Alfian Sa'at

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Alfian bin Sa'at
BornAlfian bin Sa'at
(1977-07-18) 18 July 1977 (age 41)
OccupationPlaywright, Poet, Writer

Alfian bin Sa'at (born 18 July 1977) is a Singaporean writer, poet and playwright. He is known for his provocative works and is often referred to as his country's enfant terrible.[1]


Early life[edit]

Alfian bin Sa'at is a Muslim Singaporean of Minangkabau, Javanese and Chinese Hakka descent.[2] An alumnus of Tampines Primary School, Raffles Institution, and Raffles Junior College, Alfian was the chairman of the drama societies, both known as Raffles Players, in both RI and RJC. He also took part in the Creative Arts Programme twice – once at fifteen, and a second time at seventeen – both times under the mentorship of Haresh Sharma. He has since returned to the programme as an occasional mentor.[3][4] During his two years at RJC, Alfian received the Kripalani Award for Outstanding Contribution to Creative Arts.[5] Alfian attended medical classes at the National University of Singapore but did not graduate.


In 1998, Alfian published his first collection of poetry, One Fierce Hour at the age of twenty-one. The book was acclaimed as "truly a landmark for poetry [in Singapore]" by The Straits Times, and Alfian himself was described by Malaysia's New Straits Times as "one of the most acclaimed poets in his country... a prankish provocateur, libertarian hipster".[6]

A year later, Alfian published his first collection of short stories, Corridor, which won the Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award. Seven of the short stories from the collection have since been adapted for television. In 2001, he published his second collection of poetry, A History of Amnesia, which was hailed by The Straits Times as "one of the most powerful collections by a Singaporean" in addition to being shortlisted for a Kiriyama Asia-Pacific Book Prize. Alfian won both the inaugural National Arts Council-Singapore Press Holdings Golden Point Award for Poetry in the same year, as well as the National Arts Council's Young Artist Award for Literature.

Alfian's plays, written in both English and Malay, have received broad attention in both Singapore and Malaysia.[citation needed] They have also been translated into German and Swedish, and have been read and performed in London, Zurich, Stockholm, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. His first play was produced when he was 19, and he has had a long association as a playwright with theatre group The Necessary Stage as well as with Teater Ekamatra, a Malay theatre group known for articulating minority concerns in Chinese-majority Singapore.

Alfian is currently the resident playwright of theatre group W!LD RICE.[7]

In 2015, Nadirah was selected by The Business Times as one of the "finest plays in 50 years" alongside productions by Goh Poh Seng, Michael Chiang and Haresh Sharma and others.[8]

In 2016, it was reported that sex.violence.blood.gore, a play he co-wrote, and his short story collection Malay Sketches is on the reading list of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, while the University of York has his poem "Singapore You Are Not My Country" and West Virginia University his selected poems on their reading lists. In particular, the University of York's Dr Claire Chambers noted that this was because Alfian "introduces non-Anglophone words and concepts, and puts together words in an expressive portmanteau style".[9]




  • 1995 – Kripalani Award for Outstanding Contribution to Creative Arts
  • 1998 – Commendation Award by the Malay Language Council for Causeway
  • 1999 – Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award for Corridor
  • 2001 – Golden Point Award for Poetry
  • 2001 – Young Artist Award (Singapore)|Young Artist Award for Literature
  • 2005 – Life! Theatre Awards for Best Original Script for Landmarks: Asian Boys Vol. 2
  • 2006 – FRONT Award
  • 2010 – Life! Theatre Awards for Best Original Script for Nadirah
  • 2014 - Life! Theatre Awards for Best Original Script for Kakak Kau Punya Laki (Your Sister's Husband)


  1. ^ "A Moment with… Playwright Alfian Sa'at". Lifestyle Asia. Archived from the original on 30 October 2014. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
  2. ^ Alfian Bin Sa’at
  3. ^ NUS Knowledge Enterprise (August 2001). "Dissecting Poetry". National University of Singapore. Archived from the original on 14 November 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2006.
  4. ^ Lim, Audrey. "Deny Thy Country, Young Man: An Interview with Alfian Sa'at". oddrummer's home page. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2006.
  5. ^ Gwee, Li Sui. "Alfian Bin Sa'at: Biography and Brief Introduction". The Literature, Culture, and Society of Singapore. Postcolonial and Postimperial Literature in English. Archived from the original on 11 December 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2006.
  6. ^ Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin (2004). "Alfian Bin Sa'at". Internationales Literaturfestival Berlin. Retrieved 19 November 2006.
  7. ^ "W!LD RICE :: About". W!LD RICE. Archived from the original on 8 May 2005. Retrieved 26 November 2006.
  8. ^ Yusof, Helmi. "The finest plays in 50 years". The Business Times. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved 5 January 2015.
  9. ^ Sin, Yuen (15 February 2016). "Who's afraid of 'chao ah beng'? Overseas universities use Singaporean literature to teach". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 15 February 2016.

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