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  • Writer's pictureRick

Singapore See: Mural Arts of Banda Street

Samsui woman

After I posted an article on the Street Arts in Ipoh in May 2017, a friend asked if I could do something similar for Singapore, especially in Banda Street, Chinatown. The art pieces was from the "Colouring Banda Street 2015" project, which took some 500 PwC Singapore volunteers and 100 Kreta Ayer residents over a period of 6 months to complete. The theme is about life in past and present Chinatown, something which the elderly residents of Kreta Ayer can identify with.

However, there was a catch — she could not find one of the pieces called "Springtime in Banda". Sounded like a quest.

Where to Start

Banda Street is right beside Chinatown Complex, which has a food centre on the second level with over 200 stalls selling local food. Not a bad idea to have a little discovery walk after a meal.

This explanatory board with map is located between Chinatown Complex and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple & Museum. It can serve as a good starting point as most of the art pieces can be found in close proximity — within 20 metres.

And two of the art pieces are right behind the signboard.

1. Bridge over Calm Waters

Bridge over Calm Waters

2. The Back Lane

The Back Lane

Painted on a wall behind a bicycle parking lot, "The Back Lane" has the help of some real bicycles to give it some 3D effects.

3. Welcome to Our World

Welcome to Our World

The Samsui women, female immigrants from China in red headscarves, had contributed greatly to the building of Singapore in the mid-90s. Some of the elderly women who are still living in Kreta Ayer used to work as Samsui women when they first arrived in Singapore.

4. The Cool Dude

The Cool Dude

And not forgetting the male immigrants who worked as fishermen and labourers. This mural is on the second level above "Welcome to Our World".

5. Our Past, Present and Future

Samsui Women

This is a two-part patchwork mural dedicated to Samsui women contributing to the construction industry in the past (top). The second part shows the modern structures of Marina Bay Sands in present days (below).

Marina Bay Sands

6. Everybody is Kung Fu Fighting

Everybody is Kung Fu Fighting

Oh, no no! Not so violent, they are not fighting. They are practising tai chi, a form of martial-art exercise that was quite popular in the old days. Some elderly still practise it this days.

7. Little Guilin

"Little Guilin" is another two-part mural on two facing walls along a flight of steps beside "Everybody is Kung Fu Fighting".

Little Guilin is the name of a granite rock formation in Bukit Batok Town Park due to its resemblance to the rock formations in Guilin, Guangxi, China. Most of the early immigrants to Singapore were from Guangzhou.

The paintings depicts the scenic surroundings and activities around Little Guilin.

8. Labour of Love

The "Labour of Love" is on a long wall showing different aspects of life in the past. To one end, the mural shows a house with an elderly woman standing behind a window with a child. Below the window was a bicycle with a punctured tyre. It seems to be part of the mural as it has been there since the launch of the "Colouring Banda Street" project.

9. Springtime in Banda

Well, I almost missed the "Springtime in Banda" too. After going round the two blocks for 3 times, I still could not locate it on the ground level and second floor. It was when I decided to give up searching and go over to Chinatown Complex for a cup of coffee, did I find it on the connecting bridge between Block 4 and Chinatown Complex Level 2. No wonder most people were not able to find it — it is for hungry people.

Springtime in Banda

"Springtime in Banda" was painted on the two walls along the connecting bridge and in two parts. It depicts flowers blossoming in spring time and birds sitting on the branches.

More Murals

There are more murals in Banda Street and also in Chinatown. While looking for the art pieces of "Colouring Banda Street", I came across 3 murals that were probably added later. These wall paintings depict themes on total defence, different festivals, and racial and religious harmony in Singapore. These murals are a great way for visitors, especially foreigners travelling in Singapore, to understand more about life in early-day Chinatown.

There are other murals of different themes in Chinatown, hiding in corners and alleys. If you are interested in them, do comb all corners and seek them out.

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