Art comes alive in the neighbourhood at annual PAssionArts Festival

A volunteer dressed in traditional Malay garb with a sampan at the PAssionArts Festival on July 7, 2019.
A volunteer dressed in traditional Malay garb with a sampan at the PAssionArts Festival on July 7, 2019. PHOTO: PEOPLE'S ASSOCIATION
Zentai performers striking a pose at the PAssionArts Festival on July 7, 2019.
Zentai performers striking a pose at the PAssionArts Festival on July 7, 2019.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
PM Lee Hsieng Loong (centre), with Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Darryl David at the PAssionArts Festival, on July 7, 2019.
PM Lee Hsieng Loong (centre), with Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Darryl David at the PAssionArts Festival, on July 7, 2019.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
People painting at the PAssionArts Festival on July 7, 2019.
People painting at the PAssionArts Festival on July 7, 2019.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - A giant sampan, life-sized "five stones" - a traditional kampong game - and a virtual Merlion filled a corner of Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park on Sunday (July 7) to the delight of some 2,500 residents.

The sculptures were centrepieces for the first Festival Village for the annual PAssionArts Festival, which was attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Residents also painted umbrellas and pressed dried flowers to decorate drawstring bags.

The festival, now in its eighth year, runs until Aug 25 and aims to connect Singaporeans through the arts. There are 39 "art villages" islandwide - from Bukit Timah to Pasir Ris.

Longtime resident and grassroots volunteer Noelene De Foe, 67, said this year's event marked a difference from previous festival given its homage to the Bicentennial.

"We wanted to bring people to celebrate Singapore history through art, and we're very happy with what we have achieved," she added.

The six-metre wooden sampan, for example, featured a dragon head made of plaster and wire as well as "scales" decorated by residents.

It symbolises the lifestyle of people in 1299, when Sang Nila Utama landed, said ceramics and sculpture artist Rebecca Lim, who oversaw the project.

Ms Lim, 30, racked her brains to come up with an art project that checked the brief but that could also involve residents.

"I obviously could not ask them to make a sampan, but they could make the scales," she said.

"The results were better than expected - we had about 500 residents putting in a lot of effort in the things they drew, so we ended up with a sampan with many different styles and colours."

Artist Ben Puah, 43, drawing inspiration from the 1964 racial riots, created four sculptures to represent the different races. They were also made in different heights to appear as parents and children in one family.

Around 200 residents painted patterns on thin rice paper which he then used to decorate the sculptures.

"When you look at these sculptures, you don't see the work of one person. No individual is glorified - it's all blended together. That's what I'm trying to get at with this work," said Mr Puah.

The festival appears to have been largely a success in promoting community bonding.

Madam Kong Swee Neo, 76, attended with fellow retiree-neighbours and said she enjoyed herself.

Showing off her pressed flower bag, she said: "I used a lot of strength to make this, but it was fun and different."

Ms Malliga Manikkam, 46, a first-time volunteer for the festival, said it was an eye-opening experience: "When you're making art with your friends and neighbours, the rest of your day will be just as colourful."