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Malacca Art Immersion Programme
March 13 - 16 2016


We started our tour in Malaysia with local breakfast, which consisted of nasi lemak, mushroom tempera, bananas and milo. Thereafter, we had some hands-on experience on how to make ondeh-ondeh, and of course eat it! 

We also learnt about the cultivation of oyster mushrooms. The process of growing the mushrooms is very tough, as they are very sensitive to their surroundings and needed specific conditions to grow. Otherwise, it will affect the end product of the mushrooms. Hence, we learnt to cherish our food as it takes hard work to obtain them. 

Next, we visited the traditional malay house in the kampung. From what we observed, the material of the house was mainly made out of wood and they were raised from the ground to prevent floods and wild animals from entering. It is amazing that people are so innovative in coming up with solutions to tackle their problems, and we hope to be able to do that in our art pieces too. 

We had the opportunity to visit the palm oil plantation site, and see the flowers and seeds close up. In Malaysia, palm oil is very important to them as they produce a lot of products where palm oil is needed. 

Lastly, we learnt about the main types of coffees that exist and that arabic coffee was the most favoured due to its rich aromatic flavour. Through these various activities, we learnt more about the culture of Malaysia, which is rich in agriculture and traditions. 

- Henna Lim Yi En, 1/1 and Wong Si Kei, Wynette, 1/2  

We went to the rubber plantation and saw how the locals tapped the rubber tree to get a sticky white latex that can be used to make shoes and gloves. Secondly, we went to a nearby kampung to learn how to may kuih bahulu, which is also known as the malay sponge cake. The kuih bahulu tasted so delicious that all of us were fighting over to eat them. This is the first time we see how kuehs are cooked using charcoal stove, which make us realise that we have grown up in a country that has progressed very rapidly in the past decades. 

Next, we had a great experience weaving ketupaks using coconut leaves. Even though it was really tough to do so, all of us tried our best and were proud of our final products. This activity taught that with patience and perseverance, we will be able to achieve what we set out to do. 

Right after that, we had some fun playing Malay traditional games like top-spinning and congkat. It was great to be able to play and bond with our friends. 

We truly gained a lot of knowledge on some of the Malay culture and hope to learn even more during the next few days. 

- Neo Zhenyi, Dilys, 1/1 and Zhu Rong, 1/2


Today, we attended the first day of a 2-day workshop hosted by Mr Cheo Chai-Hiang and Mrs Cecily Cheo. First, we learnt how to interact with our surroundings and communicate with what we observe based on the theme, Food. Based on what we gathered, we have to think like an artist, by observing our surroundings and improvising with the materials we have, in order to create a piece of art that tackles our concepts. 

We need to think, and learn to work in collaboration with fellow students in a constructive and productive manner, which defies what we normally think art making is about - art work that is done by a single artist. 

From the catalogues he had given us as a starting point to learn more about his works and the processes that we went through today, we feel that he tried to bring across the idea that persistence is important in the making of art. Sometimes, when something does not turn out the way we expect it to be, we can instead look at it from another angle, learn from our mistakes and try again and again for success, just like every aspect of life. Sometimes, things like this will happen maybe because we do not understand certain materials well enough, instead of having poor skills. Hence, it is important for us to always learn and observe, and converse with the materials we work with. This aspect of exploration and experimentation from a junior artist also applies to many things in life.

Thinking and persisting is what I learnt most of this workshop today. Chai and Cecily were incredibly kind and patient in their teaching, and we would like to thank them. 

- Faith Yoong Wen Xian, 1/1 and Zoey Teo Zi Yi, 1/3

For the second half of the workshop, we were all given a golden wire box. The artist, Chai, then used this as a platform to discuss perspective - seeing at eye level, or if we move further up and down. He also linked perspective to the reason why a canvas has to be placed upright when we draw. This forms the starting point of our exploration. 

One important statement that he reiterated several times to us, was that we should not ask him, whether we can do this or that in our art piece before we start. Often, we are worried about making mistakes, but this is exactly what art is about - to experiment and explore in order to learn and grow from it. 

He constantly reminded us to look at the surroundings as there are many things that we can pick up and explore; even if we do not know how to assemble the things together, we can learn to figure it out. 

At the end of the day, he said that some of the little skills we used today could have been acquired through observing our mothers cut vegetables. We feel that he meant that we are able to learn about art making from everywhere, and we ought to develop a keener sense of observation in order to link the things together. 

On the whole, we feel that Chai and Cecily are not only talented, but also hospitable, kind and helpful. We look forward to the second day of the workshop and we really appreciated every gesture of their help and kindness. 

