Workshop Q: A Collective Reportage: Religions and Popular Devotion in Multicultural Singapore

InstructorSimonetta Capecchi (Naples, Italy)

Location: Waterloo St (Indian Temple)

corpus delicti

Holding a sketchbook, drawing where people are working, playing or gathering, is a great chance to deal with a place and to get a closer connection with people around us, a good start for observing reality and telling a story. Drawing can be the best way we have to describe a place, to observe a phenomenon, to record an event or share a point of view. In this workshop we’ll focus on how to enhance the storytelling aspect of our sketches.

In Singapore I’m fascinated by the many religions that reflect the variety of cultures coexisting in the city. This can be a good subject for a sketched collective reportage. While in my last Symposium workshop we all reported the same process (the making of a liquor in a local distillery) with our many personal ways, this time in Singapore each one of us can report on a different aspect and together we can compose a more complete reportage, made of multiple points of view and approaches.

Popular devotion is an important aspect to understand a society and a country. In Waterloo street four religions are represented: Buddhism, Hinduism, Hebraism and Catholicism, and two Islam mosques are nearby. In a limited area we have different architectures to explore, various rituals and people to observe, and hopefully to be interviewed. Our group can work inside and around a single temple – each one can choose different views or details and find people to interview – or we can split in smaller groups, to draw in different temples and churches along the street: the Indian Sri Krishna Temple, the Chinese Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, Maghaim Aboth Synagogue and St Peter and St Paul church.

Observe and interview people and/or report their own words, with clouds or texts next to their portraits is a very important part of the reportage. Drawings of different size can be combined on the same page, as to alternate details and general views. Creating a balance between drawings and texts, we give a rhythm to our sequence. A repetitive format or a variety of compositions can be adopted. We can complete the reportage collecting ephemera and other references to be glued on the page. 

santa patrizia 1

Workshop Schedule

– introduction and samples display both from my work than from other authors. I’ll give a flyer with tips and a brief introduction to the four temples: 15′

– participants plan their reportage with a miniature layout, choose format, media and color palette as suggested by the environment: 30′

– collective discussion: 15′

– participants draw for two hours, while I follow their work individually

sharing our drawings and insights: 30′

Learning goals

In this workshop we’ll focus on how to enhance the storytelling value of drawing on location – one of Urban Sketchers missions. Participants will learn how to approach a reportage related to a specific context. They will practice how to elaborate a layout and organize a sequence of drawings, how to compose diverse drawings on the page or to alternate text and images and how to report an action, so that even a small group of drawings becomes a meaningful reportage. An effort will be made to coordinate participants work in order to obtain a collective reportage that cover the subject with a variety of approaches. Results from this workshop will be hopefully good enough to be shared in a collective post/reportage on Urban Sketchers blog.

santa patrizia 2


A japanese sketchbook (A5 size) or some loose papers (A5 to A4) that can be joined together later on, plus any media you normally use. Supplies you may prefer would include a fountain pen (or cartridge pen), ink brushes, a small watercolor kit and brushes, a small assortment of colored pencils and pastels or markers. Participants will have to choose their tools in order to be able to draw quickly and easily move around. Bring a portable stool if you like, to sit on while working.

Sample sketches

I reported once the miracle of Saint Patrizia that occurs every tuesday in Naples: the saint’s blood kept inside a reliquary liquefies weekly during a ritual, when the church is always crowded. She is believed to protect women and help with family troubles. Popular devotion is a very important aspect of my town’s life and since it is so different from my education, I feel the need to observe it. During this ritual it is forbidden to take photos so I find out that drawing was not only the best but the only way to recount it. While drawing, I was approached by a nun that asked to read all my texts. I was relieved when I saw she liked my drawings and I could have an interesting conversation with her. In this set the published article, with another story about Santa Maria Francesca’s holy chair.

My Corpus Delicti reportage is an extemporary one and was made on a pocket sketchbook during a 2 hours guided tour. It can be an example of how to recount a place and a story starting from several objects description – I imagine the Hindus or the Chinese temple being crowded with statues and ornaments. The Corpus Delicti office is an old storage for bodies of the crime confiscated in Naples: almost 30.000 objects that form the most odd collection in town (more drawings here). Explanatory texts are in this case really necessary and not only a graphical way to fill the page:

A sample sketch of a colorful and multicultural environment can be this one of a fly market in Liège (Belgium), where a group of sketchers has been recently invited to recount the city in a 5 meters sketchbook to fill in 5 days (more drawings here):

Photos and drawings, mine and of participants, from my “Sketched reportage workshop” at Urban Sketchers Symposium in Paraty are in this set, and a post on USK blog is here. Here is the flyer I distributed.