My artwork is heavily influenced by the ups and downs in my life, especially since the diagnosis of my autistic daughter. The ups and downs in our lives and the different actions we choose to take are some of the factors that determine our paths in life. In my exploration of these different aspects of life, I have chosen to use familiar things such as games that people can relate to.

This work consists of several Snake and Ladder boards. Resembling the typical board game many of us played as children, the boards evoke a sense of familiarity. However, upon closer inspection, each board is different. One consists of just one long snake, while another just a long ladder. There are some boards with both. But each board has its own distinct permutation, and they mirror the different paths each of us takes in our lives.

In this work, I would like to invite the audience to be a part of the work and create their own game of Snake and Ladder—one that is personal to them.

Inquiry Process

I have always had a penchant for Mathematics since young. However, it has never occurred to me to use Mathematics to create an artwork in the past. So this time round, I wanted to create an artwork that incorporates some elements of Mathematics in it. With a theme in mind, I started my inquiry process. Life has been rather smooth-sailing with fairly equal numbers of ups and downs till recently. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with autism. As much as this changed my life, I also decided that there was nothing I could do to change it and that I should embrace it and accept every challenge that came along. I wanted to reflect my life journey and experiences through a game. A game that involves Mathematical concepts.

I started researching about different games such as Chess and Snake and Ladder. In the process, I discovered interesting things about the game, Snake and Ladder. It was actually an ancient game that originated from India and was used as a tool to teach about virtues and vices. Each ladder represents a virtue while each snake represents a vice. Over time, the use of Snake and Ladder as a game to teach virtues and vices became less common. The game is played as a game per se or as a tool to teach basic Mathematical concepts such as counting, addition and subtraction.

I decided to create a Snake and Ladder board which depicted my life. The game served as a metaphor. The ladders and snakes represent the ups and downs in my life respectively. I sketched a Snake and Ladder board which obviously had more snakes than ladders, given my current situation.

As I was creating my board, I did not realise that my then six year old daughter was watching me from the side. Several hours later, she presented me with her own version of Snake and Ladder and started explaining to me what her ups and downs in her life were. Events such as learning journeys, Art lessons were her ‘Ladders’/Ups while falling sick and missing school were her ‘Snakes’/Downs. This incident made me realise that everyone has their own story to tell and it would be great to create a series of different Snake and Ladder boards to encompass the different lives that people had. I came up with 12 different permutations of Snake and Ladder. Some boards simply had only a long snake while some had only a long ladder.

In order to create the Snake and Ladder boards, I had to pick up a new skill. I had to learn to use Adobe Illustrator as digital media would help create realistic looking Snake and Ladder boards. This was the most challenging part of the process as I do not have the flair for IT.

However, the 12 boards were not personal enough. I wanted the audience to be able to interact with the artwork. After much deliberation, I decided to make changes to the artwork. I created 1 board which depicted my life in general and 3 other plain boards which consisted only of numbers. The audience would be able to create their own Snake and Ladder boards by adding their own number of snakes and ladders (maximum of 5 each). A set of pre-cut snakes and ladders will be provided for the viewers to create their boards. I also wanted the audience to respond to the questions which I had set for them. Each of the questions explored different facets of life such as relationship and health. I hope that through this, the audience would ponder and take time to reflect about their lives and share them with others.

Some of the things that I had to take into consideration were the way I wanted the series of artwork to be presented and the materials to be used. Initially, I wanted the series of artworks to be mounted on the wall. However, presenting the artworks in this manner was not similar to the way the game is usually played. Therefore, I had to consider putting the boards on individual pedestals instead. This allows the audience to ‘play’ the game in a natural manner as it is usually played.

I had to also consider the materials to be used to create the artwork. I needed the snakes and ladders to be able to stay put on the game boards after being placed. An option would be to use either blue tack. This however is not aesthetically pleasing. Another option would be to use magnetic stickers to enable the snakes and ladders to stay in place.

In the process of my own art-making, the inquiry process has given me a chance to explore the topic more in depth and to be creative with my art-making. The challenges faced along the way have also given me the opportunity to problem-solve. This process of art-making has indeed reinforced my beliefs as an Art teacher.

In the past, I felt that Art was very much a subject that simply taught pupils the skills of drawing and painting only. This was especially true from my experience as a student almost 30 years back. However now, I feel that Art can be used as a vehicle to teach pupils a number of skills such as creativity, risk-taking and problem-solving. It makes a pupil well-rounded and also more informed about their surroundings. It has become important to me to make a conscious effort to teach and encourage pupils to develop these additional skills in the process of my teaching. I no longer go about wanting to see the final product of pupils’ work rather I am more interested in the process that they go through.

|| Kamaliza Bte Abu Kassim

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