Tag: Singapore Elections

The Heartlands: Blk 230G, Hougang, Playgrounds

I’ve recently got myself involved in a series of work that revolved around the heartlands of Singapore.

At Our Doorsteps Cover

AT OUR DOORSTEPS is a community project photographer Sam Kang Li started to get to know his neighbours better. He knocked on the doors of all the 44 units of  the block he stayed in and photographed portraits of his neighbours at their doorstep. These portraits were exhibited in May at the void deck of his block and compiled to a block album I helped Kang Li put together.

On the left is the album cover, which took reference from the elements found in the block, including the distinct coloured tiles and the lift buttons.

Find out about At Our Doorsteps through this video he made in the midst of doing it, and another after the exhibition was held.



MEET THE PEOPLE is a collection of videos that Samuel He put together over a few days in the run-up to the recent by-elections in Hougang. He wanted to reflect the voices of the people in the constituency by “eavesdropping” into their everyday conversations about the elections. During the hustings, he walked the constituency of Hougang, approaching residents to get them to talk about the elections, often putting his camera in front of them and letting it run till they forgot it was there.

Check out the videos here.


Mosaic Memories

MOSAIC MEMORIES: Remembering the playgrounds Singapore grew up in is an e-book I authored that contains stories of four Singaporeans, including the designer Mr Khor Ean Ghee, and their memories of old playgrounds in Singapore. Inside, you will also find portraits of the interviewees by Zakaria Zainal and an illustrated map by Wee Ho Gai of where the remaining old playgrounds are still standing today. This was a publication commissioned by the Singapore Memory Project as part of their “Drawn from Memory” series.

This e-book is the third time I’ve produced a piece related to my fascination with these old playgrounds that were designed and produced in Singapore. It began with an article I wrote for Singapore Architect in 2009, which was updated with even more details and reference in my most recent piece for FIVEFOOTWAY. Mosaic Memories comes from a very different angle, featuring the playground users instead of the designs.

You can download the e-book and read an interview I did with irememberSG!

The most iconic moment of GE11?

I recently showed two strangers a copy of GE11: We Were There, a magazine of photo essays about Singapore’s recent General Election. None of them had seen this publication before, but as they flipped through it, one of them stopped at this very photograph and said, “I remember seeing that.”

This image of Workers’ Party candidate Chen Show Mao bowing while clutching on to his identity card and passport was taken by photojournalist Edwin Koo on the last day of the election rallies. According those who attended the rally at Serangoon Stadium, Chen had held up his IC and passport while declaring to the crowd that although he had been overseas for so long, he never forgot he was a Singaporean. Before he ended his speech, Chen then bowed to the crowd, a gesture that would have resonated with the thousands gathered that night.

Just two days before Chen’s bow, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had also offered a humbling note to voters when he apologised at his People’s Action Party (PAP) rally for the mistakes his government had made in the last five years. This move, mid-way through the campaign, was seen by many political observers as PAP’s charm offensive to placate a frustrated electorate, many whom felt the party had forgotten that it was elected to serve the people. Fresh with memories of that apology, the crowd would have loved the bow that Chen made, affirming their belief that it was them, the people, who should be kowtowed to.

As someone commented on this photograph that was posted on Facebook: “The humility in this picture strikes me. A Harvard, Oxford, Stanford graduate, and corporate hotshot, bowing deeply to the common people.”

While the bow was seen by thousands at the rally, Koo’s photo has made the moment iconic by letting so many more see it. The very next day after the rally, Koo put it up on his Facebook as part of his series Notes from a Singapore Son, and it went viral on social media. Koo has also since said that Facebook helped many more see his photos as compared to if they were published on the front page of The Straits Times where he once worked.

Disseminating his photograph via the internet also made it iconic because it was part of the first election that Singaporeans participated actively online. As he wrote in a Facebook note accompanying this photo album:

“Because we have Facebook today, we can finally look at the uncensored truth. We can finally know how many people really attended the opposition rallies, and what transpired during the rallies and walkabouts. We finally have unlimited space to play our pictures, and no blind editors to tell us this picture is “not fit to print”.”

And as it turns out, the photograph has even made its way offline. Koo is exhibiting it together with others from his series Notes from a Singapore Son at the School of Photography (SOP) until 30th July. Do check it out, and you can even get hold of this iconic moment as a poster or a limited print too.

The return of political cartoons

“You cannot mock a great leader in an Asian Confucian society.
If he allows himself to be mocked, he is finished.”
Lee Kuan Yew commenting on how the media portrayed the Tiananmen demonstrations using cartoons and caricatures

Election fever and the lack of state regulation online saw a resurgence in a graphic form that has almost become extinct in Singapore: political cartoons.

Throughout the 2011 General Election, several blogs published cartoons on how they saw the hustings, often poking fun at politicians and the remarks they made. Below is a list of some of them, click to check out their cartoons!

Except for Cartoon Press, the other five blogs have been around for  a while. Both My Sketchbook and Blinking Brink are the oldest, having been around since 2006.

While the cartoons may look amateurish, their content is much more hard-hitting that what you’ll find on the newspapers, where editorial cartoons like these have traditionally been found. The government’s tight control of the mass media over the last few decades had forced out similar work from pioneers like Kwan Sai Kheong, Tan Huay Peng and Morgan Chua.

The late Kwan freelanced for the Singapore Free Press and The Straits Timesbetween 1946 and 1951, before he eventually became a Permanent Secretary. He also designed the Merlion statue. Peng joined ST in 1955, and when he left in 1962 he was the paper’s Chief Artist. Even after his departure, the late Peng continued to contribute work to the paper till the ’80s. Finally, Morgan started out at the Singapore Herald, and after the newspaper got banned in the 1970s, he left for Hong Kong to draw for the Far Eastern Economic Review for the next 25 years.

The generation of editorial cartoonists that followed, like ST’s Dengcoy MielLee Chee ChewThe New Paper’s Lee Hup Kheng and Lianhe Zaobao’s Heng Kim Song did not draw their inspiration from politics, or at least local politics. The only exception, although his work was not published in newspapers, was George Nonis who published two cartoon books documenting the generational change in Singapore’s politics with his Hello Chok Tong, Goodbye Kuan Yew (1991) book, and a decade later, From Kuan Yew to Chok Tong And Beyond (2001).

If you’re interested to find out more about editorial cartoons and Singapore’s history, check out Lim Cheng Tju’s Singapore Comix. He has also been written well-researched pieces, including Lest We Forget: The importance of history in Singapore and Malaysia Comic Studies.