National Heritage Board arts programme brings back kampung memories for seniors

Madam Lim Bee Ling (left) making a DIY lamp at Sunlove Day Activity Centre in Eunos.
Madam Lim Bee Ling (left) making a DIY lamp at Sunlove Day Activity Centre in Eunos.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - When retiree Lim Bee Ling, 77, saw the kampung presented in local artist Yip Yew Chong's artwork, it brought back memories of her childhood, which were spent in a kampung in Geylang Lorong 40.

Madam Lim, a volunteer and a client at Sunlove Day Activity Centre, is one of four seniors from Sunlove taking part in the second edition of the Collection Cares programme, which was launched by the National Heritage Board (NHB) on Monday (Sept 13).

The programme features reproductions of two paintings by Mr Yip, depicting a fictional kampung in Singapore during the day and at night. "Kampung" means "village" in Malay.

The paintings will be on display for two weeks at each of the 12 participating senior care centres, with the programme hoping to reach around 90 participants.

Each session will be conducted in small groups of four to eight seniors through Zoom, during which the participants will be introduced to the works of art and encouraged to share their own experiences and memories.

The seniors will then be guided by social enterprise Red Balloon Therapy to work on the craft activity corresponding to each art piece. The group size will depend on the space available and comfort level at the respective centres.

Mr Alvin Tan, deputy chief executive of policy and community at NHB, said the positive feedback after the first edition of the programme between December last year and January this year prompted NHB to conduct it again.

He said: "Through this programme, we hope to ensure that seniors continue to enjoy access to the arts, culture and heritage in a safe manner and, in doing so, to improve their general well-being even in the midst of a pandemic."

Mr Tan added that Mr Yip's artwork was chosen because the large paintings make it easier for the seniors to look at them, while the content helps to trigger memories for the silver generation.

Mr Yip's paintings, titled Jalan Singapura 1 and Jalan Singapura 2 feature scenes such as a Malay wedding procession, schoolchildren playing traditional games, attap houses, street hawkers and people gathering to watch television programmes together.

He said that for the paintings, he was inspired by his memories of living in Chinatown when he was young, visiting his uncle who lived in a kampung in Ang Mo Kio, and through research over the years.


Seniors at Sunlove Day Activity Centre in Eunos at the second edition of Collection Cares programme by the NHB. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Adding that he feels happy and honoured to be part of the programme, Mr Yip said: "This is so meaningful. Art is not just for decorative purposes; it can also be used for such meaningful causes and I am all for it."

He added: "I painted many details in one painting. It's not just one story that you can tell, but there are hundreds of stories in there. Also, it's not just stories within a painting, the viewers, in turn, can get inspired and tell their own stories."

Mr Raja Mohan, chief programme officer at Sunlove Day Activity Centre, said: "The paintings brought back a lot of memories for some of the seniors. They pointed out certain things that I did not notice, such as sharing the television at night.

"They told me that in those days, they used to watch television together, regardless of their race, and share their food. Sometimes, they also share their problems with each other and solve it together."

Madam Lim, who lived in a kampung for 25 years, found the programme interesting.

She said in Mandarin: "I felt very happy. Looking at the paintings made me reminisce about my childhood, when I would run around and play with a skipping rope with my sisters, friends and neighbours every afternoon. We would also watch television together with our neighbours and share food."