Humility Through Art

I have facilitated creative art classes for youth and young women, but never for a group of middle-aged men, specifically Chinese migrant workers, most of whom are now jobless because of a work injury or a salary dispute. The men were reluctant to draw initially, citing reasons like they’ve not held a colour pencil since they were kids. I decided to take a different approach during the first lesson instead of drawing, I got them to talk about life back home and how different it is from life here. There was a torrent of comments, and arguments even. Then I got them to draw things that make them happy. Gradually, they unleashed their creativity, which is at its best whenever they draw their homes in China. The lessons have been going on for some two months now. My classes aren’t so much about learning skills and techniques as they are about using art to express one’s thoughts, feelings and ideas. As an art facilitator/educator, I realised the importance of learning the thought portals to which my participants “the migrant workers” were able to articulate themselves. I learned to connect with them through conversations about their work, families and homes. It is always a nice surprise to view some of their unconventional and interesting drawings, and how their thought processes influence their art pieces. Their artworks were eye-openers to their lives in Singapore and in China, with many images depicting individual hopes and dreams. I am grateful that these men gave me the opportunity to work with them. While I was the “teacher”, I was also a student who learned from their experiences. It humbles me whenever I look at their pictures and think about their struggles and anxieties. Yet, despite their hardship, they never fail to break into a grin whenever I ask them to share about their drawings.

~Tai Shuxia

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