Singapore—If someone hasn’t learned all about cultural appropriation in this day and age, they should learn it now.
The most recent example of people who’ve been called out and have had to backtrack quickly is a pair of real estate agents, husband and wife team Jasen Tan and Shiqi Lim, for a video that went viral, but not in the way they wanted it to.
In a September 6 video they released on their Jasen & Shiqi YouTube channel, the pair dressed themselves in traditional Indian clothing and, well, tried, to do some matching dance moves, with the aim of attracting Indian or other minority groups to buy a property in Jalan Bukit Merah.
The video has been taken down from YouTube, but can still be seen on other online platforms.
After the dance moves, where Shiqi grimaces throughout, she launches into a spiel about being excited to show everyone a “rare 5-room unit for sale in Bukit Merah.”
Jasen then chimes in, saying that the property is right beside IKEA and ABC Food Center, declaring dramatically that there are other amenities “all around you.”
The pair then do some more dance moves to the Teresa Teng song 爱的你呀何处寻 (Where to Find You My Love), interspersed with phrases awkwardly said in Tamil and Malay.
At the very least, it’s cringe-worthy, and netizens were having none of it.
One netizen wrote on Twitter, “literally what were they trying to achieve with this. were they trying to attract indians? bc it sure as hell didn’t work.”
Another tweeted, “But seriously wtf were they thinking when they unloaded the video!? Tamil ISN’T just some gibberish language used to make a rubbish YouTube video T_T”
And, according to another Twitter-user, “It did attract Indians for the wrong reasons.”
However, the pair, who work for PropNex Realty, have since apologised. In a statement they said, “Firstly, we would like to clarify that we have no intentions at all to mock, offend or disrespect any cultural race or minority and we sincerely apologise for sparking the unpleasant sentiments online.”
Jasen & Shiqi said that they had obtained the consent and approval of the owner of the property for their marketing plan.
“We have put in a considerable amount of time to search for costumes, come up with a small dance routine to our best capability, and practicing the Tamil and [Malay] phrases repeatedly to make sure we don’t mispronounce it.”
They apologized for not having “considered thoroughly on the topic of cultural appropriation and it is indeed insensitive of us to allow such an inappropriate event to happen” and readily admitted their error.
“We admit that we have done wrong in our approach in this matter and vow to constantly look at things critically and from all possible angles from now on to avoid such events in the future.”
According to AsiaOne, Mr Tan and Ms Lim decided on their marketing strategy for the Bukit Merah property based on the fact that it could only be purchased by buyers who are not Chinese, under the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP), aka the HDB racial quota. This policy began in 1989 to avoid ethnic enclaves from forming in HDB estates. —/TISG