“What is something that brought you joy today?” That’s the question one is encouraged to contemplate as one explores the website of HappyUrns, an initiative to help different groups of Singaporeans engage meaningfully with death and end-of-life topics with their loved ones. With team members Amanda Swee and Adya Sadanand, we have a thoughtful conversation about their three projects – “Residents’ Urns”, the “Celebration Kit”; and the “Life in a Year Book” – and for each project you’ll hear powerful stories and reflections of their design experiences and interpersonal interactions. This episode is a great complement to an earlier episode with representatives of “Both Sides, Now”, who work to normalise end-of-life conversations through artistic projects and public engagement.
“Grief doesn’t have an expiry date”: Normalising conversations around the end of life, death, and dying with dignity (Both Sides, Now’s “Kata-Kata Kita”)
Since 2013, “Both Sides, Now” has sought to normalise end-of-life conversations, by creating artistic projects and engaging Singaporeans at public locations such as hospitals, town centres, senior homes and HDB void decks. Last year, in 2021, the project researched and engaged the Malay community, culminating in the “Kata-Kata Kita” variety show. And behind this endeavour was a multi-disciplinary team of creatives and researchers, three of whom are with us today. With artistic director Kok Heng Leun, lead artist Adib Kosnan, and research team member Siti Hazirah Bte Mohamad, we chat about the genesis of “Both Sides, Now”, the experience of staging the “Kata-Kata Kita” variety show, and the project’s upcoming public engagement programme in Bedok this year.