A condensed version of this article appeared in the TODAY papers on 10 August 2011, a day after Singapore celebrated her 46th birthday. Click to download the PDF Telling The Singapore Story. Prime Minister Lee Hsieng Loong’s opening message at the HeritageFest launch resonated with me. “Home means you must have some memories, you must have [...]
“Home means you must have some memories, you must have shared experiences and you must have some sense of where we came from, why we are here what it means to us… we will tell the stories about it to the younger ones and the next generation…we will connect to one another, connect to our parents and past, and to our children and future.”
For a struggling start-up social entrepreneur with a passion to “Create Storytelling Movements. Empower Ordinary people to tell their stories,” PM Lee’s statement is a beacon of hope, an affirmation that Digital Storytelling Asia (DSA) is on the right track. Storytelling is what Singapore as a nation needs.
When I speak of storytelling I do not mean the “once-upon-a-time” fairy tales that we think belong only to the domain of children. Stories are the stuff that life and memories are made of — the stories of our lives shape us. History is story. There are national stories and there are personal stories. We all have histories even the quietest of us.
Stories are shared memories. They can be painful ones like seeing a loved one through cancer or happy ones like remembering the old kampung house we grew up in, or the silly ones that make us laugh at ourselves. We have personal, family, community, and national stories. Stories engage not just our minds but our emotions and glue us together. Stories are the heritage that we leave with our children and our children’s children.
In the 9 September 2010, TODAY papers, Yeo Lay Hwee wrote, “The Singapore Story – A new narrative, a new story that can engage the younger generation, is needed.” Commenting about the immigrant issues, she said:
“I also have a nagging feeling that the unhappiness about the large influx of foreigners is only a symptom of some larger issues and questions. It is not about us and them, but it is a question of who we are, what kind of society we want to build and what kind of Singapore we want to have.”
Have we come closer to finding our Singapore Story? Our “romantic narratives” of fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, of unlikely knights turned heroes on a quest? There are unsung heroes in our midst — they are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, people we meet each day in our homes, schools, work, and play. There are heroes in the making. The young people in our midst who shape tomorrow.
Our children need to realise that their lives are stories that they are writing by the choices they make each day. They have the power to become heroes by the brave and sacrificial choices they make — to not live indulgent lives but to live well and to live for the good of others.
To quote Yeo again,
…We now have to think of a narrative that will take us from First World to XXX — the unknown? We need a new narrative, a new story that can engage. And this story can no longer be written by the Government alone…
The story that can engage our imagination must begin with a “WE”. It has to be a story that as many people who want to participate in the writing must be given the opportunity to do so.
It has to be a story that we all believe in.
Our individual stories are like little streams that converge into a river and into the ocean. The Singapore Story is the sum total of the stories of her people.
So where do we start?
Moving HeritageFest to the heartlands and creating events like these are steps in the right direction. PM Lee hit the nail on the head when he said, “These trails should be developed by the community, as a ‘grassroots, bottom-up’ effort.”
BBC Wales and BBC England initiated storytelling projects. ‘Capture Wales” project ran successfullyfrom 2001 until 2008. Nearly 600 stories were produced and it won some awards including a BAFTA Cymru. ”Telling Lives” (England’s parallel to the Wales project) ran from 2002 to 2005.
“Everyone has a story to tell” the sites say. All over the UK, “people made Digital Stories about real-life experiences and each story is as individual as the person who made it. Each Digital Story is made by the storyteller themself, using his or her own photos, words and voice.”
The series which were screened on BBC and showcased on their websites with the aim to “Connecting communities is a key aspect of the BBC’s contribution to social value. Many of our programmes, our physical presence and our grass-roots activities serve to encourage participation and a sense of belonging.”
In my keynote address at the International Digital Storytelling Festival organised by the Aberystwyth University, the Arts Council of Wales, the National Council of Wales, and the BBC held in Wales on 17 June 2011, I said that my dream is to create storytelling movements and to empower ordinary people to tell their stories.
John Hartley and Kelly McWilliams in the book “Story Circle” (2009),wrote:
“…Digital storytelling… is less developed in Asia, Africa, and South America. Most of the workshops held on those continents have been run or led by Western organizations or Western workshop facilitators and, by large, have not resulted in ongoing local programs…”
Digital Storytelling Asia is a Singaporean initiative. As far as I know, an early mover (if not the first mover) of digital storytelling in Asia. DSA which collaborates with the National Book Development Council of Singapore is a bottom-up initiative that seeks to fill that gap by creating storytelling movements and empowering ordinary people to share their stories.
The late Dana Atchley, also known as the father of Digital Storytelling said:
“The stories and anecdotes we share with one another
are the ways we let each other know
who we are,
where we come from,
where we are going,
and most importantly,
what we care about.”
We need to keep telling and listening to our stories. We need to help others find and tell their stories.
Ee my 91-year-old (minus one month) aunty will be put to her final rest today. She passed away away peacefully on 11 April. Yesterday three caregivers at the Lions Home where Ee lived for the past two years came to her wake. I sat down with them and asked them to tell me about her. [...]
