|Lotus Pond at Kandang Kerbau Hospital|
People often ask me if I have had formal art lessons before. That question always sends my head working overtime. Honestly, I don’t know what is considered “formal art lessons”. My impression of a formal art lesson involves years of proper lessons, easels, paints and materials culminating in a certificate or diploma of some sort.
I have nothing of that sort.
What I do have that are directly linked to fine arts are art classes at the neighbourhood residents’ committee centre, art lessons in primary school and secondary school and then finally, art elective modules during my university days. Other than that, I have had no formal lessons. Not like those who have gone through years of painting and drawing lessons and have created a portfolio before they finally graduate with a piece of certifying paper with words written in some sort of manuscript ala “Black Adder”.
But what I did have, as I fondly recalled while sketching and doing some work the other day at KK Hospital’s lotus pond, are excellent teachers in those classes and electives. My art teacher during my pre-teen years at the residents’ committee was 陈淑娟老师. An alumnus of The Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, she is a patient and humorous lady who saw my ability and threw away her syllabus to teach me watercolours instead of just crayons and oil pastels. She was the one who inspired and allowed me to believe that there can be something that I am really good at; I was a very late bloomer, academically speaking.
Much later, during my university days, I was privileged to sit under the tutelage of the late 蔡逸溪老师 – a Cultural Medallion for Art recipient. I don’t think further introductions are required.
Anyway, I was just practise-painting watercolour lotus when I recalled, fondly and with a chuckle, these little episodes in my life and quite aptly, at the namesake hospital where I was born: Kandang Kerbau Hospital:
KK Women's and Children's Hospital (abbreviation: KKH; Chinese: 竹脚妇幼医院; Malay: Hospital Wanita dan Kanak-kanak Kandang Kerbau), formerly known as "Kandang Kerbau Hospital", is the largest hospital specialising in healthcare for women and children in Singapore.
From its humble beginnings as a small general hospital in 1858 to a 30-bed maternity hospital in 1924, KKH has grown into an 830-bed hospital providing obstetric and gynaecology, neonatology and paediatric services. Often affectionally referred to as "KK" amongst locals, it is the birthplace of a sizeable proportion of Singaporeans, delivering over half of total newborns in the country as early as 1938.
In 1966, the hospital entered the Guinness Book of Records for delivering the highest number of newborns within a single maternity facility for that year, and it continued to hold on to this record for a full decade, delivering 85% of the population.
In 1997, the hospital moved to its present site. In 2003, the old premises was marked as a historical site by the National Heritage Board, a tribute to an institution that has been the birthplace of over 1.2 million Singaporeans since its inception.
The hospital's come from the Malay term for "buffalo shed" (kandang = shed / pen + kerbau = buffalo), reflecting the area's past link with buffalo rearing. While the hospital started as one catering to health care for women, mainly for gynaecology and obstetrics, it has since expanded its role.
First, the paediatrics department was added for the care of the babies after delivery, but over the years it expanded into a full paediatric service, treating younger patients for all kinds of illnesses up to teenage. An offshoot, the neonatology service, was then added. Thus the expanded role of the hospital warranted a renaming to KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
Over the recent years, the scope of care has expanded even more to provide holistic care to women and children patients. It strives to become the "Healthcare Leader for Women and Children", which has become its slogan. New departments were added to the hospital. Paediatric surgery was first added, followed by others such as colorectal surgery, psychiatry and orthopaedics for women with illnesses requiring expertise in those areas.
As a result of a restructuring exercise in the local healthcare scene, the hospital became a member of the Singapore Health Services on 1 April 2000.