Homage to love
Four third-year NP students have come up with a website that shares stories of love from seniors.
BY: Eleanor Yap
Love is in the air, or should we say online. Four Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP) students from the School of Humanities & Social Sciences/Arts Business Management – Norlyana Bte Rokman, 21, Nasyiba Sahari, 20, Lim Kang Ning, 20, and Sara-Ann Lin, 20 – have come up with a community online exhibition, as part of their final-school project, called “In the mood for love”. The initiative centres on heart-warming love stories and more from seniors.
However, this year with the Peranakan Museum coming on-board the project, the initiative has been renamed to “Homage to love” with big plans in the midst including an exhibition planned at the Museum on February 14 to April 15, 2014.
Ageless Online speaks to the team on their project:
How did the idea of curating heart-warming stories of seniors come about?
Well, the entire process of planning this online exhibition was a very long one. We started planning for our final-year project with big ideas, but as we progressed, these ideas went through major changes till we finally ended up with what we’re doing now. To be honest, what we’re doing now is very different from our initial idea of organising a performing arts festival for youths.
We then had a conversation with our supervisor about perhaps working with the idea of heirlooms. She shared with us about the stories of her own grandparents and that led to new ideas. Things started taking off from there and we saw the creation of “In the mood for love”. We then held an exhibition at NP in early December to raise awareness and promote our website to our fellow schoolmates.
Our target audience for the site are youths and young adults, because so many of us nowadays are so busy with our lives that we tend to conveniently “forget” to talk to our grandparents. Hence, we miss out on opportunities to listen to valuable stories from them.
After the exhibition at NP, the project has gone through changes and is now titled “Homage to love” and it will be an on-site exhibition held at the Peranakan Museum.
What are the goals you hope to accomplish through this initiative?
We hope to provide a place and platform for community engagement and exchange of dialogue between people of different generations, and also to educate the younger generation about Singapore’s history and past cultures.
What were some initial challenges?
It was tough looking for contributors who were seniors at first. We relied mostly on friends and family when we first started as we did not know many seniors.
Recruiting volunteers is also a constant challenge that we face because everyone is busy and tied up with their schoolwork and other commitments. There was even one day where the four of us had to interview 24 people on our own!
How did you find the various stories and who writes them?
We are very grateful to work with two Seniors’ Activity Centres (SACs) – Thong Kheng and TOUCH. The wonderful people there have been a huge contribution to our project and it was a joy talking and interviewing the seniors there.
Besides those written by some of the grandchildren of the seniors, the four of us writes everything else. We targeted to interview those who were born before 1945 (68 and above). We only had one or two that were younger than that.
So who is the oldest featured?
The oldest was actually Kang Ning’s great-grandma, Lim Geok Hwan, who is 91 this year.
How many stories have you curated?
We currently have 14 stories selected for the on-site exhibition, while the other 40 will continue being online. We will not be adding any more stories.
I understand the stories detailed on the site are not just about how the seniors met their other halves but also about their memories like WWII, etc. Of all the stories curated, which two are your fondest and why?
1. Madam Soh (who prefers that her full name not be disclosed) – her story was done by her granddaughter, Jinglin, who is a friend of ours. What struck us most about her story was her reflection about talking to her grandma. It is very heart-warming and encouraging to read about the things she learnt from her grandma, and how it was so easy having conversations with her.
Her grandparents did not meet through matchmaking. They met from school – he was from Hwa Chong Institution and she was from Nanyang Girls’ High School. They got to know each other from the frequent school outings they had together. A group of his friends would always go over to her shophouse to play, and soon it became just the two of them. They developed feelings for each other and they started to date. They dated for eight years before getting married. They had a good life together even though he passed on at a young age. She would often say that he was the perfect husband and father.
2. Lee Ah Joon – his story was one of the most memorable ones for us too. Even though his story was very emotional, it was a joy for us to have met him because he was very open and cheerful, and willing to share his life with us. We learnt a lot from meeting people like him, and it makes us feel very blessed to be able to pioneer this project. Lee met his first and last love while at work when he was in his late teens. Just when they thought they could settle down and spend the rest of their lives together after dating for two years, his wife-to-be suffered from cervical cancer.
Devastated at the news, he treasured every moment he spent with her and visited her everyday after work until she passed on. He loved her so much that when his mother tried to introduce him to other women to move on, he rejected them. Until now, he is still single and misses her.
How do you market the site?
We made use of social media mostly. We set up a Facebok page where we constantly posted snippets of the stories before the actual launch of the exhibition in NP. We also have an Instagram account used for the same purpose (to hype up the Peranakan Museum exhibition). We relied mostly on friends and family at first. Through them, other people slowly got to know about our work as well. Plus, we did that small exhibition at NP to raise awareness.
What are some lessons you have learnt from the project?
Kang Ning: As cheesy as it sounds, I really did learn to be content with my life now and not take things for granted. Having heard many of the seniors’ tough and heart-breaking stories during the Japanese Occupation, I could not have imagined going through those difficult times especially at such a young age.
I have also learned how to interact with the seniors on a more personal basis by listening to their stories and asking relevant questions. Previously before this project, I could only see myself asking them how are they and whether they have eaten!
Sara-Ann: Well firstly, this project opened up and changed my perspective of seniors. Every time I see seniors on the bus, I’d look at them and this thought would always flash in my head: “They must’ve been through so much”. The only thing was, there was never a reason for me to talk to them, much less strike up a conversation with them. “In the mood for love” gave me that opportunity to finally find out more about this generation and their stories.
I’ve also started to love talking to seniors. They are so warm and friendly, and we really do learn many things about life from every person we speak to. I’ve also started to treasure the times spent with my own grandparents who are in their 70s and 80s.
Nasyiba: The seniors are always very eager to share interesting stories about their past, and that is if we as the younger generation take the time to talk to them. I think it should be an important practice, not only for the sake of family ties or even just a school project, but more importantly for the sake of precious interaction and gaining knowledge that way. There are treasured gems in these stories, yet the opportunity to talk to the seniors is often neglected due to our busy schedules. To be able to build connections with people of a different generation is a special thing to me. This has become not merely a school project any more, but something I would love to engage in even outside of school.
Lyana: I have been constantly surprised by the stories being shared by the seniors. They are very genuine and honest when sharing their life experiences and I am grateful for their willingness to contribute to our online exhibition. After listening to all the hardships and challenges they faced, and then seeing how at peace they currently are, it gives me a sense of assurance on the temporariness of pain and misery. This experience in talking to the seniors has really made me more content with my own life.
What are your plans after the exhibition? Will the four of you continue the project?
The exhibition will be handed over to the Peranakan Museum to continue to be developed into something greater for youths to participate in. We are very proud and glad to be able to start something meaningful. We have our own plans – some of us will be out working while some of us would be continuing our studies, so we will not be continuing the project even though we would love to.