“The world breaks everyone, then
“The world breaks everyone, then some become strong at the broken places.”
–Ernest Hemingway (1899–1961), American novelist
Beginnings is a celebration of beauty in life’s broken places. It is a toast to new beginnings that emerge from closure. It is a thanksgiving to life. It is a tribute to people – families, friends, doctors, nurses – walking side-by-side with cancer patients. Above all, it is an expression of gratitude to God for holding together family, friends and caregivers in life’s wounds and brokenness, from which new strength and profound beauty are born.
We have encountered brokenness in our lives. We have choices for surmounting setbacks. Some choose to stay in the brokenness; some simply deny and move on; yet others accept the fate and let light enter through the cracks – only to discover in the apparent destruction, beauty illuminated.
Admission to the exhibition is free. Artworks are on sale and 100% of proceeds will be donated in equal parts to Duke-NUS Medical School (thyroid cancer research) and Singapore Cancer Society.
Genesis of Beginnings by Suan Ong
My health had been good as a child and adult. I rarely fell ill in school and at work. My health screening results were excellent.
Who could have imagined that I should be struck with cancer?
In August 2011, I was diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer; and recurrence within six months. Shock rippled through my entire being when the doctor first broke the news to me.Thoughts and images zipped across my head at the possibility of…death. To me, then, cancer was death.
“I want to live,” I replied, instinctively.
Following three surgeries, two radioactive iodine treatments, and hours of reading and learning about cancer, I now know that it need not be terminal. It is an illness that can be treated if the patient chooses to believe in the knowledge of science, the efficacy of medicine, and the positive collaboration with doctors and nurses.
For me, the most life-changing decision I made, was to receive the love and support from the people who cared most for me; and to extend my willpower to overcome the disease, to get well, so that I can continue to live a life that is full, if not fuller, than before my diagnosis.
The three surgeries stripped 174 lymph nodes from my neck and chest. While I laid in the hospital bed recovering, the idea came to me to use the bean-shaped lymph nodes for pottery. They became the basic form for the collection of 174 pieces – symbolic of the loss, and the blessings that I received – that will be exhibited.
I embarked on this artistic journey with a clear idea of my final creations. However, I soon realised that clay does not “respond” when I “dictate” or “impose”. When fixated on an idea, I realised that I myself was not in my best form.
So I began to let go.
In letting go, I discovered kintsugi, the Japanese philosophy of valuing broken objects. Rather than destroy or hide the flaws, repairing an object where it is broken brings to it a new lease of life that is more valuable, more beautiful than the original form. I embraced kintsugi wholeheartedly. Previously, ever the perfectionist, I thought nothing of destroying works that cracked. I got distressed as each unsuccessful work delayed my goal to prepare174 ceramic works for the show.
Discovering, then accepting kintsugi, led me to the collection of works in Beginnings. It is a fitting metaphor for a way to confront and accept cancer that could potentially be terminal; and to find strength and beauty in the process of healing.
Beginnings began as a personal project. Along the way, my friends stepped forward and offered to help me in many ways so that the initiative has become “our” project. How apt! For in my journey to prevail over cancer, I had not been alone. My friends were always by my side.
This year, I celebrate my fifth anniversary as a cancer survivor. Beginnings is my way of extending deep appreciation to my family and friends for being with me. I am grateful to my doctors and nurses who made me feel as if I had been touched by angels while lying in hospital beds. Most of all, it is my way of extending my support for cancer patients who are fighting to survive.
I want them to know that they are not alone.
may 13 (Saturday) - 20 (Saturday)