Ee my 91-year-old (minus one month) aunty will be put to her final rest today. She passed away away peacefully on 11 April.
Yesterday three caregivers at the Lions Home where Ee lived for the past two years came to her wake. I sat down with them and asked them to tell me about her. They could have used their free time to rest or to do something else but they chose to come.
Irene said that Ee NEVER failed to thank them EVERYDAY after they bathed her or fed her. They said she was the only one who would help them. She would always help the staff by encouraging her fellow mates to finish their food.
They told me how they would always go to Ee whenever they had free time to play with her. She always had a smile for them. Irene said how upset she was when she came back from her day off to find Ee missing. She was sad when she learned that Ee had had a fall and in lying in the hospital very ill.
Ee is the adopted sister of my mother. She had a fever when she was about five. It caused damage to her brains so she remained forever a child in every way. She was my playmate through my childhood. She was part of the family through my growing up years.
My heart is filled with incredible pride to know that she brought so much joy and is dearly loved and missed.
I found an old tin box among my father’s things. It gave me clues to who I am, why I love to write, take photos, and I care about the people and things that happen around me.
We had a meaningful family reunion last evening. I found old family photos some dating as far back as 1912. I’ve started scanning them to put into the family archives that I am building up. I returned the first batch of these precious heirlooms to my uncles or their children if they were deceased. It [...]
We had a meaningful family reunion last evening.
I found old family photos some dating as far back as 1912. I’ve started scanning them to put into the family archives that I am building up. I returned the first batch of these precious heirlooms to my uncles or their children if they were deceased. It started the family telling stories about the old days.
I hope when they are ready that they will write down their wonderful stories. Since 2009 I bought http://thekohfamily.net but it has been forever under construction. This is my umpteenth attempt to start this project. Another of my many ideas and too little time to pursue wishes.
Last night, I discovered from my cousin’s wife Che che (older sister) Alice that one day my aunty Daisy had asked her to write the Chinese character of my uncles’ name. Alice said, they were beautiful names: Humanity, Courteous, Virtuous, Righteous, Truthful (or trustworthy).
Che che Alice said the names were given by a Chinese scholar. In the Chinese culture, each name is a combination of three Chinese characters (some have only two). My dad’s name for instance is KOH YEW LAY.
KOH being the family name or surname. YEW is the character shared by the brothers, so my uncles’ names are: Yew Ghee, Yew Jin, Yew Tee, Yew Sin, and Yew Hoe.
Alice said that the shared name is based on a book of names. That was how lineage and generations are identified, preserved and traced. Alice said that each one of the brothers had lived up to their names.
I believe that every person and every family is born with a name and a destiny. May we each discover what that destiny is and live up to our calling to make a difference for this life and for eternity.
BTW, daddy’s name means “has polite behaviour that shows respect for other people.”
I’ve been taking things easy since I completed all the major projects for 2008. I started the year with a silence retreat to help me get my life in focus. It’s funny how the Lord has taken me a full circle and arranged for me to have some quietness for three weeks. Au will be [...]
I’ve been taking things easy since I completed all the major projects for 2008. I started the year with a silence retreat to help me get my life in focus. It’s funny how the Lord has taken me a full circle and arranged for me to have some quietness for three weeks.
Au will be going back to the Philippines for a month. I am house sitting for my brother who is on a vacation with the family. Mocca, my nephews’ and niece’s pet rabbit came packaged with the house.
I have always loved animals but since the l990s I stopped having pets. My life has been too busy.
Yesterday, I sent an sms to my brother Brian,
Mocca seems to miss you all. He makes his poopoo on the newspaper but also everywhere else. He’s been trying to get in the house – I guess to look for the children. He doesn’t like to come to me so I have a hard time combing his hair. I tried making friends with him and just patting him but he runs away from me. Tsk.
Some progress today,
Hi Boaz, Brenan, n Beth.
Mocca finally let me pet him a bit longer this morning. He’s very cute but he’s also tarek hargah (plays hard to get). I’m desperately trying to be his friend – he doesn’t accept bribes. His hair is getting more knotted up. I hope he doesn’t end up a lump of knots when you all get back! I think I comb his hair more than I comb my own! He still keeps springing out from me. No chance to carry him. Tsk tsk.
Brenan wrote with this advise,
This is brenan thank you for helping once again with mocha I apologize on the family for his behaviour in response to your current situation I suggest approaching him slowly and in as friendly a manner as possible if that doesn’t work all I can think of at the momment is to show your face more often in the balcony kitchen part facing the balcony and the living room
Thank you again and sorry for the punctuation errors and mochas behaviour
No need to apologise for Mocca. Eventually hopefully he will know that I’m the one feeding him and he will be more friendly with me. Haha.
I forgot to tell you that this morning he somehow managed to drag the two dustpans and one broom to the centre of the balcony.
I haven’t had a pet for many years, so it’s kind of fun taking care of him. Don’t worry about it. I’m not upset about him. It’s all in fun.
More ideas than life to live
DANCE as though no one is watching you...
LOVE as though you have never been hurt before...
SING as though no one can hear you...
LIVE as though heaven is on earth...
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