Faizal and Tom
Artist and Grassroot Activist
Artist Faizal Amir and Whampoa CACC Chairman Tom Bay come from different worlds. They form an enduring bond working together on a Chingay50 mini float, tapping on each other’s strengths to bring the float alive, and rallying the community behind them.
It looked like an unlikely partnership between an artist who runs his own company, Creative Box, and a Singapore Airlines Engineer Supervisor who is a long-time grassroot activist and leader.
But they came together to work on the Chingay50 Mini Float representing Jalan Besar GRC and Potong Pasir SMC and tapped on each other’s strengths to make a success of their project titled Branches of Dreams.
The Artist and His Vision
This was Faizal Amir’s first actual brush with Chingay, having taken up an open call for bids for the Chingay50 Mini Float project.
In his words: “It was worth a try, why not?” And soon after he was accepted, he started proposing a design for the 3D art installation, which he envisioned to be a tree of life, full of branches containing the aspirations of the people.
“Branches of Dream is a symbol of growth, chosen to be a main focal point of the installation”, said Faizal.
“The tree is made of pallet wood. As far as possible, I use recycled materials for the project, infusing into it the fengshui elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water to create that energy in the project and also to harmonise nature into it.
“I chose batik as the main medium for the decoration, introducing an element more common in the Malay community into the project.
Up Stepped The Engineer
Tom’s involvement with Chingay dates back to the early 1980s when he was a grassroot youth chairman, leading the Peoples’ Association Youth Movement,
“We enjoyed practising for the street parade,” he recalls. “It was easier then to get people involved, and I managed to gather around 100 youths for Chingay. We learned to dance and practised at the old PA Headquarters at Old Airport Road.
“Over the years, I got more and more involved, and the activities varied as we learned drumming, crocheting, making big banners… and we also helped to teach the community, and sometimes worked overnight to get ready for a media conference.”
Problem Solving Together
While the 60 residents had fun building the Mini Float together, they were not to envisage the difficulties ahead.
“Using recycled material was a challenge”, recalls Faizal. “One example is how we use nylon fishing lines to tie the batik artwork onto the tree, but during the rehearsal, there were strong winds and the batik flew all over the place. We re-tied them using wire instead.”
And then there was the representation of the three rivers within Jalan Besar GRC: the Singapore, Kallang and Whampoa Rivers.
Tom explains, “We used the artificial carpet grass to form the contour of the landscape, a bit of hill here and there. But the water in the river was not so straightforward… we couldn’t use real water. So, we adapted by using acrylic sheets, and lights to create the waves. That worked a treat!”
“The chemistry was already there from the first meeting”, said Faizal. “I had this very strong sense that I can really work with Tom. He’s very passionate and keeps improvising ideas on how to make the design nicer.”
Tom adds, “We sync well together and can discuss openly what’s right and wrong.
“I have plenty of resources, and he is a good person to work with. Now that I know an artist better, I know who to call on when I need ideas or inspiration!”
Hope and Dreams For Chingay
For Tom, innovation is the key to keep the spirit of Chingay alive and strong. “Even though Chingay is tied to Lunar New Year, Singapore is a multiracial country,” he notes, “so I hope to see ideas that wow every year.”
Faizal’s involvement has strengthened his commitment to community bonding. “I hope Chingay can make community bonds stronger in the future”, he says. “I hope more people can get involved and understand one another better.”