{Bibliotherapy}: ART

We live in exceptional times. Many of us are staying in. Having our conversations, media, and work indefinitely saturated with news can put one in a constant fight-or-flight mode, and even grief for some. But amidst the chaos, there is a silver lining for humanity.

We hear stories of real people getting together and doing good for others and their communities. So we've created {Bibliotherapy} to inspire the same optimism through content that will both comfort and uplift.

Through the collections and archives of the National Library (NL) and the National Archives (NAS), we hope to bring meaningful content to you and your families at home.

This month’s theme is: Art.

During this time of uncertainty, think about how much art we will be consuming during this time, and how much comfort it brings to people in different formats: visual, music, literature and film.

Stay connected with us for more Bibliotherapy!

Art is an effort to create, beside the real world, a more humane world.

— Andre Maurois

Tang Da Wu (唐大雾)

Image taken from book Insight : SAMH souvenir magazine

Tang Da Wu (b. 12 May 1943, Singapore–) is an iconic figure in contemporary Asian art, best known for his performances and installations, and noted for having founded The Artists Village — an experimental, multidisciplinary artists’ collective that has since become synonymous with experimental art in Singapore.

Tang has also actively raised awareness on social and environmental issues using varying motifs of mythology and cultural practice in his work. For Tang, the importance of provocation and commentary equals or even exceeds the importance of aesthetic concerns, and his art often deals with national and cultural identities. His well-known commentary works include, They Poach the Rhino, Chop Off His Horn and Make This Drink (1989) and Tiger’s Whip (1991). The latter, expressing concerns on the exploitation of tigers for their organs’ supposed aphrodisiac powers.

Furthermore, Tang has participated in numerous community and public art projects, workshops and performances. He helped start the Art Therapy Group for members of the Oasis Club of the Singapore Association for Mental Health in 1991. He felt that art would immensely help to relieve frustrations of those around him.

Tang believes in the potential of the individual and collective to effect social changes. Be more like Tang.

Read more about Tang Da Wu’s life and works on NL’s Infopedia below.

Soft Hands but Steely Hearts: Women and Their Art

Han Sai Por at work on one of her sculptures. She was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 1995. All rights reserved, Han, S. P. (2013). Moving Forest. Singapore: Singapore Tyler Print Institute.

“In sports events, men and women’s events are separated on the argument that men have more physical strength. But in art, is there a necessity to set up another ring for women artists to wrestle for relevance in the art world? Is this not a way of marginalising women?” — Susie Lingham in the Text & Subtext forum in 2000.

From sourcing of materials and seeking funds and opportunities to exhibit their works, to struggling with competing priorities and the challenges of being an artist in a monetised capitalist society, sculptors around the world have wrestled countless obstacles to pursue their artistic passions — regardless of gender.

In this BiblioAsia article, librarian Nadia Arianna Bte Ramli traces how these remarkable women sculptors in Singapore redefined this once male-dominated art form since as early as the 1930s.

Kewadjiban Manoesia (Mankind's Duty)

This soulful song, released in 1938, was performed by S.Abdullah — an Indonesian singer.

Around the time when Indonesia (known as the Dutch East Indies then) became the first Asian nation to make an appearance at the FIFA World Cup, Indonesian music genres like dangdut and krongcong also rose to international prominence. Kewadjiban Manoesia adopted a nationalistic theme, reminding Abdullah’s more well-off countrymen to protect the less fortunate in their motherland.

Listen to the song here:
NAS Audio Visual Record

Paddy Chng, Founder of Music For Good

Patrick a.k.a Paddy Chng, musical performer, producer, and music journalist. He is best known as the frontman of The Oddfellows

This is Patrick Chng Beng Suan, also known as Paddy Chng from pioneering local indie band The Oddfellows. Some of you may be familiar with their song So Happy, which was an indie lo-fi hit back in the 90s.

In 2004, Paddy started the non-governmental organisation Music For Good (MFG). The aim of the organisation, as stated by Paddy in this Oral Histories interview, was to work closely with youths at risk in Singapore, and for music-lovers and musicians to serve the community with the help of music.

MFG registered as a society with just ten people initially, and would go on to organise concerts for the President’s Challenge for four consecutive years.

Many groups benefitted from the work at MFG while it existed. The organisation offered youths music-lessons and an avenue for learning about the local music industry; as well as taught music lessons in hospitals to encourage and uplift the spirits of patients; MFG enabled opportunities for music mentorship, teaching participants how to compose music and play in bands.

Listen to the full recording of Paddy’s interview below where he reflects on his experiences with MFG.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the first ever Bibliotherapy session! If you’re not feeling well, or just going stir-crazy at home, please know we’re thinking of you and that we’re all in this together.

Explore our NL and NAS platforms, where you’ll find an expansive collection of historical resources for a lifetime of learning.

Brought to you by the marketing folks at the National Library, who so miss their colleagues working from home, too!

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National Library Singapore

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Singapore’s premier resource centre for materials on or about Singapore and the region.