Cultivating a Heart for Nature through art
Written by Ho Jie Jelynn, Research Assistant (Science Communications and Outreach) at the National University Singapore Centre of Nature-based Climate Solutions
As beautiful as the idea of Singapore being a ‘City in Nature’ may sound, it has not come without challenges.
Negative encounters between humans and urban wildlife in Singapore have made headlines in recent months. In April 2023, a reticulated python found in Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village was hacked to death by a stall owner. Humans have also sustained injuries from encounters with urban wildlife like macaques or wild boars, while some homeowners have expressed unhappiness about losing pet koi fish to hungry otters.
These events underscore the importance of fostering public understanding of coexistence with wild animals as Singapore intensifies its efforts to bring nature back into the city. With a better understanding of our urban wildlife and their quirks, we could learn to tolerate – even appreciate – our wild neighbours who also call this city home. For example, reticulated pythons may look fearsome, but are generally harmless if humans observe them from afar. These reptiles are also important pest controllers in the urban landscape as they consume rats.
On October 7, the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions (CNCS) partnered with the Our Wild Neighbours (OWN) initiative on an event that aims to contribute to the national efforts to promote responsible interactions with nature. With the support from the National Parks Board (NParks), Heart for Nature was an art and wellness festival with a wild twist. This event supported two workshops - an art jam and a poetry workshop - for participants to connect with and appreciate nature better. During the art jam led by local artist Dorcas Tang, participants basked in the sun and gained inspiration from the green spaces around them as they drew and coloured images that reminded them of nature in Singapore. Likewise, during the poetry workshop conducted by local poet Esther Vincent, participants read and analysed a number of eco-poems, and then took some time to pen their own after a walk around the grounds of the historic Fort Canning Park. Selected artworks were also hung in the atrium after the workshops for all to browse and admire.
During the event, visitors also got the opportunity to learn more about the native animals in Singapore through educational booths set up by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Herpetological Society of Singapore, Nature Society (Singapore), Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) as well as the Singapore Pangolin Working Group. Stickers, postcards and enamel pins celebrating Singapore's unique flora and fauna were also available for purchase at the booths set up by conservation-focused artists, such as The ConArtist Collective, Wild Batik and Inklotte. Children books’ featuring our local wildlife, authored by Maureen Yeo, were snapped up by many quickly too.
Heart for Nature was also held in conjunction with Singapore Tiger Week, hosted by the Singapore Wildcat Action Group (SWAG).
The guests of honour at Singapore Tiger Week - His Royal Highness the Regent of Pahang, Crown Prince Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah Ibni Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, as well as Singapore’s Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, toured and interacted with the various booth partners. Both of them also received native wildlife stickers from our local illustrators.
While the festival may have concluded, its significance remains. We hope that this event contributed toward the vision of Singapore transforming into a "City in Nature" where both humans and wildlife can coexist.
(Above: His Royal Highness the Regent of Pahang, Crown Prince Tengku Hassanal Ibrahim Alam Shah Ibni Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah with Singapore’s Minister for National Development Mr Desmond Lee and members of CNCS and OWN.)
This article is written by Ms Jelynn Ho, a Research Assistant (Science Communications and Outreach) at the National University of Singapore’s Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions (CNCS). CNCS is a co-organiser of the Heart for Nature festival, an event supported by the National Parks Board (NParks).