Harian. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Isa Kamari. (2016). Tweet. Singapore: Kitaab International. (Call no.: RSING S823 ISA)
49. Eri Akbar. (2003, August 8). A project long overdue and a huge challenge. The New Paper, p. 41. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. Amirrudin Dahlan. (2011, January 10). Leksikon: Direktori penulis Melayu Singapura – Pasca 1965: Isa Kamari. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Angkatan Sasterawan ’50 website: http://asas50.com/direktori-penulis-melayu-singapura/2011/01/10/isa-kamari/
51. Endau Documentary. (2012, August 10). Retrieved 2016, November 3 from Hazelbayu Studios website: http://www.hazelbayustudios.com/portfolio/endau-documentary/; Hong, X. Y. (2006, December 21). Doorway to heaven. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Isa Kamari. (2006). Pintu: Skrip teater. Typescript. (Call no.: Malay RCLOS 899.282 ISA)
52. Tan, T. (2008, October 26). When disturbed, he writes. The Straits Times, p. 63; Yap, S. (2008, October 24). Actors let spirits soar. The Straits Times, p. 79; Haryani Othman. (2008, October 18). Indah di mata dan di hati. Berita Harian, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. ‘Cinta Arafah’ dilancar esok. (2005, September 17). Berita Harian, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Sirrfillsirr lancar album kedua. (2010, April 17). Berita Harian, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
55. National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
56. Hadijah Rahmat (Ed.). (2015). Yang terukir: Bahasa dan persuratan Melayu [The engraved: Malay language and literature]. Singapore: Majlis Bahasa Melayu Singapura, p. 244. (Call no.: Malay RSING 499.28 YAN); Hadijah Rahmat, Dewani Abbas & Azhar Ibrahim Alwee (Eds.). (2003). Citra minda: Antologi esei. Singapore: Majlis Bahasa Melayu Singapura. (Call no.: Malay RSING 899.284 CIT)
57. Hong, X. Y. (2006, December 21). Doorway to heaven. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html; Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
58. Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Arts Council. (n.d.). 2007 Arts Awards Ceremony: Annex 1 – Profiles of recipients. [Press release]. Retrieved 2016, November 3 from National Arts Council Singapore website: https://www.nac.gov.sg/media-resources/press-releases/2007-Arts-Awards-Ceremony.html
59. Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang untuk Isa. (2009, November 8). Berita Harian, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Read! Singapore. (2014). 2014/15 Malay novel. Retrieved from National Library Board Singapore website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/readsingapore/adult/malaynovel2014/
60. Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34; Tan, T. (2008, October 26). When disturbed, he writes. The Straits Times, p. 63. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
61. Tan, T. (2008, October 26). When disturbed, he writes. The Straits Times, p. 63; Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
62. Nanda, A. (2011, February 7). Seeker of truth. The Straits Times, p. 4; Tan, T. (2008, October 26). When disturbed, he writes. The Straits Times, p. 63; Inspired by those morning bus rides. (2009, August 8). The Straits Times, p. 34; Chia, A. (2007, October 20). Prolific Malay writer deals with global issues. The Straits Times, p. 99. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Subject
Isa Kamari, 1960-
Drama
Language and literature>>Literatures>>Austronesian and Oceanian literatures>>Malay literature
Cultural Medallion Recipients (Literature)
Arts>>Literature>>Malay Literature>>Drama
Authors, Malay--Singapore--Biography
Singaporean literature (Malay)
Personalities>>Biographies>>Authors>>Cultural Medallion Recipients