CNA Interview for the Goh Chok Tong Enable Award

This is my latest CNA interview: “She didn’t know she was autistic until she was 42. It changed her life.”

If there is only one takeaway from this interview, I’d like it to be this quote:

That people are worthy, regardless of whether they win an award or not.

International Women’s Day 2022 – Interview

I do apologise for not keeping up with this website. I think I need to ask for help here. But I’ll do things cautious autistic style. In the meantime, here is the latest article to emerge on yours truly.

Thank you, True Colors Festival, for making this interview so enjoyable for me, and it’s so encouraging to see my country finally beginning to embrace neurodiversity respectfully. Baby steps still, but everything has to have a humble beginning.

Women at work: Dr Dawn-Joy Leong

(Please click on title or photo to link to the article in the True Colors Festival VOICE blog page. Thank you!)

Scheherazade’s Sea: continuing journey, 2021

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Scheherazade’s Sea: continuing journey, 2021, was a year in the making. It was yet again another groundbreaking work on several levels. Personally, I have always presented my “Scheherazade’s Sea” series as a solo artist – creator and performer. This rendition unpacks the continuing adventures of Scheherazade with a brand new approach: Scheherazade was played by the beautiful and talented singer, performer Claire Teo, and joining the team were two other artists, Timothy Lee and Ariel Koh. This made Scheherazade’s Sea: continuing journey, 2021, not only disabled-led (conceptualised, executed and co-directed by me) but also a work featuring a cast of differently disabled artists at various stages of their artistic journeys.

Freelance artists around the world struggle to make ends meet. In Singapore, where the arts is even less valued by society, this struggle can sometimes be very fierce. For freelance disabled artists wanting to turn professional, and departing from the charity models, the scenario is bleak. But artists always hold on to hope, keeping our dreams alive even if by a thin thread. Since Scheherazade first appeared in 2010, my personal and professional journey has been an amazing one, at times tumultuous, but always incredibly thrilling and never boring. It is a story of survival against the odds and unexpected achievements – all of which I owe to my party of valiant human supporters and to Lucy Like-a-Charm. Upon returning to Singapore, I decided that this part of my life’s journey will be one that is actively “paying it forward” for as long as I can create art.

Scheherazade’s Sea 2021, is about newness – finding new friends and loyal supporters, and being gifted the honour and blessing of Clement Space in the form of a differently embodied creature named Lucy Like-a-Charm. In honour of all the people who have supported me so generously in a plethora of ways, I am now using Scheherazade’s Sea to provide practical spaces for other disabled artists in Singapore mentorship and learning experiences they may not otherwise have access to without the benefit of an overseas education. Beyond the narrative and multi-dimensional aspects of the work itself, my intentions were for this work to be a true-to-live yet safe space for professional training and experience for the cast, wherever they may be along their own paths. I can only do this, of course, with continued support from my faithful friends, my younger sister Althea, and my confrère Peter Sau, who began my Singapore journey for me. I was inspired by Peter’s vigour and spirit in his seminal work “Project Tandem” and his role in “The Singapore ‘d’ Monologues,” and am thankful for our serendipitous meeting – because, being autistic, I have no idea how to network like neurotypical people do and so every angel in my life is to me truly a gift of providence. Thank you, Peter!

Scheherazade’s Sea 2021 is also a practice-based research into navigating the realm of the so-called ‘invisible disability’ as well as un-noticed vulnerability, and forging new strategies to artistic practice that provides access in ways that are unavailable in traditional approaches and methods. I am currently working on the final report and will share my findings soon.

A note on why I continue to make this work freely accessible to all, despite having been told to keep away from the public eye in order to pitch it to various festivals and events in Singapore and overseas. When I created Scheherazade’s Sea, way back in 2010, I meant it to be a richly textured work that everyone and anyone could easily partake of, without exclusions or arbitrary boundaries to separate people. That intent still prevails today, and even if it means no festival or big event would now want to feature this work, it is ok. The latter will be a feather in my cap and that of all the cast and crew, most definitely, but I prefer still to stay true to my raison d’être as illustrated here by a picture of Lucy Like-a-Charm, black greyhound wearing a turquoise collar with bright red silk flower, in down position, half her body visible, long slim legs, paws outstretched and facing left, against a textured ‘furry’ beige background, and cursive text in black reading:

“It is not my purpose to ‘fix’ what is ‘broken’ but to empower beauty
in the vulnerable and unnoticed.”
©Dawn-joy Leong 2010

I hope you enjoy the video and if you are a curator, we would, of course, love the opportunity to be featured in your festival or curated collective show if you understand my decision to make this video publicly available.

If you’d like to read my opening speech at the online premiere, please click on this link.

Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards 2021

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Yesterday was International Day of Persons with Disabilities. I had the honour of receiving the Goh Chok Tong Enable Awards 2021 UBS Achievement Award. Thank you to ARTDIS (formerly Very Special Arts) for nominating me, and to all my steadfast and loyal supporters in my personal and professional life who’ve believed in my journey and my quest, many of whom have gone outside of their own comfort zones to support me without ever once trying to manipulate or dictate my chosen path. It is this privilege of supported autonomy that is driving me to pay it forward, to offer what I have been given to those who may not have the same supports. This is my wish for all persons with disabilities, that we are given our rights for autonomy with the supports that will help us grow into our dreams and visions. Presume competence. Always. Even though it may not look the same as what you envision it to be.

My raison d’être:

It is not my purpose to ‘fix’ what is ‘broken’ but to empower beauty in the vulnerable and unseen. (©Dawn-joy Leong, 2010)

K9 Assistance (Ltd) – launch video

After a year of hard work, we have finally launched our new charity! K9 Assistance (Ltd) Singapore is Singapore’s first and only charity organisation focusing on assistance dogs for the disabled. We are committed to educate, create better understanding, awareness and acceptance, as well as eventually match assistance dogs with disabled people.

In this video, I announced Lucy’s retirement from active duty as my assistance dog. She will continue to share her special joy as K9 Assistance’s Ambassadog!

Check out our launch video on Youtube!

Please do also support us at giving.sg/k9assistance – every little gift goes a long way!

Follow us on Facebook at K9 Assistance Ltd Singapore. Join our group, engage in discussions, ask questions and help spread the awareness and acceptance!