Who is Tenacity? – Verve Arts Festival 2020
Who is Tenacity


“What would Tenacity eat for breakfast?” “What does Perseverance do for a living?”

Tenacity is a big word, and with this workshop we invite students from different backgrounds to ask the important questions to get to know the word Tenacity, and some friends of Tenacity who have been journeying with us this year. The participants were guided by local author, Alvin Pang, at every step of the way to create their own Word Portraits based on Alvin’s best selling book “What Gives Us Our Names”. 

 Each individual has a unique view on values and through this exhibition we invite you to explore the Word Portraits through different young perspectives!



By: Lew Jia Hui, 20

She didn’t have a name to begin with, covered in stitches and wounds 

her lips with a crooked smile, a haggard face. 

She walked with a hunched back – 

lacked confidence, light and hope for the future. 

She was always alone – 

and knew what loneliness always felt like. 

She was always associated with the colour black, 

resemblance of solace and captivity. 

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By: Anonymous, 17

Insecurity is a short, bespectacled and awkward teenage girl. 

Her frizzy and thick jet black hair is always bundled up in a high bun — she rarely has the energy to properly wash her hair. 

Those who know her would tell you that ash hues and sullen greys are her favourite colours. Some might say she walks gloomily with a sigh written all over her face, and in the sweltering Singapore heat, insecurity feels the most like herself when she is clad in oversized baggy sweatpants and a large fluffy sweater.

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By: Hannah Anthony, 19

Courage has always been a passing figure in my life, graciously coming in contact when in need of help. From major examinations, studying abroad, and leaving a toxic household, she has always somehow remerged.

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By: Anonymous

Meet Weird, a 23-year-old with curly hair and odd sized spectacles, it’s right lens is bigger than it’s left. His trademark lies in his mismatched socks along with his bright coloured outfits and you can’t forget about his odd sized spectacles when talking about Weird. You can spot him outside easily with his distinct looks and outfit and fun fact, he can’t walk in a straight line. No, he’s not drunk, he’s just Weird. 

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By: Pearlene Chua Peiling, 17

{ Portrait in words } 

Imagine if they were a person. 

Tenacity, look at you my poor girl. 

Soul, gripping, onto your body, 

A fisherman’s hook made these bloody Flags curled. 

Still, she set out to sea. Of course, 

With a few trusty companions, 

Shrimps! Storms! Salmon! 

They shook hands with a pirate’s corpse,

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By Anonymous, 18

Saudade is my best friend. No, was. Well, I’m not so sure anymore. Over time I’ve come to realise that she’s sapping away all my time and giving it to her husband Melancholy. She demands too much of my attention but gives so little in return, Indignance urges me to cut her off. An attractive young woman in her early twenties, she has a peculiar habit of visiting at late hours, sometimes waking me up only to pore over old photo albums, or perhaps bring up my late mother. A master manipulator, she planted Hope and Possibility in my garden; but I could have sworn I saw her viciously dowsing herbicide into their pots. 

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By Anonymous, 18

Meow. Meow. Cracking her eyelids open, she saw Abby who tried to pass off an innocent look while licking her paws. Sometimes, I think you’re just a human in a cat, she grumbled. Abby meowed in response. 

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By Jakin Tan, 19

She has pretty bright eyes

filled with wonder

yet I can’t help but wonder

what darkness lies inside

Wait let me start again

I think I’ve gone off the deep end

After all, I don’t wanna blow your mind

Tenacity, she’s only one of a kind

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By Anonymous, 17

Tenacity wakes up to impounding scruple and trepidation. It is instantly hungry. Craving. Unrelenting and unable to be ignored in it’s pursuit of something to eat. Tenacity is always there. 

More often than not, food will be put under its nose to tempt it and most of the time, there is a barrier of Hesitation that will stop him. Doubts and Fears give rise to Insecurity and Diffidence, and Tenacity is often unable to eat such delectable evils because in the presence of Tenacity, we also hold on to our reservations stronger. It makes it harder to let go of what is able to put us in our place so easily.

