Tuesday, November 15, 2005


Small Eyes, Big Picture Photo-Travelogue Exhibition

Small Eyes, Big Picture Photo-Travelogue exhibition was held at the Library@Orchard from 20th May-13th June 2005. This event was strongly supported by the National Youth Council, Singapore International Foundation, Lee Foundation, ASEANia and the National University of Singapore.

The exhibition’s moniker is a reflection on traveling- Although one’s own “smallness” is aggrandized while traveling as one is being swamped in a myriad of different cultures, people, places and experiences, traveling inevitably enlarges the traveller’s perspective on life. Showcasing Asian countries ranging from Japan, China, Cambodia, Thailand, India and Pakistan via maps, photos, videos, sketches and mementos, each traveler’s journey was exhibited in a personal way, moving beyond objective documentation to subjective interpretation. Two talks were held in the course of the exhibition in a bid to inspire other young people to have a bigger picture of life as well.

Asian Research Film

The pilot documentary on Singapore was shot and edited in May-June 2005 and presented at the modern Asian Architecture Network (mAAN) International Conference in Istanbul, Turkey in late June 2005. The documentary is a starting point in research framework meant to study the identity of Asian gateway cities while these cities are currently evolving and developing at a tremendous pace. The research framework was also submitted and published as a poster presentation in the conference. The documentary was supported by the National Youth Council, Singapore International Foundation, Lee Foundation, ASEANia and the National University of Singapore.

Akha Way Expedition + Exhibition

Akha Way Expedition (awe!) is a youth expedition project in the region of Mae Yao, Chiang Rai, Thailand, from 7 December to 24 December 2004 (18 days). The aims of this project are two fold: firstly, it is to bring awareness of local culture and difficulties faced by local hill tribes to Singapore youths, which in turn helps to raise our awareness of cultural sustainability as well as community building back in our home context; and secondly, it is to equip the locals with an income-generating tool based on eco-tourism which can contribute to a self-sustaining economy.

The expedition team is organized as an independent group, made up of 1 leader, 1 facilitator and 25 participants from various disciplines and all walks of life. The project is a collaboration between the expedition team, Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and host organization – Mirror Art Group (MAG).

The project began in early 2004, with a reconnaissance trip made in May 2004 when we met our host and gathered information for the project. Many problems are faced by the hilltribe: poverty, lack of knowledge, poor adaptation to low land living, trafficking of women and children, not able to get Thai citizenship, little job opportunities, poor health care, etc. such that it has become a vicious cycle.

Several strategies are adopted by MAG together with the villagers in overcoming some of these difficulties, one which being ecotourism. Different from the tourist industry that has already taken place at other regions run by external commercial groups, the idea here is to empower the villagers so that they can be self-sufficient in managing the tourist industry themselves as a way of income generation. In a way, this can also boost their confidence in preserving their culture and environment and presenting them to the outside worlds.

The definition of eco-tourism is thus unique in this case, i.e. the social aspects has become the main driving force for its sustainability, while nature and environmental aspects assuming a supporting role. As such, the expedition project aims to provide an understanding to the various social and cultural significance of the region, juxtaposed with the interest in nature, through the exercise of information gathering, planning, designing and finally delivering the outcome as a form of knowledge.

The expedition basically involves two primary projects: an ecotourism site survey for a group of villages in Mae Yao sub-district using Global Positioning System (GPS), and the building of a small-scale information centre at an Akha hilltribe village - Ban Apa. Through these projects Singapore youths collaborated with the local community and host organization in delivering both the information and the infrastructure that can serve as a reference to the development of ecotourism in this area. Through information gathering, planning and designing, the participants acquired greater awareness of the local culture and environment, while the actual expedition had provided them with first-hand experience in working and living (home-stay) with local community.

As a continuation of our efforts in promoting the awareness of the regional culture as well as sustainability, an exhibition was held in September 2005 (three weeks) at the National Library in Orchard. Through this exhibition we hoped to raise the awareness of minority culture in this region – their lives, beliefs, struggles with modernization, etc., by sharing what we have learnt during the expedition. We would also like to promote ecotourism as an alternative way of traveling – a life-transforming experience that the travelers will be truly exposed to the authenticity of cultural and natural environment by living the way the local live. It is believed that with the income generated from this self-managed industry, the locals will be able to sustain their way of life without subscribing to modern lifestyles totally. Finally, we wish to share our ideas in sustainability of culture, such as in the case of architecture, through re-interpreting their culture and use of local materials. In a way, this has also brought some reflections on the sustainability of our own culture.