By Catherine Ong

Art in this world cannot be created without a few key elements – passion, emotion and creativity. An artist would be expected to be passionate, emotionally involved and of course creative.

I however think that art can also be created through curiosity and observation.

Growing up, the labels “responsible”, “duty” and “make your family proud” were attached to me quite firmly. The unpleasant side effects of wanting to stray from those labels resulted in glares, tuts of the tongue and a Tiger-mom response of,

Just do what I tell you to do.

There’s no future in what you want to do.

Eventually my mother came home one day with an electric keyboard to quench my curiosity and stop me from asking for music lessons. I had no knowledge of reading music manuscripts so through sheer observation and many rounds of Sound of Music to bolster my confidence, I learnt to play music through jotting down numbers 1 – 7 for the musical notes in order to play my favourite Hong Kong drama theme songs. As I got older, through observation yet again I learnt to play the guitar by using my pillow to mimic guitar strumming to YouTube tutorials. The “strumming” made my hearing extra sensitive to the upwards and downwards strumming of a guitar despite not owning an acoustic guitar to this very day!

Fast forward to now, I discovered that art stems from curiosity and observation. I never really learned art through any formal or paid lessons at a school. I was never limited by my choices to express my art. So now my art comes and presents itself in many forms such as photographs, videos, writing, penned down poems, song lyrics, composing digital tunes or anything that tickles my curiosity. I observed and realised through the years that by joining a conversation, I’m also able to bounce with ideas and come up with better ones as I rode on that wave of creativity to create something else. I believe understanding the “push and pull” of art creates conversation between people and is important especially when you need to work creatively with each other.

Just like my initials C and O, I want to start the art of C and O in other people’s lives as well through MAHILA. I want people to be curious and I want them to observe what MAHILA has to bring to the conversation for women through The Arts.

MAHILA is that perfect platform for me as it came forth amidst a conversation of women from all walks of life experiences and backgrounds. MAHILA allows me to unleash my creativity as I run with other people’s stories and take that inspiration to the next level whether it is through the means of the performing arts, literary work, meeting modern real-life women who kick-ass or to also discover the value that I too bring to the cause that MAHILA stands for.