Experience Human Wisdom as Art

A collection of artworks created by 10 South-east Asian artists based on life lessons from across the world.

Seema Devi (2017/2017)Project FUEL

For over a decade now, we at Project FUEL have been collecting life lessons of people from variegated walks of life. Over the years, as we have interacted with over thousands of people spanning geographies, we have come to understand that if given the opportunity, everyone has something of value to offer to the world from their experience.

It was only when the world unified in the wake of the COVID-19 that we realized how imperative and urgent the need was to investigate this quest further. We wanted to feel more hopeful ourselves despite the odds of the rising toll of those infected or running the risk being flashed in the news and spoken at every dinner table. We wanted to share a resource with the world that was both rooted in reality yet crafted with intention and imagination.

World Wisdom Map (2020) by Nori NorbhuProject FUEL

As a result of our reflections, the World Wisdom Map was born. A unique breathing repository of life lessons from 195 countries of the world. 

In partnership with Singapore International Foundation, the map launched on 25th December 2020 as a Christmas and New Year’s present to the world. Curating the wisdom of the world is no menial task. It required our constant commitment, enthusiasm and utmost attention. 

Apart from the life lessons, we took the difficulty bar a notch higher and decided to bring more depth to the exercise, by designing 30 life lessons from different countries into original artworks. 

10 South-East Asian artists joined hands and gave an artistic twist to each story that resonated with them in this remarkable exhibition.

Scroll down to explore 10 highlighted artworks from the World Wisdom Map.

Artwork inspired by Jaytirth Ahya's story (2020) by CincinProject FUEL

Cincin

Inspired by the life lesson of Jaytirth Ahya from India, "Make awesome mistakes." 


Read the story behind Jay's life lesson here.

Inspired by the story of Jaytirth Ahya from India about his entrepreneurial journey and the many setbacks and successes he encountered, Cincin gave birth to this piece.

Artwork inspired by Jaytirth Ahya's story (2020) by CincinProject FUEL

The Taiwan based artist shared that the concept behind the piece was, "When we keep walking in this world, we hold what we had, draw the maps where we have been, and keep on walking." 

"I like the idea that he built up his life above the mistakes he has made, that I decided to show those concepts with the images of maps."

Artwork by inspired by Sudhanshu's story (2020) by EorGProject FUEL

EorG

Inspired by the life lesson of Sudhanshu from Indonesia, "Be a friend. Always." 

Read the story behind Sudhanshu’s life lesson here.

Indonesia based, Evelyn Ghozalli, popularly known as EorG, who has illustrated more than 80 children’s stories, built upon the story of a fellow Indonesian, Sudhanshu, who recounted, "In school, a friend of mine committed suicide. I used to be very busy in that year and kept brushing him off when he wanted to talk about his problems (which we never found out about) and I have since always wondered if I could have intervened, if I could have made things different by just listening once."

Artwork by inspired by Sudhanshu's story (2020) by EorGProject FUEL

The concept behind this poignant artwork, Evelyn says, was to use symbols that have that literal and metaphorical value, “I used shadow and orientation as the key elements. Here, Sudhanshu is with his friend, regretting what if it were... and probably wished if he could turn back the time."

"So I took 'turn back', 'time', 'regret' and the origin of the country, 'Indonesia' as the keywords. When the reality is turned upside down below, the regret with wish and sadness is the focal point."

"Using Batik Slobog as a symbol of sadness... while inside the batik pattern, there is time, which, sadly, is gone in reality."

Artwork inspired by Elim Chew's story (2020) by Francis SollanoProject FUEL

Francis Sollano

Inspired by the life lesson of Elim Chew from Singapore, "See things from your heart, and not just with your eyes."

Read the story behind Elim’s life lesson here.

Co-founder of Youth for Livable Communities (YLC) and multi-disciplinary creative, Francis Sollano, has been promoting sustainability advocacies and nation-building in the Philippines. He was touched by the story of Singaporean public figure, Elim Chew laced in her myriad experiences in the entrepreneurship world.

Artwork inspired by Elim Chew's story (2020) by Francis SollanoProject FUEL

Giving a context to his art Francis writes: “As what Elim has shared, 'When you see things with your heart, and you do things with your heart, you put everything into it, versus just doing things for the sake of it'.” 

"This visual rendering of Elim Chew features two contrasting elements – the linear urban landscape and seemingly organic cardiac forms. I am trying to visualize that while it is difficult to marry passion and financial stability, it is actually possible."

"This piece of thought speaks volumes of how others are fortunate enough to be working on things they love to do, while others aren’t as fortunate, perhaps by circumstance or other life factors."

