Workshop gives voice to underprivileged through art

Workshop gives voice to underprivileged through art
Artist Mary Bernadette Lee (far left) holding the hands of Madam Lam Foong Har to guide her in drawing a coconut tree.

For an hour, retiree Cheng Fok Hoi, 70, worked on a self-portait using poster paints and colour pencils.

His masterpiece was a beautiful mix of orange, green and blue and featured a mahjong table, a symbol of his interest in the game.

Mr Cheng took part in a drawing workshop at a Thong Kheng Seniors Activity Centre three weeks ago, conducted by independent artist and illustrator Mary Bernadette Lee.

For the past four months, Miss Lee, 29, has been visiting Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) with art tools in tow as part of an initiative she named (Extra)ordinary Me. It gives less privileged people a voice through art.

After listening to a briefing by Miss Lee, participants were encouraged to draw themselves on pieces of A4-sized paper.

By June, she would have conducted 37 of such workshops, with about 20 participants in each session.

Miss Lee plans to collect the drawings and showcase about 400 of them as part of an exhibition called I See You See Me.

The drawings will be displayed along the Esplanade Tunnel from August to November.

On his drawing, Mr Cheng said in Mandarin: "I play mahjong to pass time, around five times a week.

"(But) it's not good to play mahjong (too often), because we end up quarrelling!"

Miss Lee said the primary target audience were people from VWOs because she wanted to give them a voice, even a tiny one, to express themselves.

"(I hope the sessions) encourage participants to reflect on their special quality, quirks, hobbies and interests before translating them into a self-impression.

"These sessions are meant for them to relax, have fun and to enjoy the process of discovering a part of them that probably went unnoticed."

During the workshop, five volunteers assisted Miss Lee and the participants.

One of them, arts business management student Michelle Kee said: "When the participants were not confident about their own drawing, I tried to encourage them and shower them with compliments because I thought that what was most important isn't the end product but the process.

"Through this project, I've learnt how to interact with children and communicate with the elderly.

"Most importantly, I have learnt that art is easy and everyone is capable of creating it."

wanglx@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 07, 2015.
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