A small section of Everton Road has become memory lane. An amah, or housemaid, handwashes her kebayas and sarongs in a metal tub. Around the corner, a boy reads an Old Master Q comic while drinking Green Spot, as another gets an old-school haircut. Coffee in a Milkmaid can ” hangs” from a pipe.
The lifelike images of Singapore’s past are the work of Mr Yip Yew Chong, 46, who has lived near Everton Road and walked along that same road every day for about 20 years.
He was inspired last year after seeing the murals in Kampong Glam painted by Mr Ernest Zacharevic, a Lithuanian whose street art in George Town, Penang, has become a tourist attraction.
But the self-taught artist started thinking seriously about his own project only after he quit his accountant job three months ago to pursue other interests.
Singapore’s street art is mostly found on the sides of shophouses or in alleyways. Here are several places to go:
•Jalan Klapa and Jalan Pisang, near Victoria Street
•Junction of Joo Chiat Terrace and Everitt Road
•Junction of Bukit Timah Road and Anamalai Avenue
•Alley between The Substation and the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street
A CONSORTIUM led by property investor Stanley Quek has picked up a couple of adjacent shophouses in Duxton Hill for S$19.6 million. The properties, which have three storeys and an attic, are on two separate land lots; however the units are linked, forming a distinctive corner shophouse lot. Tenants on the street level include Italian restaurant Latteria, which has also leased the open space next door from the state on a temporary occupation licence to operate an alfresco dining area.
The upper levels are leased to office tenants, the biggest of which is Duxton Asset Management, a leading international and boutique asset manager that focuses on agriculture and Asian emerging markets. The group’s two founders, Ed Peter and Desmond Sheehy, through their own private company, are the sellers of the pair of Duxton Hill shophouses.
The two properties are said to be the last shophouses owned by Mr Peter along Duxton Hill; at one time, he was one of the biggest owners along the street.
When contacted, Dr Quek told The Business Times the price he paid translates to about S$2,200 per square feet on a floor area of slightly below 9,000 sq ft. “It’s a fair value to pay for a corner property in a prime conservation area…”
Zoned for commercial use, the shophouses have a total land area of 2,540 sq ft and a balance tenure of 72 years.
Leases for the main tenants still have some time to run. “We’ll be getting 4 per cent gross yield based on the purchase price,” said Dr Quek.
The doctor turned developer and property investor stitched together a small consortium of close friends for the acquisition.
Another recent transaction, this time in the private residential market, is the S$21.07 million sale of a townhouse at the freehold Bishopsgate Residences by its developer, Kajima Overseas Asia. The buyer is a foreign-incorporated company. The price works out to S$3,465 psf based on the strata area of 6,081 sq ft. The townhouse has direct access to a basement carpark. On the ground level of the unit are a bedroom and a family area. The master bedroom and two other bedrooms along with the kitchen, dining and living areas are on the second level. The unit comes with a private rooftop pool. The townhouse comes fully furnished; the interior design was done by Hirsch Bedner Associates.
Bishopsgate Residences, which received Temporary Occupation Permit in late 2012, has four townhouses and 27 apartments.
Kampong Glam, an ever hip arts enclave, is a heritage district in the city. It is distinctive as being the former palace of the sultan, it has an immersion of rich cultures from Malay, Arab, Turkish, Javanese influences, while also having Indian, Chinese and Eurasian touches in the neighbourhood. Sultan Gate, a road leading to the former Sultan Palace which is currently a Malay Heritage Centre, is also a “gate” to a wealth of Art and Legacy.
Just located outside the Malay Heritage Centre, lies a row of shophouses that are full of art and heritage. Within a wall of street art, a shop strikes out. Within a glass frontage, one can see the unique Malay and Javanese craft welcoming you into the interiors.
“Kiah’s Gallery” is a Batik-inspired arts showsroom. Started by a Malay family, one can see the family legacy passed down to the modern age. Yati, the founder of the gallery, started the business together with her family, including her husband and daughter Ain, three years ago. They called this business “Kiah’s Gallery”, with inspired with the name of Ain’s nenek or grandma, as part of keeping the family legacy.
Being inspired by a Batik piece they bought from a trader, they grew to love this art, despite it being a dying craft in Singapore. With their personal love of the art reaching its peak three years ago, the family decided to convert their personal love to share with the lovers of this unique Batik art.
