Not easy to empathize

The ability to understand someone else’s feelings as if they were one’s own is not something we do easily and often. It is demanding and thankless. Perhaps that may explain why most of us are mainly concerned with the needs our own self and those of our immediate family. How others feel is hardly our interest. How about considering some empathy?

My exhibition of photos Empathy at KLPac closed on the 8 March. This third collection of images of people with disability doing their own thing in sports and in work, was on display for 7 weeks. During that time there were several write ups about the exhibition and one of the portraits of Siti Aishah made it to the front page of the Sunday People in the NST’s Sunday Times.

This media coverage of the disabled group gave all those people in this small and fragile community a much needed visual profile which they seldom get. The Star newspaper’s writer Tan Karr Wei also wrote about the portraitures with understanding.

Then there was Elaine Lau from the Option of the Edge who also gave a voice to this often voiceless fellow citizens. Ng Suzhen from the Malay Mail was the first to put this story in her CyberSpot page. The Chinese press too especially the writer Chee Nyuk Yan from Nanyang Siang Pau gave this group a center spread in their Sunday edition and this was followed by Sin Chew Daily‘s reporter Ten Yien Hsia’s news of the event. I was also invited to talk about the exhibition on TV3’s Malaysia Hari Ini morning magazine show.

After all the effort of first going out to get the cooperation of all my disabled friends to allow me to photograph them, and then to mount and promote the visibility of the subject to a larger public, it had dawn on me that this project of promoting a little more empathy for others, has been all a group effort by everyone who has been involved. This is also a note of thanks to all of you. Now I am beginning to understand.

With a little help from my friends

Peter Tan was happy with the portrait I did of him at the Sentral Train Terminal in Kuala Lumpur. On that day that I took his picture he and some of his friends were there testing out the various facilities to measure their disable friendliness for persons like him.

Part of the group of people at the Saturday party, doing their own thing, having lunch or talking with some friends etc.

On the right, Wairah was showing some of the artworks done by her daughter Nurul. Next, Jenny Tan was also  showing works of her son Seng Kit to all those at the party.

My friends, from the left, Charlie, Chong and Carmen, who drought the mandarin oranges, all came to give us some help with the party.

To arrange a social gathering like this  I needed a lot of help from my friends and many of them came to help and to join in the fun and the friendship.

Saturday Party 7 Feb 2009

Nala, far left, conducting a game for some of the people who came to the party at KLpac.

The MAB Blind harmonica group playing some music for the gathering

From right, Peter Tan, Christine Lee, Wuan & friend having lunch

This party, last Saturday, in conjunction with my photographic exhibition at the KLPac, was part of the celebration of understanding over ignorance of the others in our midst. We invited about 100 persons from a few different disabled groups, young and old, in the Kuala Lumpur area, to this social gathering. There was music, food, games, walks, a tour of the KLPac complex and lots of conversations and exchanges among the various groups.

Some of them are meeting new friends for the first time and many others are meeting for the second time since last year when I had an exhibition of my second collection and also had a party like this. In many way it was enlightening experience for everyone to meet so many different sorts and shapes of friends in one room.

And there were many friends who helped us make this gathering a success.

From left, Numpueng (my wife) and our dear friend May and her family who helped out with the food and drinks and all the other goodies, especially the delicious cup cakes, for that day.

From left, Numpueng, Jesmine, Victor, Azlan A Azlzee and his two children help out with the setting up and getting the party started.