"Like that of those organic shapes becoming the foundation of those structures (which represent work), we are able to say that passion at our work can reawaken and realign us to what is meaningful for us."

Artwork inspired by Jillian Mari Harris's story (2020) by Harshad MaratheProject FUEL

Harshad Marathe

Inspired by the life lesson of Jillian Mari Harris from Trinidad and Tobago, "An oak tree will never have to tell you it's an Oak Tree."

Read the story behind Jillian’s life lesson here.

A simple yet profound proverb, “An oak tree will never have to tell you it's an Oak Tree” encouraged, Mumbai based award-winning illustrator and painter, Harshad Marathe to speak, through his art, about the truth and the importance of living authentically, and understanding that there is a difference between what one is and what one says or thinks about oneself.

Artwork inspired by Jillian Mari Harris's story (2020) by Harshad MaratheProject FUEL

Taking a cue from this life lesson of Jillian Mari Harris, Harshad shares, "My idea was to show a woman, as well as other creatures unravelling through the form of an oak tree."

"It looks like she’s pushing away a tapestry-like facade that is the oak tree, to reveal something that’s actually true, a more complex picture."

"On the first impression, one may see a tree, but as one looks closely, the different details and complexities become visible."

Artwork inspired by Mazzan Al Farsi's story (2020) by Janhavi SharmaProject FUEL

Janhavi Sharma

Inspired by the life lesson of Mazzan Al Farsi from Oman, "Downfalls and hard times will always teach you about the ones who really care - but keep in mind that everyone shows it in different ways."

Read the story behind Mazzan’s life lesson here.

The premise of Mazzan Al Farsi’s life lesson from Oman is embedded in emotional, physical and mental hardships after she was diagnosed with an illness called systemic lupus erythematosus that left her paralyzed. It was the care people showed Jillian in different ways during this period and her introspection about it, that moved Indian artist Janhavi Sharma to pick the metaphor of mirror and hands.

Artwork inspired by Mazzan Al Farsi's story (2020) by Janhavi SharmaProject FUEL

Expressing her journey Janhavi adds, “My heart was so full when I read about her journey through her illness, the judgements and hardships she’s had to endure. I wanted to focus, though, on where she is now, her gratitude and acknowledgement of the hands that helped her, her unique story and growth."

"How she sees herself is the story that attracted me, and that’s what I tried to recreate."

"I think all women have in some quantity or the other, are made to grapple with this constantly shifting shapes of people’s perception, for whatever they might do, for who they are. And nothing is more empowering than soaring beyond, and being authentic to self."

Artwork inspired by Nurizzatul Izzah Hj Abd Rahman's story (2020) by Kenneth ChinProject FUEL

Kenneth Chin

Inspired by the life lesson of Nurizzatul Izzah Hj Abd Rahman from Brunei Darussalam, "If you are at the lowest point of the ocean, you can stay there at the bottom until you drown or you gather pearls and rise again."

Read the story behind Ms. Rahman's life lesson here.

Kenneth Chin, a 24 year old Deaf but speaking self-taught artist based in Singapore, has been drawing since he was 3 years old. Before COVID, he was a fervent traveller, visiting many countries to experience different people and culture. He picked the story of Nurizzatul Izzah Hj Abd Rahman from Brunei Darussalam to craft his artwork, ingrained in the resilience and wisdom of Rahman’s experience in leading Brunei Youth Council as its first-ever chairwoman.

Artwork inspired by Nurizzatul Izzah Hj Abd Rahman's story (2020) by Kenneth ChinProject FUEL

Chin explains, "Brunei is a Muslim Southeast Asian country so I decided to paint a traditionally dressed lady to show our world cultural diversity. The story the author wrote seems tough on her that she had a huge responsibility on her shoulders."

"I decided to take what she wrote for her life lesson literally. Instead of coming up with a new idea, I focussed on the advantage illustration has over a photograph, that photographs can’t recreate."

"I painted her rising towards the ocean’s surface with the pearls that are supposed to be pulling her down in reality. I created a dynamic perspective of looking from down upwards, of her towards the ocean’s surface." 

"Different postures and poses of the character were explored before this was chosen. I painted lines of movement around her to create the spontaneity and her drive towards success."

Artwork inspired by Kat's story (2020) by Kitty RitigProject FUEL

Kitty Ritig

Inspired by the life lesson of Kat from Norway, "Take one thing at a time and focus on finishing the small tasks that together make the final goal."

Read the story behind Kat’s life lesson here.

When Kat from Norway found herself stressed at school, her dad always asked her: "How do you eat an elephant?" To which the answer is one bite at a time.
It’s a universal emotion to feel staggering pressure in dealing with various areas of our life. Sri Lankan artist, Kitty Ritig, used this very common thread to relate to Kat’s story and added the element of humour to visualise it.