For the first 18 months, the business was tough. Being new in this line and having to compete with other players in the neighbourhood, Kiah’s Gallery had to find a place in this business. From purely retailing batik-designer pieces, they have extended their services into tailoring and customization, as well as introducing other art pieces like paintings and sculptures.
Since then the business has been growing well. Their customers consist of a mix of locals as well as tourists. Kiah’s Gallery also carry designer pieces and artefacts that reflect the cultural influences of the Nanyang and Malay heritage. Art pieces from internationally renowned Batik painter Sarkasi Said are also displayed and sold here.
Every Batik piece is an art. There are several techniques in the craft. It has influences involving Chinese, Dutch, Indian, Malay and Javanese cultures, as this part of the world has such infuses of these cultures throughout the centuries. Different emblems, like the phoenix and other legendary icons symbolizes the influence of the associated culture. Now there are also modern touches to the craft, like Japanese incursions, to make Batik an exciting artpiece to wear. If you are interested to visit the gallery and explore for yourself, please note the following information.
Name: Kiah’s Gallery (look for Yati and Ain)
Address: 71 Unit B Sultan Gate Singapore 198496
Excerpt from Wikipedia:
“Batik is a technique of manual wax-resist dyeing applied to whole cloth, or cloth made using this technique. Batik is made either by drawing dots and lines of the resist with a spouted tool called a canting, or by printing the resist with a copper stamp called a cap. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artisan to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating if multiple colors are desired.
A tradition of making batik is found in various countries, including Nigeria, China, India, Malaysia, Philippines and Sri Lanka; the batik of Indonesia, however, is the most well-known. Indonesian batik made in the island of Java has a long history of acculturation, with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures, and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique, and the quality of workmanship. On October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. ”
Batik art was rather unappealing to me for quite a long time. Preferring contemporary art work, I thought Batik art as somewhat outdated and unfashionable. Even old Chinese art fascinated me more than Batik. The closest encounter I had with Batik art, was during a trip to Genting in 2001. It was during a short trip shortly after my graduation when my friends and I were thinking of visiting the casino, but we were not in the right attire. Based on the management, we have to wear either collared formal or Batik wear. Being newly-minted engineering graduates then, our apparel style was just the basic streetwear of T-shirts and jeans. That killed off any idea of visiting the casino there even till now, as well as any positive feel in this art ironically.
After the visit to Kiah’s Gallery in 71 Unit B Sultan Gate, my encounter for Batik art took a new twist. The owners of the gallery, Yati and Ain, introduced a new batik world to my partner and I . What I thought as just some outdated craft in making clothes is actually a detailed art with centuries of history. It has influences from Chinese, Indian, Dutch and other cultures, which periodically have a major influence in the South-East Asia region over the past millennia. Every fabric has a story to tell and a culture to teach.
Using each batik fabric, one can tailor into fashionable apparel according to one’s needs. Kiah’s Gallery is retailer of Batik art as well as customizer of batik wear. Their passion to revive the dying batik art propelled them to share with the public, using dedicated craftwork and skillful hands into an fashionable wear one can put on their body.
At Kiah’s Gallery, the owners have prepared many fashion wear based on the batik fabric. Styles similar to Chinese, Arabic, African and modern wear can be found in Kiah’s Gallery. Each batik fabric can be bought from $35 onwards, while each fashion artwear can be had from $100 onwards.
As the nation celebrates its jubilee year, Nabilah Said & Deborah Lee speak to 10 local personalities about places that remind them of the Singapore of the past
1 JANICE WONG, 32, pastry chef and owner of 2am: dessertbar
Favourite spot: Chinatown
I lived in an apartment just above the Hong Lim Market and Food Centre till I was three years old and my grandmother continued to live there till I was nine.
In fact, the staircase I would take up to my house was just next to the popular Heng Kee Curry Chicken Noodles.
There used to be street buskers who would play music while we ate.
These days, I come here once every two months and the owners of Heng Kee still remember me.
Sometimes, they automatically serve me a glass of my favourite sugarcane juice when I am here.
It’s like coming back to family.
These hawker stalls that have been here for years are the ones that should be celebrated.
The owners of Heng Kee are here from as early as 3am to prepare the curry noodles and the queues are always snaking long.
I may be in the pastry business, but I love the flavours of food like this.
I take my friends from overseas to Chinatown often.
Even though some parts have been modernised, I think there’s still a lot of heritage to be found here.
One thing is for sure – the crowd has not changed. There’s a certain generation of older Singaporeans who are still here.
