Updated: Sep 6, 2020
Near to Tiong Bahru Market, Singapore, three beautiful murals stand in quiet corners within walking distance from each another. These murals are the handiwork of Yip Yew Chong, an accountant who loves art (check his website for more of his works), sponsored by People's Association under the PAssionArts Movement and Seng Poh RC.
The three murals depict scenes that are part of Tiong Bahru's history. You will be able to have glimpses into how life was like in Tiong Bahru in the not-very-distant past.
What is amazing with these mural paintings are the level of details that were intricately painted. It is as though a camera was used to capture the scenes and portrayed on the walls like photographs. Also, the characters in the murals are all real-life sizes, you can interact with them and become part of the murals.
When going for any street arts, do avoid sunny times. Harsh sunlight will cast shadows on the murals.
1. Pasar & The Fortune Teller
The "Pasar & The Fortune Teller" mural is a rather long one, so I will show it part by part from the right of the mural to the left. Check out the intricate details.
The right part depicts a food stall selling local food — laksa and curry mee (noodle). Two guys at a table are eating noodles with five pieces of chwee kueh (rice cakes) on the table. Another stall, selling buns, is in the background. Five popular local delicacies that can be found in Tiong Bahru Market (Pasar is Malay for "market") are already being introduced in one-third of the mural.
Moving to the left, an Indian vendor wrapping putu mayam (vermicelli-like noodle made from rice flour and coconut milk and served with grated coconut or palm sugar) by a bicycle. An Indian lady and a Chinese lady are waiting while a boy is playing with a cat. The words on the rattan blinds identifies the scene to be in Tiong Bahru Market.
And the fortune teller is attending to his customer. The figurines of three Chinese deities in an opened briefcase and a parrot were added to the table. The details are so fine that I can even identified the deities: Laughing Buddha, Goddess of Mercy and God of the Soil.
Further to the left is a tray with various types of Chinese muffins and cakes. The Chinese menu identifies all the items in the tray. To interact with this mural, get your companion to "sit" on the empty chairs and pose creatively.
The "Home" mural depicts the typical scene in a home in the old days. How I know? The dates on both calendars on the wall indicates "Jan 1979". The date in the higher calendar shows the day as "12 Jan 1979". Apart from being very detailed, the dates are accurately illustrated too.
The newspaper's publisher is printed as "星洲日报" (Sin Chew Daily), which is the predecessor of today's "联合早报" (Lian He Zaobao) after a merger. "星洲日报" ceased to be operational in Singapore in early 1983. True to the details, newspapers from Sin Chew Daily were still in circulations in Singapore on 12 Jan 1979.
You can also read some of the Chinese words on the newspaper. The main headline says something like "Promote Speak Mandarin Campaign" (推广讲华语运动).
The television is screening a popular variety show in Singapore in the 70s and 80s. The brand of the old-model television is "Telefunken". On the radio, the word "Rediffusion" (丽的呼声) is the name of the company that started cable radio broadcasting in Singapore in 1949.
3. Bird Singing Corner
There used to be a "bird corner" in a coffee shop in Tiong Bahru until 2003. The "Bird Singing Corner" re-enacts the scene in those days where patrons would bring their birds to the coffee shop for breakfasts and hear them sing. The mural has three parts.
It is interesting to learn that the cages were hanged on to tags for easy identification of who the birds belonged to in order to avoid disputes.
A real chair is also part of the mural where you or your companion can sit with the folks and listen to the birds singing.
And, as you browsed through the photos in this post, did you notice that all three murals have a cat in each of them?
Don't miss these intricate street arts while in Tiong Bahru or plan a trip there to check out the murals before they fade after some time. To make it more fun, be part of the murals.
When you are there hunting for the murals, visit Tiong Bahru Market & Food Centre for some great local food too. We did a food hunt there recently using Singapore Michelin Guide 2016. Check it out.