“Long game not fast game”

Jamie Lewis reflects on her three critical years of leadership at Next Wave.

As I begin to ease my way out of arts management life, and into the longest artist residency I am about to embark on (motherhood), I wanted to share some reflections and thanks.

There’s a bit to work through – so please do indulge me.

I want to celebrate the many wins that Next Wave have achieved in the past few years - and believe me, the Singaporean-Eurasian in me has a thick enough skin to have relished in them. We’ve worked hard. We haven’t always gotten it right, but we skill up, we review, we try again and, like any practice – artistic, cultural, leadership – we repeat and iterate.

In the wake of a referendum that once again put the lives of First Nations peoples in colonial hands, and as we witness the injustice of what is happening to Palestine through the never-ending news cycle, through our friends on social media and through the lived experiences of our artistic community – it challenges me greatly to put in perspective what the spreadsheet or that grant acquittal in front of me really means.

In amongst these, I wrestle with personal life and death situations ahead of me in an unwell mother back in Singapore, and the anticipation of the birth of a child in less than two months.

For me, Justice, Friendship and Care has never felt more palpable, urgent, and necessary – and yet it is also quiet, grounding and steady. This work – modelled through an arts organisation, through my/our individual and collective art practices – gives breath to what our world could be like. And this work – in my Asian Aunty terms – is long game not fast game. In my leadership practice, I ask myself: how can I do this firmly and persistently, but gently? How not for fear of the reactions of others, but for my own stamina and my own rest and repair – so that the work may find longevity and continuity in its ongoing evolution.

I have asked this similarly of our work at Next Wave.

Our work is artist-led, self-determined and responsive. For now, this has meant:

  • recalibrating timelines and expectations of outcomes to prioritise the wellbeing of the person
  • offering free space and extra staffing at community events; working in the background to manage risks with partners to enable these artists’ vision
  • ensuring that they are safe when they are in our building / working with us, and that with us, they are encouraged to find respite as they create and practice their culture.

And then to proudly platform their work through our channels.

For the past month, Next Wave has been a base for Melbourne-based Palestinian artist Aseel Tayah, as she developed and rehearsed A’amar which will premiere at Sydney Festival in 2024; collaborated with Garuwa on a film project exploring motherhood in the colony; hosted one of the Let’s Talk About Palestine series of community healing get-togethers; to have the floor space to sew not one, but two watermelons to be carried through the rallies in the city; and to share a gentle installation of children’s toys in the Brunswick Mechanics forecourt as part of World Children’s Day as she continues to use her artistic practice to advocate for mothers, children and young people.

Aseel shared with me, ‘My community has been teasing me - whenever they have rang to ask where I was this past month - they’d ask jokingly if I was at home - to mean at Brunswick Mechanics…’

Personally, in my artistic, cultural and leadership practice, this responsiveness, flexibility and fluidity is a particular way of moving through the world – navigating the in-between spaces/skirting boundaries/nudging softly at institutional walls/traversing the waters in the archipelago – a necessity when you’re a mixed-race Singaporean and a brown-skinned migrant in this continent – but also one afforded me through the privilege of education, class and ability.

But mostly, perhaps personifying the stereotype of Singapore as the “ultimate diplomat”, I hope to leverage this method so that I can buffer the experience of the institution (and the oft-times shitshow that comes with it) to better support artists and their communities.

Because I am idealistic and believe we do all want to actively realise a different world in which we may live and practice – our culture, our art, our friendships and our community.

Next Wave continues to be co-created by the artists we work with and the communities they bring with them. I hope we all continue to learn with and from each other, to hone and refine the frameworks and mechanisms to enable this work more deeply along the way.

Take care,

  1. Anne Moffatt 2022