2 CAROLYN KAN, 42, founder- designer of Singapore artisan jewellery label Carrie K.
Favourite spot: Lazarus Island
Lazarus Island, off the south-west coast of Singapore, is the only place here where I feel like I am on an adventure.
It is an uninhabited island to which one does not have direct access – you have to take a ferry to St John’s Island and cross a link bridge to Lazarus.
One memorable incident there was when I found a set of train tracks that led nowhere. I wish I could remember exactly when.
Nowadays, whenever I visit the island with my husband, we make it a point to look for them after taking a boat ride to the island and after a swim.
3 KENNY CHAN, 63, store and merchandising director of Books Kinokuniya
Favourite spot: Former MPH Building in Stamford Road, now known as Vanguard Building. The Urban Redevelopment Authority awarded it conservation status in 2003.
I love books. The MPH Building was one of my favourite places because it was right next to the old National Library. It was at the now-defunct MPH bookstore there that I was awarded the store’s book voucher, as a literature prize in school.
Inspired by the service there, I vowed to become the store manager and I eventually did it in the late 1980s.
4 BOO JUNFENG, 32, film-maker
Favourite spot: Tanjong Pagar Railway Station
When I was in primary school, my parents took me on a train ride to Johor Baru. I still remember being on the noisy train, chugging through lush greenery and old HDB estates.
Tanjong Pagar was relatively quiet when it was still functioning.
I guess that was because it was the terminus of the KTM line. We used to say that when you came to the station, you were kind of already in Malaysia. We don’t get to say that anymore.
In its later years, I often went there with my friends for supper. The mee rebus at the cafeteria was very good.
It isn’t easy gaining access to the station now that it’s closed, but I’m glad the authorities have decided to open it to the public on public holidays.
I shot a key scene in my short film, Parting, which is part of the anthology 7 Letters, there. The scene is set in the 1960s.
For a brief moment, I tried to bring the station back to life again.
I’m glad I got to put it on film.
5 SAMANTHA SCOTT-BLACKHALL, 36, theatre director and artistic director of Blank Space Theatre
Favourite spot: Colonial-style cafe Colbar, Wessex Estate
In the 1990s, I had just entered the theatre scene and a lot of the new friends I made then happened to live in the Portsdown Road area.
It was not unusual for us to clear their living rooms to rehearse for shows.
Colbar, nestled among the foliage of Portsdown Road, was a cool place to hang out at after rehearsals.
It was a very peaceful place to be at. All our attention was on one another and our stories.
The cafe is located away from the main road so there are no cars whizzing by – it is just the gentle hum of fans and pockets of laughter competing with the army of crickets all hanging out at Portsdown.
Actually, I didn’t realise it till now, but Colbar moved from Jalan Hang Jebat to its present location in Whitchurch Road in 2004.
I had some trouble finding it as I didn’t know it had moved, but then I saw the recognisable blue exterior and I knew that was it.
It has retained a lot of the old architecture, such as the timbre panels and clay roof tiles.
The laid-back atmosphere is still the same – and the insects are still there.
6 SANTHA BHASKAR, 76, Indian dance pioneer and artistic director of Bhaskar’s Arts Academy
Favourite spot: Victoria Theatre
I associate Victoria Theatre with my performances and my life.
I have performed there many times. In 1955, that was where I had my first solo performance. I was 15 or 16 years old and had to perform in front of a big audience.
I was from India and had only performed in temples or small theatres before.
The theatre was huge, like a palace, and the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles by the river made it seem even more majestic.
I remember the curtains and the lights, and the general impression of floating through space.
I wasn’t nervous, but I was filled with positive energy.
The theatre has been renovated since and its interior has shrunk in size. But I feel the same emotions when I step inside it. The spirit of the place remains the same.
Home is home.
7 SANDRA RILEY TANG, 25, musician from pop-folk band The Sam Willows
Favourite spot: Old-school HDB playgrounds
There used to be a playground in the shape of a dragon near my school, Yuhua Primary School, in Jurong. I have fond memories of going there every day after school with my friends. We’d play catching and hide and seek, running up and down the spine of the dragon.
I would feel very excited, but also scared because I was supposed to be home. We’d spend one to two hours there before heading home.
It’s a bittersweet memory because I won’t be able to show my future kids that playground. Nonetheless, I still can’t resist a good playground. You can always find me on the swings. The higher the swing can go, the better.
