By Howard Lee
If having an all-white figurine cast as a political figure doesn’t send thoughts of idol worship up your brain and the corresponding goose bumps down your spine, you are definitely not living in Singapore.
But this National Day, a bunch of people who make a living out of being creative have decided to stick their necks out to pay tribute – even if it is out of their own pockets – to those who are often unseen and unheard, but nevertheless play an important part in keeping Singapore humming along.
TOC interviewed Mark Lim, associate creative director at Splash Productions, to find out what the heroism is really about.
Tell us a little bit about the people behind this project.
The LOKAL HEROES is an initiative by the good people of Splash Productions. We’re a small (there’s about 20 of us) local design communications agency that’s proud to be local and passionate about all things Singaporean – you could say it’s our thing. So on top of our day-to-day work of ad campaigns, graphic design and creative strategy, we do self-initiated projects that capture local culture and address what’s happening in our society. Call us romantics, but our aim is to add value to Singapore society and Singaporeans through these projects.
The LOKAL HEROES is one such project we felt was worth doing.
Why are you doing this, and particularly in the lead up to National Day?
In a nutshell, because there are many among us in Singapore who do not get the fair credit they are due. We wanted to address that for a change this National Day.
You see lots of “poster boy” Singaporeans in the media this time of year – shiny celebs, smiley kids and perfect families. We wanted to throw the limelight on the alternative to these “model” citizens. To acknowledge the more unlikely people that we see around us everyday in modern Singapore.
The thing about these characters is that we might have overlooked, estranged, criticised or even outright vilified them at one time or another. Still, you just can’t deny that each of them play a part in keeping Singapore running, and running well. We wanted to acknowledge that. My hope is that in launching this series amidst the positive National Day vibe, we can make some real progress as a people toward being a more inclusive, less divisive society.
Where do you get funding from, and where would the proceeds go to?
This a 100% agency funded project. After all, it’s something we believe in and wanted to do ourselves. We’d be thrilled just to break even from the sale of the figurines.
Roadworker, maid, karang guni, security guard… Why focus on these few figures? You should also be aware that two of them do not necessarily represent Singaporeans.
Yes a few of them are not Singaporeans. We never sought to limit our tribute to Singaporeans.
Rather, this series was created to acknowledge the ones who work day in and out to shape our landscape, watch over what we hold dear and care for our families. Some of their jobs can be thankless at times. To a certain extent, one could argue that they do the work most Singaporeans would not want to do themselves.
Sure, we might get some flak for “hero-ing” these characters. But it’s all part of our purpose of getting Singaporeans to rethink their attitudes, and perhaps prejudices, towards these people among us. Because the fact is, each of these characters do play a critical role in keeping Singapore the first-class city that it is. Their work adds value to our lives. They deserve to be acknowledged on National Day.
Ok, the MP figure. You have to admit, not all will see this as a hero figure, not with the current political climate. Why choose him?
First off, note that the MP is of undefined party affiliation – we chose to do all the figurines in a gloss white finish to echo the look of stately statues. We are not for any particular party. We’re just for Singapore.
Anyway, yes. Some would see the dollop of irony for this particular figurine. That’s open to interpretation. For us, the fact is that many MPs, particularly those who work on the ground in our constituencies, do work hard to give their best to the citizens they serve. This I know from personal as well as professional experiences. Sure, some deserve the criticism they get, but not all. Perhaps this National Day, we can cut them some slack? After all, MPs are people and Singaporeans just like the rest of us.
Do you have plans to introduce more “lokal heroes”?
Sure! If this first series does well, I’d be thrilled to push for follow-ups. After all, there are so many others who deserve to be recognised for the part they play in Singapore. In fact, we’ll be asking for suggestions of who else we should feature for subsequent releases at our 8 August launch event. Be there to make yourself heard, yes?
Have you sought SG50 accreditation for your “lokal heroes”?
If you are referring to the SG50 Celebration Fund, no we did not. Looking at the criteria, we felt that this would probably not fly with the good folks at SG50. The featured foreign talent, for instance, will probably be a deal breaker. And we were pretty sure that the irony of Mr Politico would not be lost on evaluation committee.
Our objective was always to pay tribute to the “other guys” in Singapore. We decided to push through with that objective even if it meant no SG50 funding.
Tell us a bit more about other projects you have done.
As an agency, Splash is all for reflecting and documenting Singapore and Singaporean society in all its raw honest glory. And to showcase local issues and causes that need to be showcased.
To this end, we have done various other projects across different media platforms. Some include:
- “Don’t Leave Me, Sunshine” – A short film about the state of education and the pressure our kids are subjected to from a young age. Originally meant to be an art school corporate video, we decided to address the issue of the education rat-race in Singapore from a child’s perspective.
- “The Wayang Book” – A coffee-table book documenting the dying trade of 7th month opera performances.
- “Burning Devotion” – A follow up to “The Wayang Book”, this coffee-table book documents the act of burning paper effigies at Chinese funerals.
That’s just a sampling of the kind of self-funded local-centric projects we have been pushing for.
What else do you have in the pipeline? Can we expect something new from you for our nation’s 50 year-old bash?
Definitely! Besides our nation’s 50th birthday, next year is also Splash Productions’ 10th anniversary. So besides follow-up releases to the LOKAL HEROES, we’re looking to roll out a handful of projects and events to celebrate the occasion. What remains the same is the drive to do something that adds value and makes a difference to the local community.
In the meantime, do support the LOKAL HEROES.
To get your own LOKAL HEROES figure, or get more information and updates about the project, visit www.lokalheroes.sg or the project’s Facebook page.
Find out more about Splash Productions at www.splash.sg or follow their Facebook page.
And we leave you with a flashback of “Don’t Leave Me, Sunshine”, the video that moved more than a few Singaporeans parents.
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