The Story behind “Provision Shop” Mural

A one-of-its kind provision shop has just opened at Everton Road! Tucked away in a corner shophouse at the fringe of a busy financial district, nonchalant to large supermarkets and convenient stores, its towkay neo and her hardworking team run their little provision shop literally ’round the clock’. Here, you can buy traditional dried food stuffs, sundries, kitchenware and even freshly-sawed ice, all at unbeatable prices too! Can you spot and identify all the goods they sell? Bring your parents and grannies along when visiting the shop and hear their stories and experiences that come with each of the items displayed in the shop. Also, bring your own mug, container or carrier for the shop will only wrap your purchases in newspapers. They don’t have any plastic bags!

Welcome to my latest mural – the Provision Shop.

DSCN1493Inspiration and Meanings

I felt very happy to be able to paint at Everton Road again. This time round, a house owner invited and commissioned me to paint on his house gable wall. The theme was based on the house owner’s verbal description of the place as he remembered it during his childhood days in the 50s and 60s. There was a provision shop near the junction which also sold ice. In those days,  not every home had a refrigerator. Every evening, a rather plump and almost botak uncle in a silky white shirt would pedal his soya beancurd stall to the junction. Little kids would have a chance to eat beancurd or drink soya milk for free if they win a Tikam game by picking sticks from a tin can and getting two consecutive sticks with the same colour painted on their bases. The house owner also described his dad’s Vespa scooter on which he and his sibling took turns riding pillion around the area. As the owner described the scene, we also attempted to search the web for archived images of the scenes and objects to match his memories. In addition, I refreshed my own Chinatown childhood memories of how provision shops used to look like in the 70s and 80s. I further consulted my mother, my aunt, friends and even passers-by who looked elderly enough, to jog their memories of those scenes. The final outcome of the mural looks a bit like something out of the 60s to 70s, but actually spans across a good 3 decades. For example, while the sale of ice in provision shops was more common in the 50s to 60s, the biscuit tins with transparent plastic (so as to see the biscuits inside) and the coconut grating machines probably appear in the 70s, or even 80s. Coconuts were grated by hand in the 50s. Today, fresh grating of coconut can be seen in just a few wet markets or very old shops. We mostly buy ready made goods in fancy packaging from supermarkets.

The provision shop’s signboard reads “Hui An” (惠安), which is the name of a county in China’s Fujian Province, where the house owner’s ancestry roots can be traced. The bamboo blind reads “Sin Chew brand soy sauce”, representing our forefathers’ migration from China and settlement in Sin Chew (星洲) which means ‘Singapore’. The word “Kelapa” on the coconut grating machine is the Malay word for coconut. A passer-by contributed this idea and I think it represents our pre-independence Malaya era and multi-racial society very well. My mum visited me when I was painting and corrected me about placing the gunny sacks of dried goods directly on the cement floor – they were usually placed on wooden planks to prevent moisture, hence I added the planks.

On the extreme right, a curious-looking fat grey English cat poses for your photo. If you are lucky, you may see the real cat roaming around the neighbourhood. It aptly represents the present day, our young generation and our cosmopolitan city. Lastly, don’t miss my signature way of signing off – on a uniquely Singapore red letter box.

DSCN1531
Feeling like a star. Many passers-by requested me to take pictures together with them. This uncle particularly took many shots of different poses.
DSCN1666
Mr Singh would cycle pass the mural site everyday in the early morning and evening. He would pause, stare at the progress and pedal on, without a word. On the first morning of completing the mural, I went back to the site to wait for him. We chat for the first time and took a few photos together. The next day, I went to his home in Cantonment Road to give him the printed photos. He was so happy!
DSCN1574
Encouraged by my family and friends, I started Instagram. This is my first Instagram photo.
DSCN1546
Grating kelapa (Malay word for coconut)
DSCN1559
Bamboo blinds with painted advertisements – where else can you find them in Singapore?
DSCN1562
Sausages, salted fish, waxed duck and fermented beancurds
DSCN1627
Can you recognise the biscuits and crackers?
DSCN1629
Fermented century eggs wrapped in wood ash and salt. Salted eggs wrapped in a soggy paste made of charcoal, salt and water.
DSCN1505
The ubiquitous tin basins before plastic basins took over. Notice the Ovaltine can for putting the money!
This dustbin is probably the only one made of tin whereas the whole street is lined with the green plastic dustin. Hope the Garbage collectors do not miss it!
This dustbin is probably the only one made of tin whereas the whole street is lined with the green plastic dustin. Hope the Garbage collectors do not miss it!
A shot from behind the gutter gives it a surreal effect.
A shot from behind the gutter gives it a surreal effect.
The little boy wears a uniform from the St Matthew's Chapel Kindergarten at Neil Road. The chapel was demolished in the early 80s but the bigger church building beside it still stands today, waitiing for its new purpose.
The little boy wears a uniform from the St Matthew’s Chapel Kindergarten at Neil Road. The chapel was demolished in the early 80s but the bigger church building beside it still stands today, waitiing for its new purpose.
Get free beancurd and soya milk if you win the Tikam game by picking two consecutive sticks with the same colours painted at their bases.
Get free beancurd and soya milk if you win the Tikam game by picking two consecutive sticks with the same colours painted at their bases.
The Vespa scooter which the owner and his siblings used to joyride pillion around the area.
The Vespa scooter which the owner and his siblings used to joyride pillion around the area.
So lucky to see both cats together!
So lucky to see both cats together!
My signature way of signing-off
My signature way of signing-off
Zoomed in and cropped view evokes a different feeling
Zoomed in and cropped view evokes a different feeling
Blends in with the streetscape
Blends in with the streetscape

Visiting the Mural

The mural is on the gable wall of No. 8 Spottiswoode Park Road, at the cross junction of Spottiswoode Park Road, Everton Road and Blair Road.

