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IZZATY ISHAK (b. 1991)

COMMUNITY ARTIST

Izzaty Ishak is a community artist who works for Beyond Social Services. Using a drama technique known as forum theatre, which empowers the audience to change the outcome of a performance, Izzaty leads community projects that help youth and families from less privileged backgrounds talk about issues that affect them, such as family violence, drug problems and issues related to school. Currently, Izzaty is working on a project that looks at how inequality affects access to healthcare, which, with COVID-19, has taken on greater bearing and urgency.

She also oversees a network called Restorative Neighbourhood Teams, where residents of seven communities – Ang Mo Kio, Whampoa, Lavender, Henderson, Lengkok Bahru, Ghim Moh and Jalan Bukit Merah – volunteer to do activities that include managing food rations, sharing advice and looking out for the safety of their community members. Many of these volunteers are mothers. Their life experiences, such as household management and child rearing, which are usually overlooked economically, end up being valuable to the community.

Some people have wondered why Izzaty did not just join the theatre industry in Singapore upon completing her degree in Applied Theatre in Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. But marrying her love for theatre with community work appealed more to her. In 2014, she cold called her way into Beyond Social Services and was given the opportunity to pioneer its first forum theatre project for rental flat communities in Singapore, on the theme of teenage pregnancy. This has led to many other projects since then, a recent highlight being a show at the Esplanade as part of M1 Peer Pleasure Youth Theatre Festival 2019.

Izzaty recalls one of her earlier forum theatre shows which dealt with family violence, where a young child bravely came onstage to participate, and a woman stood up to share a touching anecdote with the rest of the audience. She says: “That’s where I learnt that it's not my role to teach the community how to solve a problem because I may not have a thorough understanding about it. The goal is to create space for the community to teach and even affirm each other.”

To know more about Beyond Social Services, visit www.beyond.org.sg.