LIM SHIYUN (b. 1982)
CREATIVE DIRECTOR, 3PUMPKINS
In this time of social distancing amidst a pandemic, non-profit arts company 3Pumpkins is busier than ever. Using Facebook Live and YouTube videos, the group has been sharing at-home activities for children, Chinese dialect programmes specially catered to the elderly, conversations in Malay about food, and many more. The four-year-old company, led by founder Lin Shiyun, has been known for its activities held outdoors, in neighbourhoods such as Toa Payoh, Boon Lay and Lengkok Bahru.
“Why is it that during this COVID period, we are so busy with creating new works? Because the community gives you that inspiration – you never run out of ideas,” says Shiyun.
The group spends more than a year embedding itself within specific communities, going down routinely and organising activities which respond to their requirements or unique dynamics. In Boon Lay, where there were many new migrant and low-income families, Shiyun started the Tak Takut (Don't be afraid of) Kids Club, which gives children a space to socialise and learn from one another.
The work of 3Pumpkins is particularly anchored around children, which taps into the potential of art to transform. One of its initiatives, Let's Go PLay OutSide!, activates playgrounds as spaces for discovery and expression. For example, the story of Sang Nila Utama can be retold through roleplaying, creating costumes, and using water and an element of friendly competition to mimic a storm.
Shiyun recalls the early days of the company, when most of the work was done guerilla-style. There was always that small fear of being shut down by the authorities, even though most of the work was about playing. “I realised that in a public space, no matter what, you have to engage the authorities,” she says. “If the work is about breaking down walls which are preventing people from more collaborations, conversations and understanding, I would need to work with stakeholders to transform entrenched habits. I just have to be very conscious that I don't in turn get co-opted. Being rooted in the neighbourhood and being reminded of realities faced by common people is very important in staying grounded and clear-minded.”
For artists who want to do this kind of work, Shiyun advises them to think beyond a typical project framework, and not be afraid to invest time getting to know the people in the community. She says: “I think in spending time, you are really seeing yourself as part of the community. You become very courageous to propose anything. It gives you that courage. I think courage is very important.”
3Pumpkins is one of the 7 projects supported by T:>CARE, initiated by T:>Works to support projects created and developed by women to make positive change in our communities. To know more about 3Pumpkins, visit www.3pumpkins.co.