Let Ah Mah and Ah Gong explain art to you
Seniors lead tours for the Singapore Art Museum Mini Mobile Museum, which travels to different National Library Board Regional Libraries. (Photo: Claudio Chock)

Let Ah Mah and Ah Gong explain art to you

It is never too late to learn and try something new and a group of seniors who are docents for the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) Mini Mobile Museum are living proof of this.

These volunteer guides take the public on tours of the SAM Mini Mobile Museum, an art exhibition that travels to different National Library Board Regional Libraries. The partnership with these senior docents is driven by RSVP Singapore, an organisation that helps seniors engage meaningfully with the wider community through volunteer opportunities.

The travelling exhibition features contemporary art by Southeast Asian artists, including the mini diorama is there any way I can be in your arms tonight by Singapore artist Ezzam Rahman. The work comprises three beds, including a baby cot, with whimsical dioramas of nature laid out on the bed. Upon closer look, however, one will realise that the figures in the diorama are made of unconventional materials such as dead skin, nails and anti-inflammatory plasters.

Retiree Gurdip Singh, 66, who attended a recent tour of the show, says: “If I were to walk into this exhibition on my own, I wouldn’t be able to understand what the artist is trying to portray. But with the guide’s help, I can better comprehend what the artist is trying to express.”

Ezzam’s artistic practice often explores themes of longing and desire, vulnerability and impermanence, and his Mini Mobile Museum installation is meant to evoke parallels between the realm of dream and the endless possibilities found in books and stories.

Besides helping the public better appreciate the artworks, the docents also do so in different vernacular, including Chinese dialects such as Hokkien and Cantonese, to cater to the audience.

Find out what two sprightly docents, Connie Tham, 64, and Fanny Ho, 68, have to say about their experience guiding the show.

Why did you volunteer to lead contemporary art tours?
Tham: When I see a beautiful artwork, I want to find out more about the story behind it. I also love storytelling; this is linked to my personal interest in folktales. Leading a tour encourages me to learn more about the art and share my knowledge with others.

Ho: I enjoy giving tours because it increases my knowledge of art and in turn, I help others understand the artists and their artworks better. I want to share my love and appreciation for art with more people.

What are the challenges of guiding the tours?
Tham: I am English-educated, so taking tours in Mandarin has been challenging. I must understand the exhibits in English before finding translations for certain terms. Then I must memorise the facts and present them in a way that is easily understood by the public.

Ho: It is challenging at my age to understand, digest and memorise the facts of the exhibits so that I can share it in a natural way.

Details on the Singapore Art Museum Mini Mobile Museum here.

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