Just like how the letter “A” precedes others in the alphabet, every meaningful conversation begins with a viewpoint.
This is the second of a two-part series. Read the first part here.
Avant-GardeGenevieve Peggy Jeffs
“Avant-garde is not just being modern. It’s being forward-thinking and going beyond the conventional to create something of your design.
Finding avant-garde looks that are attractive is something that’s within me. I have quite a different take on fashion, whether it’s a dress, headgear, makeup or even shoes. If I go shopping and observe that everyone wants to buy a certain item, I will refuse to do the same as I have my own identity and sense of what I want. This can be difficult when I’m invited to a shopping event because as much as I may want to support a brand, I can’t force myself to purchase something that’s out of character.
People may appreciate the beauty of avant-garde designs but shy away from them as they may appear to be unwearable. But for me, the more outrageous a design is, the more I’m drawn to it! And I wear them all naturally, instead of feeling shy or self-conscious. I choose what I like and what is comfortable for me, and that’s how I style myself. I don’t force myself to be a slave to fashion, I don’t let fashion lead me, and I know exactly what I want.”
“I’ve run an NGO doing free eye clinics and care for underprivileged communities for about a decade. We also teach, educate and train their eyecare professionals so they can be self-sustaining. But in the last few years, I’ve moved some of my focus to research, advocacy and policy-making work.
Advocacy broadens your impact, and you help people see that sometimes, issues are interconnected rather than competing. A programme for blindness prevention could also impact gender equality, for example. I’m quite passionate about advocacy work as it gives a broader view of the work on the ground I’ve always been doing.
It is equally important to have a seat at the table and learn how to engage, raise awareness and bring stakeholders — doctors, governments, healthcare networks and more — together and go to an agency like the World Health Organization and say, ‘This issue is important.’ In my limited lifetime, I can help only a finite number with eyecare. But through research and advocacy, I can reach more people.
Advocacy work can’t be translated into dollars and cents. To have that voice is important. Hopefully, I can make enough of a difference. Every avenue should be explored, and as I become more senior in my field, my voice can become more valuable.”
“Covid-19 has made us aware that family and human interaction are key to survival and mental well-being. Not only are nations being ravaged by a virus, natural disasters are becoming more frequent and intense, and long dormant exclusionary sentiments are being unleashed with increasing visibility. Amid this instability, I believe we must not succumb to the temptation to alienate ‘others’ when we feel insecure or threatened. Instead, we must fight back against hostility to make sure we all feel that we have a place in society.
We can do so by engaging in conversations with those whom we might not regularly interact with or through gestures as simple as giving others the benefit of the doubt and thinking the best of others when uncertainties arise. We should respect each other’s culture and not superimpose our own values as doctrines. Not only will we benefit when we choose to see people in terms of our commonalities instead of our differences, but by extending empathy to others and paying it forward, it is sure to come back to us one day.
Growing up in poverty, I have experienced alienation personally. Because of that, my husband and I decided to learn and understand how philanthropy can help facilitate or make critical changes to those who need help and equip them to survive out of their own odds. We joined the Asia Philanthropy Circle, working and learning alongside those who have done that and continue to do this through our common goal: encouraging dialogue and cooperation. Not only have I learnt so much but I’ve also witnessed such heart-warming moments of connection, engagement and enlightenment.”
“Art is everywhere. What we need to do is to slow down, and art can bring joy to people. Nobody hates beautiful things, so if we can take the time to appreciate the little things around us, everything can be beautiful. This can include appreciating everything from the ambience at an elegant soiree to engaging in conversations over home-cooked meals.
When it comes to philanthropy, one can simply donate money and call it a day. But to me, that’s not all there is to it. The entire process of getting people involved, from the ground up, involves art in many forms, whether it’s the art of communication, planning or even engagement. It’s a lot like chado (Japanese tea ceremony); more than brewing a cup of tea, it’s the beauty of the whole ritual that draws people in.
My children always tell me that I’m such a perfectionist. That’s because I feel that one should aim to be perfect in everything you set out to do, even if it’s in everyday things. And this is why art is important to me.”
Art direction by Catherine Wong, photography by Darren Gabriel Leow
This is the second of a two-part series. Read the first installment here.