- Natalie Tan Jingwen, 1/1 and Marie Frances Chua Shu Hui, 1/3


Today, we continued with the second half of our two-day workshop, which was hosted by Cheo Chai-Hiang and Cecily Cheo. We separated the 5m x 1.6m primed canvas into 8 equal parts for each pair to paint the sights and thoughts that caught our attention in Malacca. As a challenge, we were provided with a variety of media - acrylic paint, watercolour, oil pastel, embellishments, etc, to work out the most suitable media to create our part. 

To complete the artwork on canvas, we required much determination, patience and team work. We learnt how to communicate in a visual manner, what we have seen, as well as negotiate with our "canvas neighbours", in order to work together to complete our artwork harmoniously.

Sometimes, when things did not turn out in the way we wanted them to, we persevered on and discussed ways to solve the situation at hand in order to succeed. It was a fun and enriching workshop that helped us learn more about the different ways to create in a creative manner. We overcame all the ups and downs with our partners and managed to complete the artwork on canvas within eight hours successfully. 

It was great to have such a rare good opportunity to learn new things during the art trip. We would like to take this chance to thank Mr Chai and Mrs Cecily for welcoming us into their home and treating us like their good friends, making sure that we were comfortable at every step of the workshop.

- Kodi Sim, 1/3 and Ng Yenn Kae, 1/3

After lunch, we proceeded to continue working on our art pieces. Many of us had different ideas that contrasted with each other on canvas. To enable the artwork to appear cohesive on the whole, Mr Chai and Mrs Cecily developed many different strategies, such as providing invaluable suggestions, and getting us to walk around the work to look at what each other had accomplished at mid-point, in order to select an idea to incorporate into our artwork .

From this experince, we learnt how to manipulate ideas and negotiate and converse with both the team and the medium, to produce an end product that displays unity. We also learnt how to work with different types of media, such as soft pastels and acrylic, in a more seamless manner, so as to create a piece that has different stylistic qualities. 

It was a very fulfilling art workshop where we had the rare opportunity to learn many skills from the artists, which we would otherwise not have been able to learn in a classroom. This experience allows us to broaden our horizons and to expand our knowledge on how to use various media and texture for our preparatory studies in our future art pieces. More importantly, it enables us to understand the value of collaborations and the importance of respect in art making.

- Ji Xinyi, 2/2 and Eva Mary Arun, 2/3


During the trip, we learnt many different techniques that we can apply to our own work. We worked with 2 artists who have opened our eyes to how we could use different media to create an artwork which is well-contrasted. We learnt about communication, negotiation and conversation in art, and that it is alright to make mistakes. We were also taught that persistence is extremely important, and that we should never give up on ourselves or others so easily.

Previously, we had learnt about the culture and diversity of life in the kampong, from traditional games to the structure of their homes and also making of traditional Malay kuehs and decorations such as ketupat. 

Throughout the trip, we have learnt so many interesting things about art, and the culture of Malacca. We have found this learning journey both enjoyable and educational. We would like to thank the two artists, Mr Chai and Mrs Cecily, and our two tour guides, Ms Sha and Ms Candy, for teaching us during this trip, and also for making the trip enjoyable with your presence.

- Eryn Lim Jie, 2/3 and Nitya Niedu, 2/3

The trip was a very enjoyable and eye-opening one, as we learnt many things about art and the culture of Malacca.

The workshop sessions held by artists and art educators Cheo Chai-Hiang and Cecily Cheo were fun and interesting as we learnt how to use our surroundings as inspiration for creating our own art. We also learnt that communication is important when doing art and that we can do so by putting them in the form of pictures. While painting on the canvas, we learnt that teamwork was important to create a cohesive piece of art.

In this trip, we were also exposed to the culture of Malacca. We learnt how to make Ondeh-ondeh, Kuih Bahulu and how to weave coconut leaves to make ketupats. This helped us learn the importance of patience, that can be applied in art making. We also learnt that there were many different colonial masters that contributed to the architecture and cultural heritage of Malacca. We visited the Cheng Ho Musuem and Baba Nyonya Museum to learn about the history of Malacca and realised that there were many things we did not previously know about Malacca. In the Cheng Ho Musuem, we learnt about China being an important part of Malacca's history. In the Baba Nyonya Musuem, we were shown how Dutch architecture was used in the construction of the Peranakan houses. The houses had very interesting architecture also because of the fact that no nails were used to build the staircases. 

We would like to thank all those who have made this trip a pleasant one.

- Eden Soh Siow Woon, 1/2, Elizabeth Wong Ming Xi, 1/2 and Isabelle Tay Jia Wen, 1/2