Unified By Art

Seniors and youths with different ethnicities, backgrounds and worldviews, mingling and teaming up to adorn blank canvases with art that represents their collective inspiration, stories and thoughts on racial harmony within the landscape of Singapore’s past, present and future.

The notion of such an ambitious project may sound like a far stretch, but this is exactly what LB seniors, alongside young volunteers who joined them on this creative journey, succeeded in achieving!

What Is The Project About?

This programme, aptly named Tapestries of Harmony, was a therapeutic arts-based community project led by Art Play Psychotherapy, in partnership with Lions Befrienders, that sought to foster intergenerational bonds between seniors and youths while promoting racial harmony amongst the participants.

Held across four LB AACs @ Bendemeer 32, Ghim Moh 18, Tampines 434 and Clementi 366, each centre saw LB seniors and their young counterparts come together over six weekly sessions between September and December 2023 to collaborate, exchange ideas and employ visual arts as a unifying medium to foster trust and acceptance among Singapore’s diverse ethnic groups.

Unlike most regular art and craft programmes in which the artwork in their final forms are directed by the programme facilitators, Tapestries of Harmony was fully driven by the participants themselves in terms of artistic expression, which meant that every group’s interpretation and portrayal of the given theme would be uniquely based on their experiences and hopes.

How did the groups eventually bring their creative inspiration to life on the canvas? Read on to view the completed art pieces, and find out the colourful stories behind them!


1) “Harmony at Home: A Rainbow Road” by LB AAC @ Bendemeer 32

This tapestry is the handiwork of 16 senior and youth artists, who combined elements that they wished to see in the future of Singapore with regard to racial harmony. At the beginning of the rainbow road, an axe felling a tree symbolises the cutting away of former negative belief systems in order to seed new ones that are more culturally and racially inclusive. Walking along the rainbow road, different individuals are engaged within the community, leading to an eventual world where peace and unity prevails in the homeland.

LB senior Tan Guan Keng, 77, a former graphic artist by profession, was one of the contributors to this artwork. “I used to live in a kampong in Sembawang, where all the villagers opened their doors and were like a big family,” he reminisced. “Be it Malays, Indians or foreigners, we were all friendly with one another and helped each other out whenever needed. This is what the society needs, where the people can integrate and work together, and no one is a stranger. If we can be united as a nation, no one will be able to destroy what we have built up.”

In a way, this project was a microcosm of Mr Tan’s ideals for the community at large. He said, “Although (the senior and youth participants) had little prior contact with one another and were suddenly put together for this programme, through it we grew closer, understanding each other’s characters and thinking. Even though we had different ideas, we got along very happily and the whole process was smooth.”

LB Senior Tan Guan Keng (third from left).
Artists from LB AAC @ Bendemeer 32 with their completed tapestry.

2) “Living in Harmony” by LB AAC @ Ghim Moh 18

Food is a common language that bonds people together, especially in Singapore. Inspired by this, eight artists comprising seniors from LB AAC @ Ghim Moh 18 and lower-Secondary students from Methodist Girls’ School used the concept of ethnic delicacies to depict harmony among the different races and religions in Singapore, with food as the vehicle for sharing cultural stories, traditions and practices.
LB seniors work on "Living in Harmony" together with students from Methodist Girls' School.

3) “Mosaic of Singapore” by LB AAC @ Ghim Moh 18

Meanwhile, the other group of seven artists from LB AAC @ Ghim Moh 18 and Methodist Girls’ School shared many fond stories and memories of Singapore. They aimed to portray a future that is bright and vivid with clarity. The four races journeying down the track symbolises harmony and unity of different races as they work together as one towards a better future for Singapore.
Explaining how her group slowly saw their tapestry come to fruition, LB senior Judy Tan, 74, said, “At the beginning (of the project) we sat down together to discuss about what racial harmony in Singapore meant to us. After deciding on what we wanted, we drew out our ideas and painted them (on the canvas). I feel very happy to see the final artwork as we learn from each other during this time.”
LB senior Judy Tan (standing, wearing pink).
LB seniors and students showcase their final artwork at LB AAC @ Ghim Moh 18.

4) “Our Futuristic Singapore” by LB AAC @ Tampines 434

The future of Singapore may be one of technological advancements in all aspects of life, but racial harmony would always remain an integral part of our social fabric. Working upon this premise, a team of 15 artists from LB AAC @ Tampines 434 and Junyuan Secondary School joined hands to put their imagination on canvas, with flying cars and rockets taking the place of our current transportation modes. Solar panels and edible gardens allow food security for the country, while a high-speed rail carrying passengers from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds is a symbol of harmony.

One of the participants was 77-year-old LB senior Jenny Lee. She said, “I was invited (by the AAC) to join this project because of my love for art. It was very enjoyable doing it together with the schoolchildren. They communicated their ideas to us, and we did likewise. We could freely share our thoughts.” 

 Fellow team member and LB senior Alice How, 68, added, “There was mutual respect and understanding among us. If we had a suggestion or wanted to change something, the group would accept it readily. This was a collection of all our ideas, and I really liked the final product!”
LB seniors Jenny Lee (seated) and Alice How (standing, wearing floral blouse) putting the elements for "Our Futuristic Singapore" together.

5) “Learning From The Past” by LB AAC @ Tampines 434

While the previous group looked towards the future, the second team of 12 artists from LB AAC @ Tampines 434 and Junyuan Secondary School took a walk down the path of history as the basis for their creation. A large fissure in the centre of their piece represents Singapore’s tumultuous times when racial riots and distrust threatened to tear the nation apart. As we look towards the future and embrace technological and economic progress, we have to continue to maintain racial harmony in order to live peacefully and prosper as a nation.

This project allowed for inter-generational bonding between LB seniors from LB AAC @ Tampines 434 and students from Junyuan Secondary School.

6) “Table of Unity” by LB AAC @ Clementi 366

As the Tapestries of Harmony programme rounded out at LB AAC @ Clementi 366, food once more inevitably became the focal point for this group of eight seniors and tertiary students. The artists shared about their love for food and how they are blessed to be able to enjoy a variety of cuisines in Singapore. Inspired by this, they created a huge table where dishes from various cultures are laid out. People from all races and walks of life are invited to partake in this smorgasbord of delights, giving birth to the idea of “Table of Unity”.

LB senior Patricia Lee said of her team’s efforts, “This project has brought us all together. We did it as a team, sharing opinions and raising suggestions. All of us planned and decided to each contribute one dish to the artwork.”

LB senior Patricia Lee (standing, far right) adding the finishing touches on "Table of Unity".

7) “Legacy Library” by LB AAC @ Clementi 366

The Legacy Library is a space filled with a wealth of values, cultures, wisdom and knowledge that this group of six artists felt were important to pass on to future generations. A rainbow-coloured tree within the Legacy Library brings life, and its roots symbolise the strong foundations laid by Singapore’s pioneers, allowing the tree to flourish with leaves and fruits that represent our future.

Artists from LB AAC @ Clementi 366 proudly hold up their tapestries.

While the Tapestries of Harmony project had brought about so many interpretations of the theme by the different groups across the four LB AACs, one thing in common stood out – the beaming faces of all our LB seniors as they admired the fruit of their labour together with the young volunteers who formed heartwarming bonds with them over the six sessions. As these art pieces go on exhibition at the schools that were involved in the process, as well as other spaces, we salute the teamwork, dedication and perseverance of all participants in making this programme a success!

We hope that these stories would inspire you to reach out and touch the lives of others.

If you would like to share your thoughts on these stories, please feel free to email us at cp@lb.org.sg

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