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Artful evening walks along the streets of Chinatown

Artful evening walks along the streets of Chinatown

December 2019 ยท 8 min read ยท Singapore

Coming from my candy shopping and finding my way back to the hotel, I came across these murals along Keong Saik Road.

I am not sure how long the mural is but it occupies the whole length of the span from post to post of the building. It seems to showcase different festivities in Singapore with the colorful and artistic costumes.

To the right of the previous mural is another long mural that depicts more of Singapore and its multi-cultural society. I remember years ago when Singapore was one of our topics with my colleagues. Someone commented that Singapore is a country with no natives because its citizens came from different places. I do not know how true that is, but I seem to agree when I first visited this country in 2010. It seems to be the same now.

As I continued my walk through different route this time, I discovered a few more colorful artworks along the way.

Letter Writer
I first saw this mural along Smith Street, almost to the corner of New Bridge Road when I was following through the sign board for the street food. It was on the side wall of New Bridge Centre, outside of CK Department Store. Now that I passed by it again, I was amused to see this photo shoot. Ohhh... I did not realize the 3D effect of the painting! Yes, it indeed has 3D effect.

I do not understand the writings hanging on the background so I searched for my photo on the internet.

Yip Yeong Cheong painted this mural among many more artworks along streets of Chinatown. This is entitled Letter Writer. Back in the old days, migrants from China needed letter writers for them to communicate back home. I wonder about literacy rate during those times that even a letter writer is needed.


Mid-Autumn Festival
Moving on back to my hotel room, I was traversing a small alley from Temple Street to Pagoda Street when a man whom I thought was with a group to my right moved on his bench. I almost bursted into laughter.

The man was sitting on a bench to the left of this mural. He was alone. I thought there were three of them! The man and woman on the mural seemed alive from the angle when I first saw them.

Bright and colorful hang overhead as the couple enjoy mooncake and pomelo while watching the kids to the right. I gathered this is a typical day for mid-autumn festival.

Here are the kids trying to light up a lantern. This mural is to the right of the previous one with the couple.

The above are the ones that I discovered on my first day in Singapore. As I made rounds at night on my succeeding days in Chinatown, I discovered more.

Stories along Mohamed Ali Lane

I have seen the following murals while my boss and I were on our way to Amoy Food Centre for our dinner after our first business day in Singapore. I was not able to take photos as I was shy to stop my boss just for photo shoots. I did not memorize the name but I swore that I will find the street again, and on my own. I just know it is a corner along South Bridge Road.

On my third night in Singapore, I had the chance to take another walk on my own. I purposely took South Bridge Road so I can find the murals that I saw last night.

From Mosque Street where my hotel is, I crossed South Bridge Road and turned right. I stayed on the left side because that is where I saw the murals. After few minutes of walking, I finally spotted what I was looking for. The murals are on a wall along Mohamed Ali Lane.

Paper Mask & Puppet Seller
Starting from South Bridge Road, this mural comes first. The paper hanging in the middle of the bicycle reads "Paper faces earn a living for Ban Kok." Yeo Ban Kok is the seller. He created paper masks and puppets and went around Chinatown to sell them for a living.

To the left of the puppet and mask cart are three more murals that seem to be just one depecting a typical neighborhood. The one on the right is the Mamak Store. On the upper left side is The Window and the one on the lower left is the Lion Dance Head Maker.

Mamak Store
Mamak Store was based on the painter's memories of a Tamil vendor Abdul Kadir whose name is on the calendar on the right side of the mural. The phone below the calendar seems to be coin operated so the setting may be in the early 80's.

The Window and Lion Dance Head Maker
These two murals were based on the setup of families living together, regardless of race and religion, as tenants in a shophouse. The Window depicts Abdul Kadir family (from Mamak Store) and Lee family as Lion Dance Head Maker in the ground level of the shop.

Moving on along South Bridge Road, I spotted another mural on the other side. I crossed the street and came to the corner of Temple Street with this wide mural.

Cantonese Opera
The mural is based on Cantonese opera shows that served as inspiration for the artist to paint it. I did not realize it is a pretty new painting until I made my research and found out that it was painted only this April 2019. That sounds something new in an old Chinatown.

While the backdrop and the show are not the same, I remember my childhood days in the middle of the mountains when entertainers would come and set up their temporary stages to present during fiesta and Christmas season. Just look at those kids tip-toeing and hoping to have a good view of the show!

On the left side of the mural is another childhood sight that I can relate to. Ice cream is scarce in the middle of the mountain. During festivals when traders come with what we do not usually have, it is a sight to behold and something to try. I can remember running away with joy and catching the bell rings when my mother would give me coins for a cone of ice cream.

I felt my stomach complaining so I checked my watch. Half pass eight o'clock at night. Time for dinner. I found my way to Amoy Food Centre. After my meal, I intentionally went through a different route to find my way back to my hotel.

Thian Hock Keng Mural
I found this long mural on a gate wall enclosing a temple. I looked for street signs and noted that I was along Telok Ayer Street. The temple inside the gate is Thian Hock Keng Temple.

This mural is said to be 40 meters long which I had to shoot in two parts. Panoramic shot does not work well with a very near distance to a wide subject.

I first took the right portion of the mural then moved on to the second portion to the left.

The mural is said to depict life and culture of Hokkien immigrants in Singapore.

I do not remember how I twisted and turned around the street corners that I just found myself back along South Bridge Road. I do not know which street it was on the other side. I crossed and guess what? Smith Street! Surprise!

Detective Conan in Chinatown
If there is Letter Writer mural at the other end of Smith Street corner New Bridge Road, there is this Detective Conan in Chinatown mural at the other end, corner South Bridge Road.

Detective Conan is a Japanese manga character. He went exploring Singapore and came across this fruit stand wherein durian seems to get his attention.

My Chinatown Home
I traversed through the busy dining tables of Food Street. Somewhere in the middle of Smith Street is an alley which I know would get me through another street nearer to my hotel. I turned to that alley to be greeted by another long mural which I again had to take in two parts.

The painting depicts a very typical scene in a household. On this right part of the mural is a busy granny (seems to be) and kids. Each party having their respective businesses.

The left side of the mural is the kitchen where mom is busy cooking for the family. I wonder where dad is.

The artist claimed;

This mural has got to be my most intimate mural ever painted, because it depicts my very first home in Sago Lane, Chinatown. Every detail and object in the entire composition was painted based on my fond memories of the home

Feel more of the intimate stories of this mural on the artist's blog.

These are the mutals that I got the chance to discover during my evening walks. My research for each painting led me to discover more amusing street arts that I missed to see for myself. I also found out more about the artist, Yip Yeong Cheong. Have a feel of the 3D effects of the murals by visiting his official website which is also my reference for this post: Art + Travel of YC.

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