Opening Address by President Halimah Yacob at the Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition

Mr Amrin Amin, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Health

Mr Desmond Chin and Mr Chng Hwee Hong,

Co-Chairmen of CARE Network

Mr Edmund Cheng, Chairman, Singapore Art Museum

 

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and gentlemen

Good afternoon.

It is my pleasure to join you at the launch of the “Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition”. This exhibition is especially significant as this is a platform for inmates to express their hopes, dreams and aspirations through art. It also enables inmates to showcase their artistic talents to the larger community.

Art can be useful in helping to rehabilitate inmates. Through art, inmates achieve greater self-awareness, self-acceptance and self-confidence. Art also unlocks the inmates’ creative potential. Studies have shown that art teaches inmates how to work with a focused discipline. These soft skills will help them when they further their education or seek employment. Eventually, this helps them to better reintegrate back into society.

When I recently visited the Changi Prison, this was also a key insight shared with me. Effective rehabilitation programmes can help reduce the state of reoffending.  Through various rehabilitative initiatives, the Singapore Prisons Service has managed to reduce the two-year recidivism rate from 40% in 1998 to 25.9% in 2015.

One of these initiatives is the Visual Arts Hub, which was formed in Changi Prison in 2010 to promote art. With the Visual Arts Hub, art related workshops, training centre and studios can be combined in a single location, and professional trainers can help train inmates on the fundamentals of art. This provides inmates with a platform to express themselves freely through art, and in so doing helps them to reflect on their past, develop their character and be motivated towards a positive mindset change.

From the video shown earlier, we have seen the impact of the Visual Arts Hub on both the inmate and art mentor.

I am particularly heartened that the Visual Arts Hub programme also exemplifies how the community can be involved in the rehabilitation process of the inmates.  When the Visual Arts Hub programme first started, Prisons had to contract two art trainers. This has grown over the past five years to more than 20 volunteer trainers and mentors coaching over 300 inmates.

This community support can also be seen in the organisation of this exhibition. Singapore Art Museum, CapitaLand and volunteers have collaborated to make this exhibition possible.

 Singapore Art Museum (SAM) has been an ardent supporter of Yellow Ribbon since 2010. Through SAM, many like-minded artists provide specialised training to inmates. For instance, Dr Felicia Low, founder and director of community cultural development, was introduced to the programme by Singapore Art Museum. She is an art mentor to female inmates participating in the exhibition and has just shared on her experience.

CapitaLand Hope Foundation is another long-time supporter. In partnership with the Yellow Ribbon Fund, the CapitaLand-YRF Children Support Programme was launched in April 2017. This year’s exhibition has a special feature from the Children Support Programme, and showcases drawings from children beneficiaries, which illustrate the children’s hope and aspirations for their families and their future. The Programme has helped more than 70 children of offenders to date.

The theme for this year’s exhibition is “Transitions: Crossroads & Choices”. It reflects the transitions experienced in an inmate’s life and the difficult choices they have to make in their rehabilitation journey. Through the artwork, visitors will be able to empathise with the past struggles and mistakes of the inmates, connect with their desire for acceptance and support their hopes for the future.

Let me share a story on one of the artists whose artworks are on display today. I shall refer to him as “John”. John is currently serving a seven-year sentence for drug related offences.

This is the third time John is participating in the Community Art Exhibition. Three of his artworks have been selected for display at the exhibition. He had renounced his gang affiliation whilst in prison and decided to let go of his past and start anew. He said that art has enabled him to identify his gift and empowered him to lead a purpose-driven life, even as he serves out the remainder of his sentence. John is no longer counting the days, but making the days count. This has had a positive impact on his family, who are heartened to see that he is spending his time wisely, reflecting on his past and planning for his future

The exhibition has provided John with a voice to represent his fellow inmates, reaching out to society through his artwork. John hopes to increase the level of acceptance when ex-inmates reintegrate back into society, and to showcase the potential of inmates.

Our continued support makes a difference to the lives of the ex-offenders and their families. Our commitment is critical in helping them meet the challenges when they are released. Proceeds from the art adoption will be channelled to the Yellow Ribbon Fund, and help fund reintegration programmes for inmates and ex-offenders.
Thank you for being a part of the yellow ribbon effort.