Singapore

Assembling Singapore’s ‘superheroes’

Former journalist aims to cultivate inclusive society through community arts
BY Wong Casandra
wongcasandra@mediacorp.com.sg
Published: 
Friday, 17 March 2017
From photography, costume-making, to music, former journalist Jean Loo has ambitious plans to create a platform where children — with and without special ...

SINGAPORE — Three years ago, Ms Jean Loo hit on a winning idea to combine photography, costume-making and every kid’s innate desire to be a superhero into a groundbreaking social initiative to inspire children here.

Those who took part in the project, called Superhero Me, imagined themselves as having special powers and made costumes corresponding to their alter-ego.

Last year, Ms Loo and her colleagues at community arts studio Logue extended the project to special education schools in an effort to prompt the public “to relook and rethink” how they look at children with special needs and physical disabilities.

Now, the 33-year-old wants to bring children from mainstream and special needs schools together. Superheroes assemble, if you will.

And for that, she is turning to unfamiliar new territory: Music.

“Music is truly a language that transcends all our differences,” said Ms Loo.

"Project Infinitude" kicked off with a three-day percussive camp last year that saw 20 participants from both mainstream and special needs schools. Photo: Wong Casandra/TODAY

Her new initiative is a collaboration with Mr Wong Kah Chun, artistic director of the Asian Contemporary Ensemble, and the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music. Their aim is to bring children from mainstream and special needs schools together to learn how to play musical instruments.

Twenty children, aged five to 12, took part in the first session of the new “Project Infinitude” in November last year, a three-day workshop involving singing and rhythmic body percussion.

Since then, other sessions have seen the children attending the four-day Singapore International String Conference, rehearsals and performances of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, as well as weekly lessons on various musical instruments like the violin and cello with mentor musicians.

This will culminate in a performance on March 25 this year. 

Sow Zixuan, who dressed up as superhero "Super Boccia Banana”. The inspiration behind her costume? A love for bananas and her dream of someday becoming a professional Boccia player. Photo: Logue via Jean Loo

Sow Zixuan, 12, who attends the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Singapore School (CPASS) and is wheelchair-bound, was one of the participants of the first session.

Her mother, Ms Wendy Ang Bee See, 43, an accounts executive, said the programme has helped her daughter pick up a musical skill while interacting with new friends.

“Since young, Zixuan’s responses have been slower than others, so when she mixes with the mainstream children she can learn a lot more,” said Ms Ang. “It would be good (if there are more of such inclusive programmes). The children can understand each other and then there will be less of a disparity.”

Ms Nur Rafidah, a pre-school teacher and mother of 9-year-old twins Afeeq and Azeeq who are taking part in the project, agrees.  

Twins Azeeq (left) and Afeeq, part of Superhero Me's pioneer batch in 2014, posing as their alter egos "The Singing Tornado Boy" and "The Electro Claw Boy" respectively. Photos: Logue via Jean Loo

“Initially, they were (a bit apprehensive). But if an adult intervenes and say, ‘We are all the same. We are made different but we complete one another’, we can help these children (learn empathy) from young. It’s eye-opening for them,” added Ms Rafidah.

Meanwhile, Ms Loo, a former photojournalist, is already mulling plans to expand Superhero Me beyond music and craft making to including wood carving and even filmmaking sessions.

“In Singapore, we need more platforms where children — with and without special needs — can come together and interact and know each other. I think there’s a desire for the different groups of children to want to know each other. We hope to be the platform where that can happen,” she added.
 

Members of the public who are keen to attend the event on March 25 can write in to hello@superherome.sg.