Young people are less willing to accept the social ills created by the blind pursuit of profit / new generation of creators are being born from a demand for solutions that directly meet social needs…We need champions who demonstrate Singapore’s potential as a hub for business that generate both profit and positive societal impact.
— Hyder Albar, founder Creative Nation
Creative Nation was truly an amazing experience from entry to exit. Held at Marina Bay Sands’ Convention Hall, there was a hushed, awe-inspiring ambiance from the moment we set our sneakers onto the plush carpet, and wide-eyes all around.
Sure, I’d gaped at the grandness of it all, the wide variety of booths with smiling social impact creators, and the purple-blue banner that back-lit the stage and fronted the idea of a “Creative Nation’ in block letters – but I was truly in awe at the idea of creativity being taken seriously. If you asked me four years ago, I would have given you a blank stare to the word “creative” or the question “do you think that your passion for, y’know, creative things can be a concrete, cement path to walk on in the future?”. And that’s because until now, creativity has been packed in with all the other idolized, placed-on-a-pedestal list of characteristics that you’d perhaps find on a Reddit thread: “What do I, a single man look for in a woman? Oh, brunette, blue eyes — if she’s creative, or got a bit of the artsy type in here, that’s a plus!”
Hyder Albar’s team supported by the wonderful NYC Singapore definitely showed us all how creativity wasn’t just a plus, that it was an attitude that one could carry to highlight interesting perspectives, a tool to facilitate brainstorming of unique ideas and see them to execution, and a key driver of the passion needed to sustain large-scale projects that has an element of social impact as its outcome. This was seen through programmes like Racial Biases in the Dark and even the market-style way that interaction between creators and those invited could take place, in a village-square type of way.
We had the great opportunity to converse with numerous exhibitors who told us so much about what they do and the various societal factors or tensions that informed their creative approaches and plans of action, and you can find them all within Carpe Collections: Heart to Say compiled!
I spoke to the man who brought all of these people together, with the help of BlessAnn and her team. As Hyder not only helms Creative Nation but the *SCAPE INVASION series, I asked him about the extent of his creativity — what was creativity to him? He cracked his knuckles before speaking, as if ready to tackle one of the most complex definitions – so I waited.
Instead, he asked me: Have you searched up the definition of ‘creativity’ on Google?
I nodded. Sure, I had done so.
“Do you agree?”
I shook my head no, then tried to retract my firm nod – okay, wait – now, I didn’t know. He grinned. “That’s the thing – different people, maybe at different points in their life, even, have different perspectives on ‘creativity’, or what it means to be ‘creative’.
“Don’t take that definition a hundred percent. The thing is, a part of defining or figuring out what creativity really is, just means looking at things from a different perspective. This different perspective genuinely helps people and enables them to grow, and be better. Why? Because if you’re creative, you tend to look for all of these other angles that you maybe feel the need to share – in return, you get a refreshed look on different things. Creativity then could be using these different perspectives, producing original and insightful takes on something that’s either already been there or hasn’t been created. Just remember – creativity isn’t always about art”.
I wanted to zoom in on creativity in a Singapore context. My own secondary school had been a participating institution in the *SCAPE Invasion tours and segments, so I was keen to know more about his beginnings with that. “Yeah, I did face some challenges”, he agreed. “But after meeting with initial resistance, we moved on to show through action, through the road-shows, that there was genuine impact, that more youth enjoyed in during their assemblies, that they looked forward to it.”
“Right! I did enjoy those assemblies”.
“And a lot of other students did, too. There is this opportunity for local artistes to make that audience connection.” The *SCAPE Invasion movement saw local musical acts such as The Sam Willows, Falling Feathers and DJs Joaquim and Sonia travelling to different schools. “Now more schools want in on it”, he smiles, and I feel the victory in this moment not just for him, but for the community of people who have felt encouraged and inspired by seeing local faces in fields they wanted to partake in, too. “It took a lot of time to understand how and why our message matters, but it’s worth it — seeing local talent represented on stage does something to a Singaporean, and we’re glad to pursue [the Invasion].”
This time, I had something personal to delve into. My team had just finished covering an event past midnight the day before, and I’d slicked on concealer for dark circles over the past few days. “When do you know when to take a step back and look at the big picture?”
Hyder thought for a moment. “What advice would you give to younger creatives”, I paused myself, “from the bottom of your heart?”
He spoke, levelling his gaze with mine, “I’d say this: it’s always important to have grit and determination, but you need to know when to stop and when to stop and switch paths, too. Barriers will always be there.” He swung a hand out to the walls around us in the Press Room, “For instance, when we were setting all of this up, it was very difficult, it was not easy to get everything in order physically, there were things to be worked out. But understanding what change we stood for or wanted to make, or what the outcome would mean or represent was something necessary; we took that step back to view things from a big-picture kind of way that was necessary in order to put something like this together with clarity of vision.
Nowadays, people do love to see businesses do good, and that is an important thing to note, but understand why you’d want to do good, from the root. You can go back at that during the periods when you stop and switch paths, in order to test out what actually works best.”
We shook hands. For me, of course, it felt like I’d just been enlightened, so my grasp was light. Thank you, personally, Hyder Albar, for a lot of what you’ve done – and what Creative Nation will continue to do and stand for.
Read about Creative Nation and visit their online home here!