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From Night to Light: Inmates Embody Resolve to Change Through Art
The ninth Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition, held at the Singapore Art Museum.

This year’s Yellow Ribbon Community Art Exhibition’s (YR CAE) theme of “From Night to Light” symbolises the journey and transition that the inmates experience as they move on from their dark pasts towards the light, representing the acceptance and forgiveness they receive from their family and those around them.

"My Family Tree" symbolizes the things the artist considers important, the branches are his wife and children, holding up the vibrant leaves that represent his joy. The rising sun in the background embodies the goals he strives towards. PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat

For Ms Andrea Fam, 29, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM)’s Assistant Curator and Curator of the YR CAE 2016, the impact that the artwork makes on the inmates, their family members and the community as a whole is the core purpose of the exhibition.

“Working with the artists so intimately through their journey goes beyond the aesthetic of the artwork…It’s really the concept, the message behind the final piece... when you read the artwork captions the whole picture comes together, and I think every work is special in that way,” said Ms Fam.

"Breaking Waves" displays a turbulent sea that can be overcome through strength in unity. PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat


The exhibition features works by inmates from the Visual Arts Hub (VAH) and Changi Women’s Prison (CWP). The centrepiece of the exhibition, titled “The Fisherman’s Friend”, is a collaboration between inmates from both VAH and CWP, and includes messages from the inmate’s family members and loved ones.

"Fisherman's Friend" contains heartwarming messages from family members to inmates, urging them to head away from darkness to light. PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat

“The exhibition is a way for inmates to bring forward the ideas behind their artwork, like their hopes of changing for the better, and to increase their sense of self-worth,” said Superintendent of Prisons (SUPT) Edwin Goh, 39, Chairperson of the YR CAE 2016 Organising Committee.

"Flight Of Liberty" depicts birds soaring to great heights, symbolizing the artist's wish to one day undertake his own Flight Of Liberty with his loved ones. PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat

In her Opening Address, Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, emphasised the rehabilitative role that art plays in the lives of inmates and urged Singaporeans to support efforts at rehabilitating ex- offenders.

“The Yellow Ribbon Community art Exhibition gives inmates and ex-offenders a platform not just to showcase their artistic abilities, but also to reach out to the community. It shows that everyone can make a difference, if they are given the relevant support,” said Ms Fu.

Ceramic artworks by female inmates from Changi  Women's Prison. PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat

According to Mr Barry Yeow, 49, an ex-offender and YR CAE Artist-in-Residence, the transition from darkness to light is the key focus of his feature artwork at the exhibition; a wall installation aptly titled “Whole Again”.

Ms. Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth(left) placing on the puzzle pieces onto Mr. Barry Yeow's (right)  mural " Whole Again", symbolizing the role that the Community plays in helping to bring redemption and hope into the lives of inmates. PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat

The mural portrays two fields of vision, the dark and the light, as seen through a lens. Its dark circumference illustrates the dark past that inmates wish to leave behind, calling the viewer to focus on the brighter colours in the centre.

“The multi-coloured centre represents the beautiful colours I saw in the people who extended their hands to me to help me, and who were willing to journey with me in spite of who I was before,” said Mr Yeow.

The completed " Whole Again Mural"  with all four puzzle pieces, illustrating how it is only through working together that the mural and thus, the inmate's lives, can be made whole again. PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat


Currently the owner of art gallery “5seventeen”, Mr Yeow developed and honed his skills as an artist in the Visual Arts Hub at Changi Prison Complex. While he was still an inmate, his works were featured in previous YR CAEs. As an Artist in Residence for the YR CAE, he hopes to inspire inmates to paint with dignity and be willing to accept opportunities when they emerge.

“Art has helped in my rehabilitation journey by opening my eyes to see things with a different perspective… As an artist I have to create, and through this practice of creating, I discovered that my past actions were not creative, but destructive. Now I no longer want to destroy but to create,” emphasised Mr Yeow.

From left: Ms Andrea Fam, Mr Barry Yeow and Superintendent of Prisons (SUPT) Edwin Goh. Behind them is the centerpiece of the YR CAE - " The Fisherman's Friend"  PHOTO: Siti Hawa binte Md Resat

This year’s theme of “From Night to Light” was crafted by the inmates, to coincide with the concurrent Singapore Night Festival; in the hope that the inmates can speak about their own journey behind bars from darkness to redemption.

The exhibition will run from 10am to 7pm from Saturdays to Thursdays and 10am to 9pm on Fridays. Gallery opening hours are extended to 1am on Singapore Night Festival days (19, 20, 26 and 27 August). Admission is free for all Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents.

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Jaiesh Sachi
  2. 19 August 2016
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