Speeches/Interviews

September 01, 2018

Speech by Assoc Prof Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education, at the NAFA Convocation Ceremony

NAFA Board Chairman Ms Low Sin Leng,

NAFA Board Members,

NAFA President Mr Chia Mia Chiang,

Second Secretary of the Peru Embassy, Mr Jorge Garcia,

Parents and Graduands,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Introduction

1. A very good morning to all. It is my pleasure to join you on this happy occasion. I always look forward to attending convocation ceremonies. Let me start by extending my warmest congratulations to the graduating class of 2018.

2. I have always believed that it takes a lot of courage for an individual to walk down the creative arts path. It is a path often mired in uncertainty and requires grit as well as dedication. You have to constantly contend with creative self-doubt and face scepticism from those who, out of love and concern, worry whether you can establish yourself in the arts and make meaningful contributions to the community. Yet today, seated before all of us, are 134 individuals with the courage to seek the road less travelled. Your presence today is a reflection of your pride, resolve, drive and passion – key elements that are essential for success in life. To me, this is indeed a promising start.

3. As you receive your scrolls today, take heart that NAFA has equipped you with a strong foundation for the road ahead. It has nurtured in you, a critical mind by allowing you to explore difficult questions and ideas. It has groomed you into effective communicators through lively debates with your lecturers and fellow classmates. It has sharpened your technical mastery of your craft through challenging projects. Most importantly, I hope it has sparked an unwavering desire in you to contribute to the community’s vibrancy through the arts.

4. One of NAFA’s key educational objectives, is to cultivate in its students, a sense of social awareness and responsibility to the community. Hence, NAFA organises activities such as the recent Painting Smiles Initiative, which provides NAFA students with the opportunity to brighten up community spaces for residents in the Bras Basah area with vibrant, lovingly-painted murals. Such gestures allow the arts to become accessible to all, and enable people to come together to enjoy, to converse, and to make meaningful connections. This is how a community grows as one, and institutions like NAFA make that happen.

Contribution to Community

5. Contributing to the community can take many forms and I encourage all of you to find the most meaningful approach to accomplish this. Your education at NAFA has given you the tools, but it is up to you to decide how best to use them. One of your seniors, Mr Chua Yew Kok, has given back to the community by preserving and growing a traditional art form. He is a well-known pipa concert soloist who has won both local and international awards. Beyond his performances that have gained him recognition, Mr Chua was spurred to co-found a Chinese chamber music ensemble, to explore ways of harmonising contemporary and traditional interpretations of Chinese music. For his efforts, Mr Chua was awarded the 2013 Young Artist Award, Singapore’s highest accolade for arts practitioners aged 35 and below. Without people like Mr Chua championing these art forms, our community will lose vital parts of our cultural heritage, a huge loss for us, and most importantly, for our future generations. So as you step out today, please remember that you are empowered to play a key role in building and growing our community.

Learning Throughout Life

6. It is heartening to note that those who have come before you, who have danced in the same corridors and painted in the same studios in NAFA, have gone on to achieve success. Their success has come about with hard work, a never-ending drive to seek new knowledge, new ways of thinking and seeing. And this is the second thing I wish to highlight as you embark on your journey – that this motivation to engage in lifelong learning is very precious and important. It ensures that you will grow constantly. Never cast it aside even as you hang up your graduation gowns tonight.

7. When we seek to learn, we challenge our own entrenched perspectives and habits. This is a difficult thing to do as you get older, but one that remains necessary for growth. It is only with such deliberate practice that we become better, whether as artists or as a person. Some of you here today, are testaments to this drive to learn throughout life. At 55, Ms Ho Seok Kee’s age and a lack of past experience in the arts did not deter her from signing up for two part-time certificate courses at NAFA. Her time at NAFA’s Centre for Lifelong Education spurred her on to enroll as a full-time student so that she could realise her dreams of a second career in art-making. Ms Ho did exceptionally well and she is graduating amongst you as the Best Graduate for NAFA’s Fine Art Degree programme. I hope that she inspires you to pick up new skills and perspectives and to never rest on your laurels. Only with this determination to learn, can we hope to be better people, a better society, a better nation.

Conclusion

8. I am happy that you have achieved and made good progress in life. When I was sitting there earlier, I could see happy faces of your families and friends. I would like to thank all of them for giving their fullest support to you. And I think it is their support, love, care and concern that made this possible and as a society, we should acknowledge that. I would also like to thank our NAFA lecturers and the Board for continuing to believe in our people and equip them with the necessary skills.

9. Some parents shared with me that they can’t believe their children have progressed so well. I am confident that with the dedication and capabilities of our NAFA lecturers to train and equip our graduands with the necessary abilities, we will continue to develop the arts scene in Singapore.

10. The road less travelled is wilder, and the directions to take may not always be clear. But you are not alone. Those who have graduated before you faced similar challenges, and yet, they have contributed in their own unique and meaningful ways to the arts scene, industry and community in Singapore and beyond. Believe that you possess the ability to chart new territories. Continue to dream big and make them a reality, because your creations will contribute to the development of Singaporean art and pave the way for budding local art practitioners in the future.

11. I end off, with my heartiest congratulations to every one of you, and wish you the very best for the journey ahead. Thank you.