Searching for ‘The Voice’ in my dream
“The Conscious is the Presence of God. Is World Harmony Day the voice that I had heard in my dream?”- Sunflower Chong
This book dedicated to Palestine because The Voice in my dream is to FREE PALESTINE!
Am I A Dreamer?
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Emerson
I was truly moved by Arundhati Roy’s words, who said (or words to that effect) “the World is changing… on a quiet day I can almost hear it breathe …” Similarly, when I looked at a building or a piece of land, it comes ‘alive’ to me and I can sense a meaning from its design and see it ‘breathe life’ into the people. If I am brave enough to add on…I also sense that this tiny red dot called Singapore will one day be a ‘live university’ for the world especially in fostering true harmony.
I know that the World is changing and will be changing (I’m not talking the Buddhist sense of things being impermanent) in spite and despite us. But rather than being a bystander, or one who remains inspired, I want so much to be in ‘spirit’ and in the act of this ‘great change’. I want to be part of this change and if possible be the one to influence these great changes. To change the world I start by changing my mindset by taking a proactive stand to the environment around me.
In 1993 I attended the Arts dialogue session held by Mr. Kao Pao Kun at the Substation to speak my mind even I am just an ordinary person and I caught the attention of Miss Vivienne Khoo from Elle magazine. Below is the article was written by her for the Elle magazine that appeared in 1993.
Sunflower Chong makes her presence felt with her passionate rhetoric and resonant voice. Pushing 40, she has the wisdom of years but, she reminds anyone listening, an incomplete ‘O’ level certificate. “Wisdom does not come from books but from observing life,” Chong declares.
At first encounter, it is hard to decide whether or not this woman should be labeled a kook. She could well be mistaken for one. In her self-crocheted tunic hanging awry on her slight frame, she caused a stir when she stood up during a forum on the arts and announced: “My name is Sunflower.” People turned to see who this unlikely name belonged to. Like her name, she is unusual. Turning her back on the very Singaporean requisites of owning car and house, Chong says she clothes herself in $20 getups from Clementi housing estate so she can realize her dream of giving $ 1 million to the arts. She certainly puts her money where her mouth is. Almost all the money she makes as a middleman for building projects is made available to budding artists whose works she considers inspiring. Over the past two years, she has donated $50,000 to the Substation.
Her artistic warp and woof have many strands to it, one of them quite loopy. She admits knitting is a substitute for a husband. “Sex is tiring. I don’t have a man because I want to concentrate on working for the people of Singapore. So I spend a lot of nights knitting.” Incidentally, there are 40 pastel sweaters in her closet.
Her self-sacrificing public service mission involves drawing up blueprints, which she commissioned a reputable architectural firm Sami Mousawi from England to carry out, for a new building to house the National Library. Chong has submitted her model to the Singapore government, the New York Public library and the Royal Institute of British Architects for constructive comments. So far Chong has received some favorable responses.
She is currently awaiting approval for her plans for the library. “Building breathes spirit into the people. Architecture is the perfect key to their hearts. Why should we settle for buildings which are merely functional?” She wants to have a public library big enough to feed the souls of’ all three million Singaporean citizens. “As a people, we are not confident of who we are. We are still searching for the meaning of the word Singaporean. My library will help in the building up of our identity. I dreamt of this pyramid which would be a storehouse brimming with information and had a three tier roof similar to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.”
She traces her desire to help people to her early days living out a Cinderella existence with her parents and five brothers and a sister. She believes her childhood was scarred by unfair treatment, which always left her asking ‘Why?’ Her fancies often ignited the fury of her parents. She recalls a disastrous incident: “Inspired by the story of Robin Hood, I decided to steal money from my father and give it to the neighborhood children. When they found out, my father brought me to the Esplanade and threatened to throw me into the river. I was unpopular with my teachers too. I think they mistook my constant questioning as symptoms of an urge to cause trouble.” She has recently come to the conclusion that she will always be misunderstood in Singapore but takes heart that ‘prophets’ have always been misunderstood in their own land.
As a teenager, she had a difficult time at New Town Secondary School where she had witnessed the grating relationship between Chinese and English-speaking students. Reading the situation as the Government’s effort to homogenize society, she took it upon herself to smooth things out between the two factions. As a progression, she has elected herself as the arbitrator between the Government and the artistic community. She has often urged artists to let the Government concentrate on ‘feeding the citizens’ stomachs’ before they start feeding their intellect and tells politicians that art is the only way through which they can reach the people. “Art is powerful, it can change the course of history,” she says in a broadcaster’s voice, even when talking to an audience of one.
Chong’s convictions are also channeled into her writings. She has written an as yet unpublished autobiography My Lifelong Dream replete with illustrations, one of them a surreal photomontage of herself as a child riding a magic carpet over yucca plants and a red sun. Poetry written by her children when they were eight is also in the book as a testament to her ability as a mother. She has taken pains to nurture her children’s artistic inclinations. Son Gabriel, 14-year-old plays the piano and 12-year-old Greta plays the guzheng and piano too. Both children tap dance.
Parental devotion apparently does not distract her from her civic dedication as does having a husband. Yet, one of Chong’s poem poignantly reveals her feelings after her escape in 1983 from a Lebanese aluminum contractor: “Giving them a future without a father/ was never my answer/ except that time will tell what I am after.” She explains: “Noble ideas are achieved by one person working alone. Look at what Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has done for Singapore”