betty August 12, 2022

SINGAPORE – Five tiger lanterns will take centre stage at the Supertree Grove in Gardens by the Bay’s annual Mid-Autumn Festival event that will run from Aug 27 to Sept 11.

This year’s theme for the festival is “reunion” and the SPH Media Trust’s Chinese Media Group is a partner for the event.

The lanterns, each measuring 1.4m across and 1.5m high, come in five colours and represent the Chinese auspicious blessings for the home of joy (yellow), health (green), love (red), longevity (blue) and peace (white).

But the lanterns mean more to the 19 female inmates from the Yellow Ribbon Project’s Arts Behind Bars programme who designed and painted them.

On Friday (Aug 12) at the Changi Prison Complex’s Institution A4, Singapore’s all-women institution, the inmates put the final touches to the lanterns and explained why drawing and painting the tiger lanterns have been fulfilling.

Farah (not her real name), 47, who helped paint the health lantern, said: “This has been a real challenge for all of us because none of us has any background in art. But the fact that we have been able to complete the task gives us motivation.

“We have been able to see that if we put our minds and efforts into it, we can produce something that impresses us.”

Janice (not her real name), 34, said the inmates are excited by the prospect of the public seeing their work and have told family members who visited them in recent weeks that the lanterns they have worked on will be on display at the Gardens by the Bay.

She added: “During this process, we made some mistakes and had to repaint and redraw (on the lanterns) a few times to get them right but we did not give up.

“In the same way, we hope that our families don’t give up on us. We are very happy to be able to contribute to the festival and it gives us a sense of touch with the society out there.”

The Arts Behind Bars programme was launched in 2020 to provide an avenue for inmates to learn new skills, discover themselves and their self-worth, and help them through their past traumas.

Inmates participating in the programme have been observed to be more disciplined and respectful, showing improvement in their behaviours.

Most of the participants do not have a background in art and picked up skills by engaging with their more experienced peers in the programme. They also attend art classes run by volunteers.