Making Lengkok Bahru Home
Led by Lin Shiyun, the creative director of non-profit arts company 3Pumpkins, the neighbourhood has seen life breathed into its ageing façade in recent months. Pop-up playgrounds, cheerful graphic design pavements, mobile libraries and interactive art installations that are here today and gone tomorrow have also injected quite a bit of excitement into the lives of its residents.
‘Seeing the Obvious’
Such was the trajectory of Shiyun’s work at Lengkok Bahru before COVID-19 struck. 3Pumpkins' latest project, 'Seeing the Obvious' was intended to take participants on a madcap Bingo game trail across nine stations around the neighbourhood. Art installations by students from Nanyang Polytechnic and other artists in Singapore dotted the neighbourhood and awaited discovery by the residents.
Alas, it was not meant to be. With the increased safe distancing measures that were introduced in February, Shiyun ended up taking small groups to visit one site after another.
After 'Seeing the Obvious' ended, she decided to set up a small mobile library for the children of Lengkok Bahru to have something to look forward to. Before the heightened circuit breaker measures kicked in, the children could browse the books at their own leisure or join in small group storytelling sessions.
"While it didn’t quite work out the way we hoped, we still managed to make plenty of connections in the neighbourhood. Everyone involved was inspired by what we managed to achieve in these projects, and they want to be part of the next one," Shiyun shares with a small smile.
Placemaking in a time of COVID-19
With one eye ever on the community, Shiyun’s latest projects have to do with reaching out to the elderly, helping them cope with the loneliness from having to stay home all day.
"Right now, we’re focusing on creating audio-based digital content for the seniors. It’s a tough time for many of them, so I hope that these little snippets to explain the situation can help bridge the gap and give them some encouragement during this period," says Shiyun.
She continues, "Our latest project is an audio programme created in various dialects and Malay. It is entitled 大声D茶室/Warung Cakap Apa (which translates to ‘Say What Kopitiam’) to appeal to the seniors we are reaching out to. For this, we are partnering with Project Audible Cheer, a new ground-up initiative supported by social service agency Lions Befrienders, to bring 6,000 sets of MP3 players to the beneficiaries so that they can listen to these programmes from their homes.
Looking further ahead, Shiyun says a hopeful smile when asked what she will do post-COVID, If and when things ever go back to normal, we will be embarking on yet another art project with the community. This time, we will be taking co-creation one step further and doing a lot of what the residents want to do in the spaces they want it.
Always about the connections
More than 100 people were involved in ‘Seeing the Obvious’ in a process that took many months of preparation and walking the ground.
For Shiyun, forming meaningful connections with everyone involved was the highlight of the project. She explains with a passionate nod, "The residents have been forthcoming in suggesting how they would like to contribute more works. I’m really happy that a boy who lives in the neighbourhood has come to tell me that he would like to paint a space galaxy themed mural under his block as part of our next project!"
Fortunately, the heartfelt connections forged by Shiyun have not been lost with the extended circuit breaker period.
She and her volunteers keep in touch through social media and Whatsapp, and Shiyun has also made it a point to reach out to the children of Lengkok Bahru with art packs filled with art supplies and projects to keep them busy.
"We managed to reach about 300 children with the art packs we packed and distributed with the help of some social service agencies. I think the best thing about this is that we can remain connected through art." enthuses Shiyun.
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