Saturday, 21 February 2015

Void Deck Art - Social Creatives

My co conspirator in my explorations around this island has long been interested in street art and in particular the rather unique art on the HDBs (local housing) When we first moved here these towering concrete villages built to replace the old kampongs of yester year were slightly off putting, I assumed wrongly they were like the concrete social housing of UK inner cities. Very soon I was proved wrong, they are indeed villages in themselves with all a village could need with a great sense of community and belonging. What's more where in the UK they are left as brick or concrete in maybe grey or white, here they are painted in bright colours, many areas having the same theme and or colour forming an identity. On top of this, some HDBs have been decorated with towering murals over the frontage and smaller paintings and decoration on the void decks, the communal open area on the ground floor of these towers. This post is just about one group who with the help of local residents have set about to brighten their homes and bring art to all with a Singapore twist.

We had heard of Social Creatives, a group  that had taken this one step further and had painted art galleries inspired by famous artists. Social Creatives are a non profit arts enterprise that promotes public art, more can be found in their website date we know of 3, last month we visited 2 and this week we managed to view the 3rd. If anyone knows of any more of there "galleries" please let me know :)

Pipit Rd, Block 56 Nearest MRT MacPherson  

Van Gogh. Painted in 2011 

Holland Ave Block 8. Close to Buona Vista MRT

Painted in 2012. Modern pop art inspired by Singapore

Jurong West, Street 73 

Piccasso style Singapore themed art. Painted 2014

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Johor Straits lighthouse aka Raffles Marina lighthouse

Just when I think I'm getting somewhere ticking places off my Singapore Bucket List another "must visit" place is added... then another...and another.... Anyhow recently added to this never decreasing scroll was the lighthouse to the West of Singers, giving safe passage to boats entering the Johor Straits from its western entrance.

Sitting at the end of the pier overlooking Raffles Marina is the aptly named Raffles Marina Lighthouse or Johor Straits Lighthouse. Not to be confused with Raffles Lighthouse, which is on Pulau Satumu (Coney Island) The lighthouse is about as far West as one can go in Singapore without needing your passport. It sits under the shadow of the causeway bridge at Tuas, which crosses over to Johor Bahru in Malaysia. 

There seems little information surrounding this building except that it is still in use and managed by Raffles Marina, unlike the other lighthouse here which come under the Maritime Port Authority (MPA) It sits looking seawards at the straits towards Malaysia and inwards towards the mega million dollars yachts and boats you will see moored in the Marina, no wonder they want safe passage into their berths. It's stands 12 metres high and flashes every 10 seconds with a beam that reaches 15 metres. There seems no information on when it was built although by deduction it was after 1850 when the first one was built.

OK may I did sneak an unauthorized photo in of the marina, under the guise that may friend was stopping to do up her shoe lace!! Naughty me.....

We did ask permission at the Marina to enter and walk along the jetty to take photos and were given permission on the understanding we only shot out to sea and only took the lighthouse and no boats. Since returning I have found out that the Marina and pier is open to the public but I still feel on a quiet week day asking permission was the right thing to do. However feel free to visit, there are two restaurants there that seemed to serve reasonably priced meals. Not a bad place to spend a few hours, with a glass of vino overlooking the straits, enjoying the sea breeze and dreaming that one of those yachts, bobbing rhythmically in the water is yours - we can dream!

There are a few more lighthouses in Singapore that are still in use.

1. Horsburgh which sits on Pedra Branca in the East of Singapore.
2. Raffles which as mentioned is on Pulau Satumu (Coney Island) North East Singapore.
3. Sultan Shoal on a small south west island.
4. Bedok. Not in fact in Bedok but on top of Lagoon View condo, Marine Parade on the East Coast, a short walk from where we live. This was actually built in 1977 to replace the lighthouse that once was on top of the Fullerton Hotel.
5. Pulau Pisang which is in Malaysian waters in the Straits of Malacca.

Raffles Marina Lighthouse
Raffles Marina
10 Tuas West Drive

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Thieves market

Thieves market is located just off Sungei Rd between Pitt St, Larut Rd and Pasar Lane (meaning "market" in Malay)   Last week when visiting the Thai Buddhist temple, Wat Kancanarama, I then hopped on a bus to visit the market, however as I got off at the bus stop the heavens opened in good old Singapore monsoon stiley and after sheltering under the stop for 15 mins hopped on the next bus home!  So with the weekend and Sunday free, hubby and I took a wander around Kampong Gelam and the Malay Heritage centre before a fab shawarma at The Kebab House  (highly recommend this for a quick lunch stop) then took a walk over towards Little India, finally visiting the market, this time in sweltering heat and experienced it in its full Sunday busy swing.

The Thieves Market or Sungei Road market or even "Frozen Bridge" in Hokkien, named after the ice factory that once was nearby, is a flea market that has been in existence since the 1930s. It has derived its nickname from its once dubious notoriety of being the place that stolen goods was passed on. Once in Singapore such markets would of been common place right back to Raffles time, when sailors and merchants would visit these to purchase new (Secondhand) clothes, necessities and food. I recently read a book about Singapore and the traders in the late 1800s and such a market was described in it, I felt I had stepped back to such time. Even today on a busy Sunday there were many foreign workers trying on and purchasing "new" clothes, history repeating itself.

Here you can buy practically anything, even that which you didn't know you needed! From videos, cassettes! shoes, electrical, jewellry, tools, old records, books, even ancient bottles of VSOP brandy! bric a brac etc etc. Right up to the 1960s it was a place that you could buy any Army kit or rations etc, somehow making its way from their Stores hmmmm... From its once seedy past of stolen goods, now everything that is sold here is sold legitimately, but the government sets the proviso that all the goods must be secondhand, they also charge no rent to the hawkers, many who are now in their 60s, 70s and 80s and who have traded here for decades.

Many of the previous hawkers here have gone on to make their fortunes, the most famous being the MD of the food court chain Koufo, Pang Lim. He once sold fruit at the market in the 1970s, saved his money and bought a coffee shop and later rented stalls out to other hawkers. These days however this is not likely to happen, where once there was 400 sellers it was downsized in 2011 and has shrunk even more recently to around just 80. Most of these hawkers are of advanced years, with a lifetime of stories etched on their faces. They are incredibly poor, making just enough to pay their rents and live.

Sadly this now unique piece of Singapore's every day life, will soon disappear forever under.... yes you've guessed it redevelopment. They have been shrunk and squeezed into the pitch they have now to make way for the new Downtown MRT line and it will disappear completely as they land they are situated on is due for HDB construction. In July 2014 the NEA (National Environment Agency) announced the market will close in 2017. Apparently the hawkers have been offered scattered stalls elsewhere but turned the offer down and they themselves have suggested 4 other possible sites for the market but the NEA turned these down.

I am so glad that I have been able to witness this piece of history, albeit not in its heyday. Just to stand back and watch those rummaging through the goods, whilst the sellers watch on, crouching or sitting sheltering under ancient umbrellas. Look through squinted eyes and you are transported back over a 100 years, to times past and the beginning of the start of Singapore we know now.

Photos are courtesy of hubby.