#HerWorldHerStory: This Singapore artist created art inspired by her sisters with special needs

by Hayley Tai & Cheong Wen Xuan  /   June 29, 2020

She hopes to create more learning opportunities for people with similar conditions as her sisters


#HerWorldHerStory is a collection of 60 women sharing their successes, passions, challenges, inspirations, hopes and dreams. Together, they give a snapshot of what it is to be a woman today.

Every month from March till August, we present 10 women navigating their lives now – and in their own words. This is Nur Aida Sa’ad’s story…

#HerWorldHerStory: Singapore artist created art inspired by her sisters with special needs

When I was younger, I had to deal with broken glass and cutlery thrown on the floor because of my sisters’ fits. Aisha, who’s 19, has autism and Sheila, 23, has 18q, which is a chromosomal disorder. I was very frustrated at first, but I grew to love and understand them more over time. My sisters’ little quirks have become the main inspiration for my work as an artist. I also work full-time as a junior art director in an ad agency.

Aisha’s obsession with rainbows was the inspiration for the Hullabaloo project at the Artground, a rainbow-themed playground installation for children that ran from August 2018 to January 2019 at Goodman Arts Centre. Her fixation on rainbows is typical of the way people with autism find comfort in repetition and routine, but it’s an expression of her inner world, and really very creative.

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Last year, my installation Rubberband Land in Hanoi, commissioned by Singapore Tourism Board, was inspired by Sheila who likes to fiddle with a rubber band and twist it around her fingers to make shapes. She helps me see magic in everyday things!

In 2018, I drew a series of comics based on my sisters and the mayhem at home when our parents left for a religious pilgrimage to Mecca. It was so well received on Instagram that I compiled all 70 comics into a book titled Magic and Mischief.

#HerWorldHerStory: Singapore artist created art inspired by her sisters with special needs

But I’ve a bigger dream: to involve my sisters and their friends in my work processes, from training them for tasks (like sewing) in a sheltered workshop to using their drawings, voices and ideas as inputs for bigger pieces.

One of the biggest problems people with special needs face is that not all will qualify for jobs after graduating, and they can’t find meaningful activity to do for most of their adult lives.

I’m always thinking of ways that would allow my siblings (and the wider community) to lead self-sustaining lives in the future.

This article was first published in Her World’s June issue.