Dealing with death through art project

Dealing with death through art project
Songs For Tomorrow is a multimedia theatre performance by the Yishun Pond that explores end-of-life issues.

Funeral director Ang Ziqian once spent six hours ironing out funeral arrangements for a family because the children could not agree on their father's final send-off.

"The first child was Buddhist, the second was Christian, the third was a free thinker and a son-in- law was Hindu, and they were not coming to terms," he said.

It is because of countless occasions such as this that Mr Ang, who heads the ACM Foundation, together with Mr Lee Poh Wah of the non-profit Lien Foundation, approached Khoo Teck Puat Hospital with the idea of creating an immersive experience to tackle various end-of-life issues.

The result is Both Sides, Now, a project created with the help of ArtsWok, an arts-based community development company, and local theatre group Drama Box. It will run till Dec 8 at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

They wanted to provide a space for visitors and patients to be able to make informed decisions about what they would like to do at the end of their lives, and to understand that death is an inevitable part of living.

They hope to raise awareness and encourage reflection on living and dying, and promote end-of-life conversations among healthcare professionals, caregivers and the public. Mr Ang says: "Conversations like these are very important so that a family can come to a collective decision and it is easier for medical professionals to learn about the family rather than deal with squabbles."

Mr Lee adds: "We are all going to die. The big question is, how would you like to do it? If we're unable to talk about it, how are we going to deal with death and dying effectively?"

Drama Box artistic director Kok Heng Leun says: "In Singapore, we live a very fast, hard life. We focus on living but we forget that we're part of the process of dying. We want to help people to think about the kind of choices they can make."

The creative team, which includes film-maker Jasmine Ng, interviewed about 50 patients, caregivers and medical professionals. These interviews are the subject of several intimate films currently being screened at the hospital's main foyer.

One of them is a series of animated short films that breathes life into personal stories shared by medical professionals about their own encounters with death. Another film features seven children pondering death, such as those of their grandparents.

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