Faced with the prospect of imprisonment in Changi, many internees looked to creative outlets to stave off despair and add meaning to empty hours. Cut off from their normal lives beyond the walls, they turned to all manner of activities from embroidery to sketching to restore a semblance of normalcy. Materials were hard to find, but with imagination powdered chalk became paint, mosquito nets became costumes, and scavenged artillery shell fragments and scrap lengths of pipe transformed into musical instruments to lift spirits through song.
Taking photographs was banned by the Japanese and brought with it great personal risk. The guards, however, seemed to regard sketches and paintings less harshly, along with newsletters and other forms of creative writing. Today, the surviving works of internees allow us a glimpse into their lives.
Morale among the internees was low at the beginning of their imprisonment, which posed a major concern for the leaders in Changi. To lift spirits in the civilian and military camps alike, activities were organised for the prisoners to take part in.
A myriad of pursuits sprang up across the camps. Educational classes, concerts, and literary arts flourished. Sports became a popular pastime as different groups formed teams and competed against one another, although this pastime diminished in the military camps when the men were sent overseas.
The activities provided respite from the daily monotony of the camps, and along with sporadic but cherished communications with loved ones from home, kept the internees busy, engaged, and in good spirits.