Exchanging Roles


My wandering feet stopped in the midst of a sea of feet. Some stood on the tip of their toes, some stomped and some even lost their balance and almost tripped.

Every person around me had a camera or a smartphone in their hand. Pushing, elbowing and knocking against one another, they wanted to take the perfect picture of what was in front of us. But, I couldn’t see anything even though I had been craning my neck over their tall shoulders like a little lost swan hiding behind tall grass.

But I thought excitedly, “I must be at the right place!”

A cacophony of voices in a multitude of languages exclaimed in excitement “Ooooh!!!” Amidst the ‘oohs and aahs’, a mother shouted angrily at me, “Your hand! Your hand! It’s in my way!” I looked at her without a timely response. She grew furious and pointed, “Your hand! Move your hand away!” I looked down at my hand and saw a little boy flashing a winning smile and a victory hand sign at the camera in his mother’s hand.

Before I could react, a force of the crowd pushed me forward and I lost my balance and almost fell. I held onto a big arm. The stranger looked at me with a smile, which seemed to assure me and said, “Come, let me give you a hand”. Then without a single uttered word, the gentleman held my hand and pushed me to the front of the crowd. I wanted to say, “Thank you!” but I gasped.

What stood before me was the Renaissance woman with her famed smile, the Mona Lisa. Created by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1507, this painting attracts six million viewers every year.

Everyone wants to see the Mona Lisa. However, just imagine if the roles were exchanged – and you were Mona Lisa seeing yourself from her perspective?

In 2013, I gifted myself a first visit to The Louvre. There and then, while standing before the Mona Lisa, I asked, “What if I were Mona Lisa?”

I am sure that I would see countless stories unfolding over the centuries. I would fall in love many times and with many faces but I would also fall out of love many times, when each time a face I missed no longer appeared before me. I would hold many emotions within my heart and self. I would retell a story long lost in the dust of time through my wandering eyes and my mysterious smile.

I would see six million people pushing, elbowing and knocking each other every year just to get a good glimpse of me. I would see people gasping in astonishment; people with tears welling up in their eyes; and people with their hands on their chests, shaking their heads in disbelief that they’d finally seen me.

If you were Mona Lisa, what would you see and feel?

By allowing yourself to imagine that you were a painting, you are instilling in yourself an imagination of emotion that is beyond normal everyday encounters.

As an artist and art appreciator, I believe this makes for a great appreciation of an art piece, in an innovative way, perhaps also in a most original way.

This article was published in the Apr-Jun 2016 issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!

huifong ng
Huifong Ng

Huifong is an author, painter and a poet. Her book “A Cup of Simplicity – mixes poetry with her art to depict the art and pleasure of simple living. She is an intuitive painter whose works are sometimes painted without a model, a reference or a photo. Beyond Brunei, Hui Fong’s work has been exhibited in Italy and Singapore. She is also the recipient of the Premio Speciale award from Biennale of Art, Umbria.


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