In the Interim Exhibition Opening at Artistry Cafe
Photos by Jennifer Teo
Kopitiam Lengkok Bahru (KLB) consists of a handful of volunteers who work together with Beyond Social Services and 50/100 to engage a group of enthusiastic youth who live in public rental flats in the Lengkok Bahru estate.
Late last year, we gave this group of nine youths various photo assignments with the aim of documenting the different aspects of life in Lengkok Bahru – the neighbourhood, their home(s) as well as important aspects of their everyday life. We stressed the importance of using photos to tell their stories which would be shared with the rest of Singaporean society. Instead of letting them use conventional digital cameras, we handed them second-hand film cameras. With these, we hoped the youth would be more thoughtful in constructing personal narratives while composing their photographs.
Some of us are aware of Singaporeans who live in public rental housing. Still, many might not be able to relate to the everyday lived experiences of those living in these housing estates. This can be said for the KLB volunteers before we embarked on this fulfilling journey with the youths in the program. As such, we were intrigued to learn more about them and Lengkok Bahru.
It was also our intention for the nine participants of this program to take ownership of the process – as unprofessional or unpolished as the photographs may seem. After all, these photosets provide insight into their unique perspectives and stories.
While rental housing is temporary for some families, others have lived in rental flats for more than a decade. Although circumstances differ, these families are not unlike the typical Singapore family, where everyone strives to make the best of difficult situations. We see how people forge close communal relationships, leaning on these very ties for strength and comfort. Be it with immediate neighbours, neighbourhood friends or even the amiable storekeepers, the volunteers witnessed a tight knit group with helping each other to make everyday a little easier to get through.
The main objective of this exhibition is to therefore have these young photographers share their community – Lengkok Bahru – with others. These budding artists are aged between 13 to 18 years old, and most have lived in Lengkok Bahru for at least a few years, if not their entire lives. All of them are either in secondary or tertiary institutes.
The exhibition is divided into three parts:
1) Lengkok Bahru as Home
3) Aspirations beyond Lengkok Bahru
The arrangement is intended to draw viewers into different facets of life in and around Lengkok Bahru, akin to other similar estates around Singapore. It also provides a glimpse into the lives of families in public rental housing, where the creative use of limited spaces shared by so many inadvertently leads to opportunities to form strong bonds of solidarity.
Additionally, it is hoped that through the exhibition, the youth are afforded a platform not only to showcase their photographic skills but to vocalise issues they face in their lives through soundscapes. Viewers are encouraged to also listen to what these photos represent and hopefully respond to the budding community artists through postcards and messages.
Project 50/100 is proud to sponsor this creative, meaningful and moving project. In the Interim’s themes of agency and storytelling by the youths from Lengkok Bahru are cast against a background of growing inequality in Singapore. This is very much in line with our effort to commemorate Singapore’s 50th year of independence in novel ways that bring out alternative themes overlooked in the official celebrations. This wonderful exhibition, the upcoming seminar on inequality and poverty as well as other outreach efforts to come are also very much in line with our focus on engagement with the immediate communities involved as well as Singaporeans at large. In The Interim is the first core Project 50/100 that has come to fruition and we thank and congratulate the fantastic team that brought it together!
For more information on the exhibition and the KLB, please visit the Kopitiam Lengkok Bahru page at https://www.facebook.com/kopitiamlengkokbahru.