By MRT : It is about 7-minute walk from Outram Park MRT Station, Exit G. Upon exit, turn right and walk along the front porch/perimeter of the Cantonment Police Complex. Pass by an overhead bridge, grass field and bus stop. Cross the traffic light, turn left into Spottiswoode Park Road and pass by a kopitiam and noodle shop until you reach the cross junction.

Carpark : You can park at any available white parking lot along the roads, or at the Everton Park carpark.

Please take care and watch out for vehicles when viewing the mural. You can get a panoramic view of it by standing on the shaded five-foot way opposite the mural. As the mural faces both the morning and afternoon sun diagonally, it will look parched and white-out under the strong sunlight, so the best time to visit is in the early morning and evening, when the diagonal sunrise and sundown gives it a soft, surrreal feel.

 

Surrounding Area of Interests

1.  House No. 66 Spottiswoode Park Road has a beautiful century old facade painted in porcelaine blue and brown, believed to be the oldest shophouse facade mural still visible in Singapore. It was discovered about 10 years ago during renovation and restoration of the shophouse.

2. Visit my other two murals along Everton Road – “Amah” and “Barber” at the Choa Kim Keat Garage.

3. Everton Park (HDB flats) and the row of old shophouses along Kampong Bahru Road – there, you will find hip cafes and creameries alongside traditional shops selling Ang Ku Kueh, Antiques and Korean Cakes.

4. Blair Road and Neil Road Peranakan Conservation Houses – Besides the beautiful Peranakan motif tiles on the walls and floors of almost every house, pay attention to house No. 147 Neil Road which was owned by the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s grandfather and when Mr Lee once lived during his childhood. Also, you don’t want to miss the beautifully restored Baba House (No. 157 Neil Road), now a Baba Nonya Museum showcasing Baba history, culture and architecture.

5. Spottiswoode Park Heritage Trees – Take a walk around the little forest to discover the three Heritage Trees (2 Rain trees and a century old Binjai tree). A rare site so close to the city centre that remains wild and green.

 

 

 

1 27_Nov
Bonus Pics – Painting process over two weeks (courtesy of Sarah Catton)

2 27_Nov3 29_Nov4 1_Dec5 4_Dec6 7_Dec

 

17 thoughts on “The Story behind “Provision Shop” Mural

  • Thank you for a new piece of mural! Looking forward to catching it when I am back in Singapore. I think since we cannot keep the old with developments, murals are one way to keep us connected to the past! Hope that more shops/house owners commission you to paint their walls! Keep it up!

  • Hi Chin Yee, thank you very much!

  • Wonderful to bring back the good old days shot. It’s so beautiful. Will drop by to have a look at it. Thanks for the good work. Cheers

  • luv your pics. its so real and makes me smile.

  • Thank you Jess!

  • Thank you Roy!

  • This looks great. I will get my friends to make a trip there with me.

  • Thanks Janice! YC

  • I chanced upon this provision shop mural today and love it! Keep the murals coming 😀

  • Hi Yenny,

    Thank you very much! Yes, more on their way.

  • Will be making my “Yip Yew Chong tour” pan-island. In the Provision Shop mural – Where are the Green Spot and F&N wooden crates with bottles to be recycled – some even with used bent paper straws still popped inside? We used to be more environment-friendly back in the 1960s, eh? And the provision shop assistant would heave these crates up/down the stairs – hard slog those days.

  • Hi MK Khoo,

    Thank you very much for your suggestion! You will be able to find a Green Spot bottle at another mural, also on Everton Road, called “Barber”. The bottle is under the chair where the boy sits. On the same mural, there is also a F&N crate where stacks of “Sin Chew Jit Poh” newspapers are placed. Hope you like them too.

    YC

  • Hi YC,
    Gonna to make a trip down to do some photography shots with your wonderful art! All your mural art awesome! Didn’t know that there are so many nice art around. You are a great artist!

  • Yip Yew Chong

    June 14, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Hi Felicia, Thanks for your appreciation of my works!

  • Lina Ong Formoso

    June 30, 2017 at 5:42 am

    I am deeply touched how a young man like you would take an interest in the days of yore … Keep up the good work, YC. I am looking forward to visiting these murals when I go to SG in July.

  • Yip Yew Chong

    July 3, 2017 at 6:01 pm

    Hi Lina, Thank you for your encouragement and appreciation of my works! