i’m one of the many many artists being featured at the NOISE TAP exhibition, which is up at the Singapore Art Museum 8Q building, level 4 (until 1 Sep 2013)

besides creating a new work, i’ve also made my first namecard. here it is.



With the pervasiveness of the Panda, and its strong iconic status as a mascot of China, it may surprise some to know that the Panda was only introduced into the canon of Chinese painting (and branding) in the 20th century. In 1963, a series of Giant Panda stamps by Chinese artist Wu Zouren were issued, thus establishing what will in time become China’s most beloved mascot (especially for Japanese tourists).
Interestingly, Singapore’s most beloved mascot (especially for Japanese tourists), was designed a year later, in 1964, by Fraser Brunner, as a logo for the Singapore Tourism Board. With the rapid rise of these two countries since the 1960s, there is probably an important lesson to be learnt somewhere. Case studies for marketing & branding 101 perhaps?

I was enjoying the view of Singapore’s city skyline, when a friend pointed to the Esplanade and asked, “By the way, is that really supposed to be pronounced espla-‘naid’ or espla-‘nard’ ?”

The question struck me initially as very odd. Granted, there was the fast and furious not-so-instant-messaging that took place over press forums over this very issue of pronunciation, when the cranes, screens were removed from the city centre and the durian emerged. It was not long, however, before everyone settled on that same single way of pronunciation. Espla-‘naid’ it was.

Then I paused. After all, episodes of baptism have often been riddled by unfortunate linguistic faux pas, with such tragedies perpetuated in name of convention. Surely, there’s a distinction to be drawn between what has come to be conventional, and what is right. Some cases simply fall squarely outside the confluence of the two circles of a venn diagram. Perhaps, this just happened to be one of them.

Then came the baffling question. What is right?

I began a non-committal reply with the convention in the pronunciation of english names, as one with a heavy penultimate accent. This seems consistent with espla-‘naid’, but not espla-‘nard’.

A split-second mental dissection conducted on our singlish language sent alarm bells ringing through my head. After all, our singlish convention of name pronunciation dictates, arguably mistakenly but with good reason, that all names ought to be pronounced with special relish placed on the ultimate syllable. (The ultimate syllable is after all, ultimate).

In the case of Singlish, things go a step further. The devil’s in the indivdual syllables. Not only have we all-but-patented a rather kitsch way of rendering our vowels, we have regretfully, as one united people, consistently opted to put our stressors on a rather embarrassing end of the syllable dipole – the apparently uncouth posterior, rather than the supposedly distinguished head. What results from this formula is a harsh, almost vulgar way of speech.

The effect of Singlish is a tad like this.

Instead of:

a sunday on la grande jatte by Georges Seurat

a slice of classic french laziness, resplendent with the golden hues accompanying afternoon tea

you get:

Families sitting under shade at the Esplanade to catch the late afternoon display of fireworks

a singaporean equivalent - pointedly stripped of romantic overtones... but charming, nevertheless. (SOURCE: Ministry of Information and the Arts, from a2o database)

I have to admit, however, that I am rather proud of my proficiencies as a native Singlish speaker. In our frank and candid rendition of the English language, inserting the anglicized (BBC newscaster) way of saying something into daily conversations always sounds odd, and more-than-slightly pretentious.

To-‘may’-to, to-‘mah’-to, espla-‘naid’, espla-‘nard’, it doesn’t really matter. However you say it, you won’t land very far off from that very telling trace of Singlish that rings through with each syllable. That’s okay, my fellow Singaporeans. It’s only humean to be slightly vulgar.

Ziwei is a native speaker of Singlish. She received her Mastery in Queen’s English through on-air courses by the BBC and Monty Python.

parting shot of school

on my last (official) day in school, twilight was especially beautiful.

sunlight streamed down the corridor casting golden dust over these rows and columns of spaces behind locked doors.

for some reason, i was reminded of a columbarium.

the most putrid of places, stripped down to its purely visual elements, are  (surprisingly?) beautiful.

crates and cranes

perhaps, a place that denies its inhabitants the aesthetic pleasures of  olfactory sensations can only be rendered livable if it provides recompense in some other.

broken bridges

under the hypnotic gauze of twilight, i briefly believed that i  would want to stay forever,

a kind of life

in this noxious floating world.

– – – – –

lines that demarcate a space

i sometimes wish that singapore had visible transmission cables.

the delicate lines they draw across the sky divide space into parallel portions.

i find that vaguely pleasing, somehow.

– – – – –

dancing streams of water at night

i came across this musical fountain while strolling in a park.

it’s like awesome fireworks on a budget.

— – – –

note: the first three pictures were taken at boao (博鳌), the fourth at sanya (三亚) and the last at haikou (海口)

chickens in a coop

cooped up pigeons

I stumbled upon a local market stashed away in a grungy alley.

The sight of these birds packed into rusty metal cages made me cringe.

But hey, other than the brief period before they are sold, these birds lead mostly free range lives.

If this scene  is sufficient to evoke pity and repugnance, what more the plight of factory farmed animals?

– – – – –

a little girl in a dubious neighbourhood

from cradle

clothes hanging in the middle of a narrow corridor

to grave

on a cable car ride...

these people live

difficult, nondescript, yet  immensely vibrant lives

note: first four pictures were taken in haikou (海口), and the last picture is an aerial shot of a cluster of people “of the floating world” (蛋家人)

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