For the past few months, the Enabling Village has been a base of operations for a new breed of superheroes: More than 80 children and youths from diverse backgrounds, making a stand on social inclusion.
The kids are participants in a ground-up community arts initiative called Superhero Me. They include presechoolers from AWWA Kindle Garden; art students from Pathlight School; and children from the Lengkok Bahru neighbourhood. Together with other children from Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School and MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens School, the Superhero Me community has been working out of The Art Faculty to put together an experiential art show called “Planet of Possibility” to express its hope for a more inclusive Singapore.
Through working together in Planet of Possibility, an art show currently running at the Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, this diverse group of superheroes—eloquent as well as nonverbal, hyperactive as well as wheel-chaired—have made art their common language. The collaboration has empowered each individual with new ways of seeing the possibilities, rather than the impossible, in each other.
The captains of Superhero Me—volunteers in the project—have themselves become a familiar sight on the village compound. Wearing blue T-shirts, they run about with boisterous children, lugging big bags of recyclable materials.
Here, they talk about how working with kids of different abilities has changed their outlook on inclusion.
“Many differently-abled children are hidden away from public eye, as they usually just transit between schools and homes. Superhero Me made me realise that inclusion means give people the opportunity to work and play with this special group of kids,” said Quek Hong Shin, 36.
“I felt like I was included in their lives too. It wasn’t the outdated, one-sided idea of us-accepting-them–we are also taken on this journey of self-exploration and discovery.”
“I admit I came from a mono-cultural school and background, and I seldom had the chance to interact with people much different from myself,” said Carmen Chia, 19.
“Inclusivity used to be an abstract but a nice-to-hear concept to me. The project gave me the chance to enter the worlds of these young ones, whose communication and emotional needs are vastly different from what I’m familiar with. I stepped out of my comfort zone and learned that, though we might not being able to understand other people fully, the sincere desire to connect counts.”
Teo Yisi, 20, recalled one episode from the project. “I worked with a little girl called Calynda from MINDS Lee Kong Chian Gardens School who didn’t want to talk or sit near me at the start.”
“But as she settled into the mood and allowed me to be in the same space as her, she started to seek ways of interacting with me, even though she was non-verbal.”
“Once, she very strongly hit her marker on my notebook to make several dots as I was writing something. I thought that she was expressing her dislike for me. But then I noticed she really liked drawing circles and dots, so instead I asked her if she was drawing for me and she nodded with a big smile. It cemented my understanding that not all kids and humans behave in the same way, but they crave the same human connection. We do things differently, but seek love all the same.”
Said Amanda Chang, 19, “Truthfully, before Superhero Me, inclusion was just a term my teacher dropped occasionally in General Paper classes. I never really had a good think about what inclusion meant.
“I have a better understanding now that there is a place for differences in our society, and that every individual can contribute to and be a part of a community. Every idea is worthwhile and adds up to a larger vision.”
“Children should not labelled by their special needs, but understood simply as human beings like all of us,” said Ignatius Amos Liu, 23. “They are people with hopes and dreams, with their own unique talents and gifts, and the same ability to contribute to society just like us. Even if these contributions were done in different ways, they were not any less important.”
PLANET OF POSSIBILITY is on till 17 July at Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film. Admission is free. The Superhero Me team hosts inclusive tours on weekdays, bringing together kids from mainstream preschools and special education schools. Inclusive workshops for children are available on weekends.
Works from the art show will be on display at The Art Faculty after 17 July.
For more information, please visit superherome.sg