Monday, 30 April 2012

My Heartland Memories

Residents from Teck Ghee drew scenes or took photographs of neighbourhood life, which were then put together into a mural
By Toh Wen Li, The Straits Times, 29 Apr 2012

When 47-year-old Robert Arokiasamy passes a coloured wall near his heartland home in Teck Ghee, Ang Mo Kio, he smiles with pride. On it is a 10m-long photo-art mural he and his neighbours helped to create.

My Heartland Memories, a community project that saw more than 50 Teck Ghee households depicting various scenes of neighbourhood life through more than 200 sketches and photographs, was unveiled during a welcome party at Teck Ghee Vista last Saturday.

The carnival-like event was held to celebrate the move of residents into newly upgraded homes in Teck Ghee Vista, under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

The mural wall can be found on a rooftop garden above a multi-storey carpark, in between Blocks 307A and 308A in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1.

Mr Arokiasamy, a clerk who has lived in the neighbourhood for more than 30 years, jokes: 'I don't know how long this mural will be here for but hopefully, I'll be able to tell my grandchildren that grandpa drew this.'

Added his 13-year-old son Gideon, who also took part: 'It allowed us to get creative and make new friends through art.'

This year's activity is a pilot project under the programme ACE! (Arts, Culture & Entertainment) In The Heartland, which aims to foster a stronger sense of belonging and attachment in residents.

According to an HDB spokesman, My Heartland Memories hopes to 'give residents a chance to reminisce about the old Teck Ghee, while embracing the new'.

The idea for the project was proposed last November during discussions between HDB and the Teck Ghee Zone B Residents' Committee and finalised in January. The mural, which cost HDB $7,000 to produce, was completed within four months.

Help was enlisted from the Singapore Contemporary Young Artists society, which saw several of its members, aged between 26 and 32, teaching residents basic sketching techniques over a series of 11/2-hour- long workshops held in a void deck on March 24 and 25.

Residents were invited to participate free of charge. They completed their art pieces in media ranging from crayons to colour pencils on sheets of A4 paper during the workshops.

These were then either digitally shrunk or expanded in size before being pieced together. Nestled within the windows of a 1m-high crayon drawing of an HDB building, for instance, are photographs or small drawings done by residents.

Handicrafts store owner Sa'deah Jantan, 51, hopes that this year's project will become a regular thing. The grandmother of three - a Teck Ghee resident of more than 20 years - and her friend and fellow Residents' Committee member Anoop Singh, 65, who relocated to the neighbourhood from Kebun Baru last August, drew pencil portraits of each other during the art workshops.

The two neighbours - secretary and vice-chairman of their Residents' Committee - feel that the project has promoted bonding not just between neighbours, but also within families.

Madam Sa'deah says the programme drew her closer to her Chinese-speaking neighbours even though they communicate only via sign language at times.

Pointing to a photograph of family members from four generations on the mural, Mr Singh added: 'The project roused the interest of the old and young. There was a lot of interaction across generations.'

Ms Rose Ng, 56, who lives with her husband and does not have an artistic background, says she picked up new art techniques in the process.

'I learnt how to use cotton buds to spread the colour in my drawings,' the grandmother of four told LifeStyle in Mandarin, visibly pleased with her crayon chrysanthemum piece.

Referring to a pencil and watercolour painting of a potted plant done by her friend Susan Seow, 67, Madam Sa'deah added: 'I never knew my neighbours had so much talent in art before this.'

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