8 JASON WONG, 51, board chairman of Focus On The Family and former Singapore Prisons Service deputy director and chief of staff
Favourite spot: Mount Faber
My father used to work for Keppel Shipyard, so my family lived in the shipyard’s staff quarters at the foot of Mount Faber until I was 12 years old.
I was still in lower primary school when a few families who were close friends started going on weekly pre-dawn walks. The walks usually took place on the weekends, when the fathers were not working.
We would set off after 5.30amto catch the sunrise on top of Mount Faber. I still remember the beautiful scenery at the peak.
On weekdays, the children would meet in the evening atop Mount Faber – where the cable car station is now located – or at a nearby park several flights of steps below Mount Faber’s peak, to play hide and seek, and catch butterflies. It was a playground in our backyard.
9 RANDY CHAN, 45, principal architect of architecture studio at Zarch Collaboratives
Favourite spot: Shophouse at 43 Blair Road
The shophouse belonged to my grandmother and was where the Chan clan gathered for monthly reunions or festive occasions.
The house looked huge when I was younger. I remember seeing huge spiders and cobwebs at every corner of the house.
Its architectural features, such as the fan-shaped windows, had an old-world charm. The aged Peranakan floor tiles, some cracked, were rich in texture.
When my grandmother’s funeral was held there, there was one memorable incident.
I was on night vigil with some of my relatives, but had fallen asleep near the coffin after offering incense. At around 2am, a loud knocking came from within the coffin. Everyone became scared and huddled together, except for me – sound asleep and oblivious.
The next morning, my uncles said that it was possibly my grandmother’s ghost.
Vigil-keepers for the remaining nights of the wake stayed awake.
We sold the shophouse after my grandmother died in the 1980s.
10 FANDI AHMAD, 53, former captain and current coach of Singapore’s national football team Lions XII
Favourite spot: Bussorah Street
This street is my favourite because I hang out with my friends there after Friday prayers at Sultan Mosque every week.
There are many interesting shops that sell things from books to trinkets to accessories.
I usually drive there. I get to chill with my friends, relax and take in the atmosphere. Sometimes, we even jam and play music there.
“As the streets get closed off, they come alive with activities: tables and chairs spilling onto the roads, diners enjoying a leisurely cuppa, youngsters hanging out at quirky boutiques, and tourists soaking up another aspect of Singapore. People stroll freely and safely. Closed to cars, the streets come alive.”
Photo by URA.
On Thursday, Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan endorsed the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) newly-launched “Streets for People” programme on his blog.
“Car-free Circular Road, Haji Lane and Ann Siang Hill during weekends have been a great success,” Mr Khaw wrote. “We want to see more streets being turned into public spaces for community to enjoy.”
The “Streets for People” programme, launched on Thursday, will support new community-initiated car-free zones aimed at transforming streets and back lanes into temporary public spaces.
During the operational hours of a car-free zone, access to the street is restricted to pedestrians and emergency service vehicles, while all kerbside parking is suspended, the URA said on its website.
The programme offers varying levels of support, including providing road closure essentials such as safety barriers and signage, and up to S$5,000 of seed funding. The URA will also facilitate consultation with relevant government agencies.
Applicants of the URA’s “Streets for People” programme must operate or reside within the area where the project is proposed and demonstrate that their project is supported by the community.
In the last two years, the URA has been working with a range of stakeholders to implement car-free zones at various locations and have supported a number of external initiatives through its PubliCity programme. Launched in 2013, PubliCity aims to involve the community to celebrate good public spaces and to enliven public spaces through good design and programmes.
“The success of these projects is a reflection that the public appreciates an environment with fewer cars. We hope that through offering support to community-initiated projects, we will encourage more people to think about the trade-offs in land-scarce Singapore,” the URA said.
Streets that have already been transformed to public spaces include a back lane in Everton Park where a street festival was organised, car-free zones at Bussorah Street at Kampong Glam as well as Club Street.
Justin Frizelle, spokesman for the Club Street Association, told The Business Times that the pedestrianisation initiative has rejuvenated the area with increased vibrancy, along with a range of challenges.
“The increase in consumer traffic in the evenings naturally comes with the challenge of managing both litter and noise. Such large gatherings of pedestrians also comes with stricter enforcement of safety regulations to ensure that there are always passageways for safety vehicles.”
Rachel Liddington, a resident at Club Street, said that pedestrianisation has improved her personal safety, but added that the URA could further improve the programme by having clear signs explaining road systems and closures further away from the affected roads, giving drivers more time to respond accordingly.