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Rainbow Connection: A Hullabaloo Christmas at TPC

Here’s the heart-warming story behind local artist Nur Aida Binte Sa’ad’s Hullabaloo Christmas play scape, which graces TPC’s Urban Park this Christmas.

Christmas isn’t just about Santa Claus, presents and Christmas trees. It’s also a season to give thanks to one’s loved ones, be mindful of those around us, and to celebrate life’s blessings.

In the spirit of the season, Tanjong Pagar Centre collaborates with The Artground to bring you Hullabaloo Christmas, a visual play space that beckons you to see the world from the eyes of a child, and to consider the perspective of individuals living with special needs.

The Hullabaloo Christmas play scape is a special Christmas edition created specially for TPC. The Hullabaloo concept was first developed and presented at The Artground, a not-for-profit children art centre, located at Goodman Arts Centre.

We sat down with Aida at The Artground to talk about art, empathy and the heart-warming story behind Hullabaloo.

Hello Aida! Could you tell us a little about yourself? When did you start creating art?

I think I've always liked to make things [since I was a child]. It wasn't something I wanted to do as an ambition.

I didn’t really pursue art until I was in university: Even when I was in JC, I didn't take art or anything like that. My portfolio when I entered NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) was actually made up of doodles I did while in JC.

 

How would you define art and creativity?

I think creativity is an itchiness to express yourself. Tools and skills are there to supplement that need.

I always tell people that my proudest work are the doodles I did in JC, before I learnt techniques or software. I feel like even 10 years later, that's the theme that still runs through my work.

 

What inspires you to create art in general?

One common theme in my work is that I like drawing from my everyday observations. For example, I have a comic series based on my binge eating episodes when I'm stressed [laughs].

The stuff that you do when you're not paying attention is the stuff that's the most important. It's just an impulse to translate your thoughts.

[Laughs] It's like you enjoy doing nonsense, and then you learn the tools to make your nonsense pretty so that people pay attention to it.

There are many sources in my day-to-day life. One of those sources is my sisters—I've two special needs sisters, Aisha and Sheila. Aisha is the one who inspired this project; I've always thought that the way my sisters' view the world is different, and extremely inspiring.

It’s like how kids are so wide-eyed about everything. Even in a playground: If you give them a structure that has a slope, they'll immediately run up and down.

Children have this ability to imagine, to be playful about things, which I see in my sisters. Just encountering how they see the world is really inspiring.

 

What inspired you to create Hullabaloo in particular?

So my sister, she's 17... she spent the whole year obsessed with rainbows. I used to have a studio, and my sister would come and draw with me. It may seem silly, but to me it's the essence of thinking out of the box. She draws zig-zag rainbows, rainbow smiley faces, rainbow umbrellas, rainbow jellyfish.

You won't learn that perspective by studying art. It's not taught; it's intuitive and instinctive. Maybe because my sisters don't internalise a mainstream point of view, they can be themselves, and see happiness.

When The Artground approached me to create a play space, I wanted to use my sister’s rainbows as a starting point, and they provided me with a space and audience to showcase her brilliance.

People with autism have a unique point of view: Hullabaloo is a safe space to have fun, to play and to learn about different perspectives.

 

Is there an emotional state you prefer to be in when you create art?

It's not something I consciously try to do, but I realise that humour makes it easy to talk about difficult topics.

I find that there's some power in that, especially when it comes to special needs. Not many people are familiar with it, so you can't expect them to be fully empathetic.

I realised that what I've developed growing up is the habit of being able to laugh and roll with the punches. Sometimes, situations are hard because they're hard; it's not like there's a solution to it or anyone to blame.

When you have the benefit of processing it...how do you cope with it? For me, I like comics because it's a way of combining words and pictures. You draw from that raw experience and add a layer of humour.

There's a power to making light of a situation, so that people can take something away from it.

 

What did you find challenging and rewarding about creating this installation?

It's the first time I’ve done an installation, let alone a play space! The challenges from the project were very rewarding. Normally, I would create 2D stuff. But I'm glad that I've had a lot of help from The Artground—who really helped me a lot with the conceptualisation of the piece. Not forgetting the builders that made it all possible – The Merry Men Works.

The most rewarding part was that we learnt a lot along the way, just in the process of setting up. We got some kids to crash test the structures, before we officially opened to the public; it became a collaborative effort amongst all, where everyone gave suggestions on how we can all improve.

 

How would you describe the The Artground, and the experience of collaborating on this installation?

It's really nice that The Artground is a free play space that children can explore, because there're not many of those kinds of spaces in Singapore. Working with The Artground was a really collaborative, comfortable process: They know what kids enjoy, or what's safe and unsafe.

I felt almost guilty having my name on the installation because they helped with almost everything! Especially the maintenance of the space and adding new features.

 

What traits should parents cultivate in children who’re aspiring artists? Why?

I think besides encouraging your kids to develop skills, it’s important give your child a safe space to express themselves, even if the way they express themselves is a little quirky or strange.

 

About The Artground

 

The Artground - A Curious Place To Be is managed and nurtured by The Ground Co Limited, a registered arts charity. We aim to provide positive arts experiences across a variety of art forms for children aged 12 and under in an accessible space that welcomes children from every community.

Our vision “to let art do, what art does” defines us. Throughout the year, we present interactive visual art play space that children can climb through, over and under, and these play space changes tri-annually. The open-plan space not only allows children to engage in non-directive play and practise their motor skills, but also heightens their awareness and appreciation of aesthetic elements.

We hope that The Artground will be a space where families can feel at ease to come to, to spend some time in, to discover, to learn and to be curious.

Aida’s Christmas Hullabaloo play scape graces Tanjong Pagar Centre’s Urban Park from 12 November to 25 December. Drop by with your family to explore new perspectives, rediscover your inner child, and celebrate the season of giving.

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