The Future of Our Pasts workshops help young people engage in history through personal narratives

14 November 2019

A series of workshops themed ‘Family’ helps young Singaporeans engage in their own hi(stories) through cooking, photography and music  

From October to December 2019, Yale-NUS College will be organising a series of five workshops as part of The Future of Our Pasts (TFOOP) project. The TFOOP workshops aim to help young people in Singapore engage in history via their own personal stories.

Presented by Yale-NUS College in support of the Singapore Bicentennial, the hands-on workshops will teach participants how to engage with history through artistic and creative mediums. The workshops mark a continuation of the conversations on history that started with the TFOOP Festival in February to March 2019 where 11 groups of students and recent graduates explored lesser known stories of Singapore’s pasts and presented them through documentaries, zines, performances, and more.

Professor Tan Tai Yong, President of Yale-NUS College, and a member of the Singapore Bicentennial Advisory Panel, said, “From TFOOP Festival, we saw many compelling stories of Singapore’s pasts that began with personal and intimate entry points; more specifically, something related to their own family history. Thus, we curated these workshops, based on the theme of ‘family’, to help more Singaporeans find their own unique entry points into Singapore’s history. We hope to continue to encourage young people to engage in history-making and the exploration of history.”

Based on the theme ‘family’, the workshops cover topics such as family recipes, photographs and objects, and guide participants to explore their own family histories using these entry points. The workshops are facilitated by local art practitioners and researchers to equip young people with ways to present these histories through creative and artistic expressions such as cooking, photography and music.

One of the workshops was titled ‘Let’s Cook Soup Together!’ and led by arts facilitator Janel Ang and writer Xiao Ting Teo, both Yale-NUS alumni. They engaged participants in uncovering the dynamics and histories of their families via the exploration of family recipes. Through the process of making communal soup, participants delved into how we do not just inherit family recipes, but also the intricate recipe of our family relationships and histories – and how we can write and re-write this recipe through our lives.

Ms Ang said, “The act of making and eating food is a powerful window to human interaction. In the workshop, we got participants to introduce themselves using cooking metaphors, and think about how they contribute to metaphorical pots of soup, or groups in society. In the act of making communal soup together, we observed how each participant brought their individualities into the group, resulting in a delicate negotiation of self versus group preference, in order to create a harmonious dish that would appeal to diverse palates.”

An upcoming workshop, titled ‘My Old Photos’, led by artist and educator Tan Peiling will invite participants to reimagine the history of a personal photograph, and produce their own photographic print. Through this hands-on process, participants get a chance to approach their family history in a new way through artistic expression.

Following the series of workshops, the personal projects created by the participants will be shared at a closing event in January 2020 and the workshop resources will then be made available on the TFOOP website www.futureofourpasts.com. Members of the public will be able to download these resources and use the materials to create their own projects on Singapore history.

For more information on the TFOOP events, please refer to Annex.