Artwork inspired by Kat's story (2020) by Kitty RitigProject FUEL

She writes, "All of us are aware of how overwhelming challenges can be, either academic or in personal life. The dad from the story was creative to use the analogy of how to eat an elephant, that imagery struck my mind."

"I visualised it as how overwhelming it would be if a person is requested to finish a heap of food."

"Yet the only sensible thing to be done is one bite at a time. There's no other way around it, isn't it?" 

Artwork inspired by Sara Sibai's story (2020) by Nori NorbhuProject FUEL

Nori Norbhu

Inspired by the life lesson of Sara Sibai, from Lebanon, "How we choose to suffer makes all the difference."


Read the story behind Sara’s life lesson here.

Lebanese Poet, Sara Sibai, learnt, early on, some earnest truths about suffering. She learnt that how we choose to suffer makes all the difference. The astonishing actuality of Sara’s epiphany resonated with Indian illustrator and visual designer, Nori Norbhu.

Artwork inspired by Sara Sibai's story (2020) by Nori NorbhuProject FUEL

Borrowing inspiration from the story, Nori shares, "The artwork represents different people and their perspective of suffering."

"The stem interconnecting each hand represents suffering and turmoil, while the pale white moon represents positivity."

"It's in the hands of the observer to focus on what to look at and how they would want to interpret it."

Artwork inspired by Johan Petit's story (2020) by Sarah KaushikProject FUEL

Sarah Kaushik

Inspired the life lesson of Johan Petit from Belgium, "Stop at the red light."

Read the story behind Johan’s life lesson here.

The world is a constant rush, an undefined race to get to the next glory point. How often do we celebrate an unexpected pause, even if it means 60 seconds at a traffic signal? The life lesson and story of Johan Petit from Belgium holds harsh veracity about stillness and giving up on our need for irrational control.

Sarah Kaushik, an Indian artist currently pursuing a Masters in Scenography in the Netherlands delved not just in the story but the background of Johan’s learning.

Artwork inspired by Johan Petit's story (2020) by Sarah KaushikProject FUEL

Throwing a light at her process of interpreting this layered life lesson, Sarah explains, "It is important to me as an artist, to delve into the mindset of the author to interpret their letters. Where are they coming from, how are they feeling, what is the mood of the text?"

"Are they narrating a tale set in the daytime or at night? Are they observing a scene from a distance, or are staged in it?"

"Perhaps most of the time the story always makes the author see things from a distance, a zoomed out version of their life even though they may be in the middle of it all."

"All these aspects help me to define the color palette of the visual, the multiple elements that become a part of the whole."

Artwork inspired by Mehroz Hussain's story (2020) by Tanya KotnalaProject FUEL

Tanya Kotnala

Inspired by the life lesson of Mehroz Hussain from Pakistan, "Believe in yourself, believe your healing process."

Read the story behind Mehroz's life lesson here.

Healing is a complex process, it’s representation even more. Tanya Kotnala, an illustrator, fashion designer and a textile lover from Uttarakhand, was inspired by the story of Mehroz Hussain from Pakistan who shared: “I do have something to share which I realized last year when I was fighting from tuberculosis. Alhumdulilah, I survived. To those people who are losing hope, the best version of you isn't going to be build overnight. It comes with pain, nothingness, insecurities, stress. To become the best version of you, you've to go through all of this. Just never lose hope and never depend on other people to rescue you. I'm saying this because I've tried, in the end only you safe yourself.”

Artwork inspired by Mehroz Hussain's story (2020) by Tanya KotnalaProject FUEL

Adopting Hussain’s sentiment, Tanya’s illustration symbolizes the elements of self-reflection and healing. She writes, "While creating this illustration the artist was deeply inspired by a beautiful quote by Rumi that reads, 'The wound is the place where the light enters you'.

"The insight for this illustration technique is derived from the vintage whimsical tarot card illustrations that tend to grant its onlooker the freedom to make their own perception of what it might mean."

"Going deeper than just what it reads, resonating with it and a tender belief to have probably lived it."

Credits: Story

The artworks have been inspired by stories of people featured on the World Wisdom Map. More such artworks by the artists featured in this exhibit can be viewed here.

World Wisdom Map is conceptualised by Project FUEL, in association with Singapore International Foundation.

Artists-
Cincin, EorG, Francis Sollano, Harshad Marathe, Janhavi Sharma, Kenneth Chin, Kitty Ritig, Nori Norbhu, Sarah Kaushik, and Tanya Kotnala

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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