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.”
2) “Living in Harmony” by LB AAC @ Ghim Moh 18
3) “Mosaic of Singapore” by LB AAC @ Ghim Moh 18
4) “Our Futuristic Singapore” by LB AAC @ Tampines 434
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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!