A brief insight into how Gilbert sometimes starts his talks. It could be a ten-minute testimony or an hour-long presentation. Heaped with humor and relevant wit, the purpose is to motivate and inspire. The style and content is tailored according to the audience be it Junior College students, a Church congregation, a group of volunteers or even elderly folks, Gilbert will reach a broad spectrum of people to communicate, comfort and touch hearts.
By Gilbert Tan Yue Liang
Ladies and Gentlemen, friends and colleagues,
Greetings! My name is Gilbert Tan.
20 years ago, a dive into a swimming pool left me paralyzed from chest downwards, a C4 Tetraplegic. I was 22 years old.
The doctor told my mum then I’ll probably live 5 more years. He died 8 years ago.
Many relatives, even ‘friends’ counted me out in those days. In such a situation, you discover who are true friends and learn too, that the new ones you make are usually good ones!
Today, I declare that being disabled is not unable, to be handicapable, not handicapped. There are still many things I cannot do but just as much out there I certainly can, should I find time to put my mind to it.
I am an artist painting with a brush held in the mouth with the Mouth and Foot Painters Association (MFPA). Since 1989, over 500 works were painted and I have participated in numerous local and overseas group exhibitions. Some of my paintings were displayed in Japan (Osaka, Sapporo and Hakodate), Vienna, Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, Cheltenham, Lisbon and Taiwan. My artworks are in permanent collections at The Smithsonian Institute in Washington D. C., London and San Francisco and were purchased by Nokia, Singtel, SmithKline Beecham, Maybank and private collectors.
With paintings big and small held up as exhibits, the audience is drawn into the world where painting is done by gritted brush in the mouth. A prelude showing of a VCD documentary (8 minutes) carries an actual demonstration of this technique, which amazes most viewers to this day still
As a member of the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS), I produced 4 albums of own compositions, with 5 more albums in collaboration with the Singapore Wataboshi Movement. And at the 6th Singapore Wataboshi Music Festival 2001, the song ‘Live Life’ was the winning entry selected to represent Singapore among 14 countries in the Asia-Pacific Wataboshi Music Festival in Kaoshiung, Taiwan. I had the privilege to sing to an audience that included Premier Chen Shui Bian in a nationwide live telecast.
Interwoven between topics with anecdotes and jokes, Gilbert sings his own compositions, usually with a poignant introduction. How songs are written, why when and how a song was conceptualized gives an added dimension to the meanings of its lyrics and double entendres in the words. Sometimes the audience sings along.
I set aside time to MC in fund-raising events, being a regular participant in the VWO circle, singing in charity and fundraisers like National Council Social Services Sharity occasions, National University of Singapore Charity Bang, NTU Glowing in the Dark, Singapore Cancer Society and Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Singaporeans are perpetually busy, though they are generous at giving cash and kind, the thought of giving up precious time deters too many from being a friend to the disadvantaged, the disabled, the poor and needy. Learning that a disabled person still chooses to do community work will perhaps confront the excuses and reasons and maybe lead a few to consider making a difference in people’s lives.
I am often invited to give talks in Schools, Junior Colleges, Churches, Companies and Homes/Hospices/Hospitals. A recent engagement was a talk cum painting demonstration to students at Hokkaido International School and as a conference speaker at the pre-event of the Disabled People International Seminar (Sapporo 02) in Hakodate, Japan. In Equata’s ‘Above & Beyond’ Disability Arts Conference held in Cheltenham, UK, I was the only Asian invited to be conference speaker at this international event.
What I am doing amazes myself even. The fact that countries like Japan and UK will provide flight and accommodation costs to hear me speak is a tremendous honour and responsibility. Hopefully, listening hearts will be encouraged to reach for their dreams and goals despite and in spite of the obstacles along the way
As an active member of Handicaps Welfare Association, TTSH’s Spinal Support Group & Tetraplegic Workgroup and Disabled People’s Association, a big part of community work is visiting and counseling the needy in befriender schemes. An on the spot painting demonstration is used to show that painting with a brush held in the mouth is possible. Such acts encourage the severely disabled to look beyond their limitations.
Ultimately my mission statement is to make a real difference in people’s lives. If it is within my means and ability, I will measure out my heart and ensure my availability. This is done to thank and glorify God Who has taught so much through His Word and also to thank and remember so many who have helped, cared, prayed, laughed and cried with me through the years.
I am but one of many disabled who have made their mark in society through artistic pursuits and creative talents. World-renowned personalities like visually impaired artistes Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder and Jose Feliciano are not people you would want to label as handicapped. Stephen Hawking is as influential as Einstein could be and Christopher Reeve is as inspirational as any Olympics medal winner.
Everyday among us, there are stories to tell. In the association where I am an Associate member, the Mouth & Foot Painters Association, each artist has surmounted incredible odds to become a creative talent and contributing member of society, and some have achieved worldwide fame such as Christy Brown, whose life on celluloid was portrayed by Oscar winning Best Actor Daniel Day-Lewis.
Should you wish to invite Gilbert to your event, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A transport fee by London Taxi at S$100 (return) is requested.
Structured fees according to negotiated terms and conditions are levied.
For a simple free testimony or talk of up to thirty minutes, a monetary token though not compulsory will be very much appreciated.