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By Anonymous, 19

He’s really, really handsome, with his piercing blue eyes and ash-brown hair. His chiselled jaw could slice through diamonds like butter. In fact, two girls in particular – Stress and Anxiety – think about him from the moment they wake up. He’s oblivious though… He goes about his usual thing from nine to five, and then poof, gone.

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By Anonymous

A tall and scrawny teenager comes walking out of the darkness, dressed in a casual dark t-shirt with shorts to match. He looked like any other teenager, except for the look of loneliness in his eyes and the shadows that seem to follow him.

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By Sean Kwan

In the sea of students, I am but a faceless body. 

All the same, her eyes always find me.

In the handful of enthusiasts at the quiet bookstore I peruse, 

in my classrooms when the noises lull, 

in the silence of my home. 

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By Anisah Nurhani

Have you seen Hope? It seems that she’s missing. 

She’s a youthful girl, always donned in a yellow sundress, along with a beige sun hat which sits on her curly brown hair that matches her eyes. I really miss seeing her bright smile and hearing her exuberant laughter.

Hope was one of the best friends I had, a shoulder I could always lean on. Especially on bad days, she would welcome me into her humble home with a cup of hot chocolate. We would sit down on her pale-yellow couch and she would do anything to make me laugh. I loved to pat her pet cat named Iris, that would curl up at my feet to keep my toes warm. The time spent with her was enough to get me back up on my feet and brighten my days.

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By Jewel Khoo, 19

Tenacity is a child with the most vivid imagination I have ever seen. He loves grabbing me by the hand and running off on made-up adventures alongside his two best friends, Grit and Perseverance. They seem to relate to him the best out of all the other children at the neighbourhood playground. He would dream up these elaborate quests for us to embark on, adventures into various unknowns: pirate ships, underwater cities, Egyptian temples, you name it

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You too at home can try your hand at writing your very own Word Portrait!

  • STEP 1
  • STEP 2
  • STEP 3

Think about a word that has resonated with you the most this year, it could be something you worked on really hard this year, or a word to sum up 2020. 

After you have got your word, grab something to write on and have fun with these questions:

  1. Imagine if this word were a person or embodied as an individual you know.
  2. What would he/she/they look like?
  3. What clothes might they wear? And What might be their favourite colours?
  4. What do they love to eat?
  5. Describe how they walk
  6. What kind of home do they live in?
  7. When would they go to bed? When would they get up?
  8. Would they have a pet? What kind of pet?
  9. Do they live with family? Who are they? Name them with other ideas.
  10. Who are their best friends? and if you can explain why, that is good too!
  11. Who was their favourite teacher in school? And why?
  12. What sort of work would they do? What kind of job would they take up?
  13. How might they spend their free time?
  14. If they had a secret wish or desire — what would it be?

Feel free to add, remove, or reorder these questions!

After answering these questions, you can refine and complete your prose writing! 

Alvin PANG is a poet, writer, editor  and translator whose broad creative practice spans over two decades of literary and related activities in Singapore and elsewhere. Featured in the Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry in English and the Penguin Book of the Prose Poem, his writing has been translated into more than twenty languages, including volumes in Croatian, Macedonian, Slovene and Swedish. His books include the bestselling What Gives Us Our Names (2011), as well as the recent volumes What Happened: Poems 1997-2017 (2017) and Uninterrupted time (2019). For his contributions to the literary arts, he has received the Young Artist Award, Singapore Youth Award and the JCCI Education Award, among other accolades. 

The Editor-in-Chief of the public policy journal ETHOS, Pang also serves on several international advisory boards, including the International Poetry Studies Institute at the University of Canberra, the peer-reviewed journal Axon: Creative Explorations and Rabbit: Journal of non-fiction poetry. In 2020, he completed a PhD in writing with RMIT University, exploring his research interests in the possibilities of literary practice conducted across multiple languages, genres, careers and communities.

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