[UPDATED on Tuesday, Sep. 15 at 3pm: the article has been updated to include Tan's and Lim's response to Mothership's queries.]
A husband-and-wife real estate agent couple have elicited backlash after they posted a property listing video online and it attracted attention for all the wrong reasons.
In the video, the duo — Jasen Tan and Shiqi Lim — donned traditional Indian clothing, made gestures that appeared to be mimicking Indian dance moves, and spoke in poorly-pronounced Tamil and Malay.
Wore traditional Indian clothing and attempted to dance
Tan and Lim are PropNex agents who go by the combined name Jasen & Shiqi. The video in question was for a property listing located in Jalan Bukit Merah.
The video, which has since been made inaccessible to the public, opened with Lim and Tan wearing traditional Indian clothing.
The duo then burst into a choreographed dance that appeared to be trying to mimic Indian-style dance moves.
However, the song they were dancing to was 爱的你呀何处寻 (Where to Find You My Love) by the late Taiwanese singer and cultural icon Teresa Teng.
The couple also spoke in Malay and Tamil in portions of the video, although their pronunciation was noticeably off.
Responding to Mothership's queries, Tan and Lim said that they tried to speak in Tamil and Malay because they "want[ed] to appeal to the non-Chinese races, which we have clearly failed".
They added that they had decided to make the video was because the flat in question could only be sold to non-Chinese buyers, and that their intention was to "get the best and highest price for our owners so they can move on comfortably to their next housing options".
The racial quota in place is part of the Ethnic Integration Policy, which places limits on the total percentage of a block or neighbourhood that may be occupied by a certain ethnicity, in order to prevent the creation of ethnic enclaves.
Although the original video is no longer available on the couple's social media pages, a Twitter user tweeted a clip from it, and questioned the purpose of the video.
Other Twitter users also expressed their disappointment, anger, and resignation at the couple's actions.
if only they'd put the same amount of effort into actually understanding our cultures instead of making superficial insulting caricatures.... https://t.co/lFriLQznIt— a. (@dkdltuz) September 13, 2020
what the hell is this..... the head shakes,,, the dance steps??? the pronunciation...? what was the POINT for doing this in a property listing https://t.co/GcoOeiKLB3— jess (@smallbootyjessy) September 13, 2020
This is why we need cultural education in our institutions. Good grief. https://t.co/uNDA1MDABQ— Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee (@miyagi) September 14, 2020
I still remember during my secondary some of my friends who were in contemporary dance group were told to create an Indian cultural group cos they aren’t fitting in the pact and the contemporary dance group came up with a half baked Indian dance that seemed more like a mockery https://t.co/XwULZZlsSv— GENESH (@neketiadet97) September 13, 2020
Local radio presenter Joakim Gomez also weighed in with his thoughts on the video:
You can tell they were probably raised or are surrounded in an environment where something like this was deemed “okay and funny”.— Joakim Gomez (@JoakimGomez) September 14, 2020
No, it isn’t. It’s 2020.
Sense a “we didn’t mean to hurt anyone’s feelings. we wanted to appear as multi racial as possible.” -esque apology.
Duo responds, say "it was insensitive of us"
The pair told Mothership that they are reflecting on their mistakes currently:
"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."
They said that they got the unit owner’s approval and consent before they proceeded with their marketing plan, in hopes that it would garner attention from potential buyers.
They stated that they had dedicated "considerable amount of time" to look for the "costumes", choreographed the small dance routine "to [their] best ability", and "repeated" the Tamil and Malay phrases as practice in order to avoid mispronunciation.
Responding to our query about how they learned to speak the Tamil and Malay phrases, Tan and Lim said that the phrases in the video were taken from Google Translate when they prepared the script, and that they then consulted the owner to help improve their pronunciation.
Their intention, they said, was to "create a very fun and free ambiance (which is our understanding of the Indian culture)" in order to showcase the integration of races and cultural differences in HDB estates.
The couple also hoped to "show that all races can mix and get along within the community."
“However," they said, "we apologise that we have not considered thoroughly on the topic of 'cultural appropriation' and it is indeed insensitive of us to allow such an inappropriate event to happen."
Lim and Tan stated that they are working on crafting a “more appropriate way” to showcase the property, and took down the videos because they do not want to affect the owner of the property.
“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."
They closed with an apology, and a hopeful look toward the future:
"Lastly, we sincerely apologise to everyone who had been offended by our videos. We hope that our team will not be affected and discouraged by this incident and continue to come up with creative ideas for home tours to market our properties."
The couple also informed Mothership that they have edited a new version of the Jalan Bukit Merah Home Tour and removed the part at the beginning of the video of the dance, and that they will be uploading it later today (Sep. 15).
(Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that the Jasen & Shiqi Instagram page appeared to have been deleted. However, the couple clarified that they did not take down their Instagram page. Rather, the hyperlink for their Instagram page listed on their Facebook page and YouTube channel were wrong.)
A Facebook post of them in the clothing that they wore in the video is available on their Facebook page.
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Top photo via YouTube / Jasen & Shiqi.