Arts & Heritage
Opening doors for ex-offenders by developing and cultivating their artistic talents
Speech by Ms Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry Of Culture, Community and Youth, at The Yellow Ribbon Community Art & Poetry Exhibition Launch Event, at The School Of The Arts, Singapore
30 August 2019
Mr Desmond Chin and Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Co-Chairmen of CARE Network
- Good Evening. I am happy to be here tonight to launch the Yellow Ribbon Community Art and Poetry Exhibition 2019. This is my second time supporting this event, and I am heartened that this initiative continues to grow from strength to strength.
Re-integration of ex-offenders through art
- This annual exhibition is part of the Yellow Ribbon Project, which was launched in 2004 to create awareness, generate acceptance, and inspire action within our community to support ex-offenders and their families. This year’s exhibition theme – Moving Forward Together – highlights the importance of collective and sustained support for the successful reintegration of ex-offenders who are committed to change.
- The arts can play an important role in this effort, and support the rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates and ex-offenders by unlocking their creative potential. It provides them with a platform to express themselves in new ways, and develop and cultivate their artistic talents in a manner which could be useful in their future education or employment. I am pleased to see some of our key arts institutions and practitioners coming forward with their time, effort and expertise to give life to the aspirations of the Yellow Ribbon project.
Inclusive community to journey with the offenders
- One of these key partners is the Singapore Art Museum, which has been supporting the Yellow Ribbon Project for the past decade. It is the main curator of the artwork on display, and an important source of art trainers for the inmates. For this exhibition, SAM connected the organisers with Ms Sharina D/O Azlan, an experienced faculty member at LASALLE College of The Arts, who taught our female inmates batik painting for 10 weeks. Another example is Sing Lit Station, which is a new partner of the Yellow Ribbon Project. Through this group, our very own Singaporean poets Mr Marc Nair and Ms Deborah Emmanuel volunteered as mentors and provided guidance to the inmates in creating poetry. I look forward to experiencing the works which have come out of these partnerships.
- While community support from partners like SAM and Sing Lit Station can provide platforms and opportunities for ex-offenders, it is equally important that they take charge of their lives to reintegrate into society and strive to be contributing citizens. In this, there can be no better role models than ex-offenders who have turned their lives around, come back to serve as mentors to our inmates.
- Take for example Mr Barry Yeow. With support from the community, Barry set up his own art gallery after his release in 2015. Word spread about his work, resulting in numerous commissions by corporates and private collectors.
- Today, Barry is no longer working alone. About two months ago, Barry and a group of ex-offenders from Changi Prison Complex’s Visual Arts Hub had the rare opportunity to work with renowned sculptor and artist Mr Sun Yu-Li. Together, they gave a fresh look to Parklane Shopping Mall’s carpark by painting an interactive mural on one of the walls. By serving as an art mentor for this exhibition, Barry continues to inspire other inmates and former offenders as a role model who is actively contributing to the community through art. I applaud the efforts of Barry and those like him who help show the way forward.
Moving forward together
- I would like to thank the organisers and community partners for putting together this exhibition. All of us have a role to play in giving ex-offenders a chance to emerge from the shadows of prejudice and restart their lives. By doing so, we help make Singapore a more caring, gracious and compassionate society, and a place we can all be proud to call home.
- Have a good evening ahead.
Arts & Heritage