Singapore and Malaysia Collaborate to Promote Inclusivity and Healing through the Arts

As part of its Arts for Good initiative, the Singapore International Foundation (SIF) supported a week-long series of activities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia through two arts festivals – Art Includes Festival and CausewayEXchange 2019.

Riley's Rain, a multisensory performance staged by Republic Polytechnic students (left) at CEX 2019, aims to provide a safe and friendly environment for children, especially on the autism spectrum, through the use of textural props, costumes and the interactive use of scenery, lighting and sounds.

From 23 to 29 September 2019, disability arts and culture took centre stage in Malaysia’s capital city during the inaugural Art Includes Festival. Held at RUANG by Think City, the Festival promotes inclusion, specifically in the social, cultural and professional development of people with disabilities. International and Singaporean talents bonded over talks, performances, exhibitions and workshops.

Differently-abled speakers from Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, and Taiwan shared their personal journey in the arts field. For instance, celebrated Singaporean pianist Dr Azariah Tan talked about his pursuit of music while growing up with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. The degenerative disease left him with only 15 percent of his hearing, but he continued his passion for music – earning him a doctorate in piano performance and various international awards. At the event, he shared, “It was such a joy to be inspired at the Art Includes Festival! The Festival provides an invaluable platform to meet sterling examples of perseverance and exchange ideas with one another. It was eye-opening to see what steps others have taken and recognise common threads in our experiences.”

Dr Azariah Tan (standing), a celebrated Singaporean pianist with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, sharing about his musical journey in the face of adversity. Close to 100 participants from the education, social and private sectors attended the two-day conference which saw talks, workshops and panel discussions delivered by local and international speakers.

Performances at the Art Includes Festival were jointly organised with CausewayEXchange (CEX). An annual arts and culture festival, CEX showcases Singapore’s and Malaysia’s rich heritage and promotes cross-cultural exchanges through the arts. Since 2016, SIF has supported four of the CEX’s ‘Arts and Healing’ component, which has now evolved as a primary focus.

‘Arts and Healing’ introduces art to the community as a form of therapy and this year’s segment was brought to patients and staff at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Medical practitioners and creative art therapists from Singapore and Malaysia exchanged ideas during the lively panel discussions and breakout sessions.

Malaysian audience member Dr Aminah Kassim, Consultant Psychiatrist at the Child and Adolescence Department, shared, “The engaging interactions with creative art therapists from Singapore and Malaysia have put a smile on everyone’s faces. We are all friends in this journey of care and compassion where we integrate the arts into medical settings. I hope to continue the collaborative work via continuous service and research with our Singaporean counterparts.”

The hospital also hosted other activities which added much cheer and joy to its resident children patients and their families. One of the activities included a community art project, facilitated by art therapy students from Singapore’s LASALLE College of the Arts, in the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Kuala Lumpur. Over 200 colourful canvasses, painted by the patients, families, medical practitioners and contributors, will be displayed in the hospital.

Art therapy students from Singapore's LASALLE College of the Arts facilitating a community art project in the Women's and Children's Hospital Kuala Lumpur as part of CausewayEXchange Festival. Over 200 canvases were painted by patients, families, nurses, doctors and contributors from Singapore and Malaysia.

Shawn Lourdusamy, director and founder of CEX, shared, “Overall, there is a natural synergy between Art Includes Festival and CEX this year with both placing emphasis on celebrating inclusive communities and cross-cultural exchanges. It also shows the importance of everyone coming together to lend support in our aim to boost positive impact through the arts.”

The SIF is delighted to support Art Includes Festival and CEX as part of its Arts for Good initiative to further harness the power of the arts for positive social change. Check them out on social media through the hashtag #artsforgood.

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