Female prison inmates create tiger lanterns for Gardens by the Bay's Mid-Autumn Festival, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Female prison inmates create tiger lanterns for Gardens by the Bay's Mid-Autumn Festival

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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, 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 behaviour.

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.

The collaboration between Gardens by the Bay and the Yellow Ribbon Project provides a platform to showcase the inmates' artistic talents and get them to give back to society as part of their rehabilitation and reintegration.

Gardens by the Bay assistant director of festivals and events Teo Ying Er said the project was meaningful, adding that displaying the lanterns in a high-traffic area of the festival gives them greater visibility.

Ms J. Raathiga, an assistant director of Aftercare at Yellow Ribbon Singapore, said the project would help to boost the self-esteem of the inmates.

She added: "Such platforms are useful in helping them to unleash their full potential. We are thankful for community partners which provide such platforms that will help to create a ripple effect and create a more inclusive society."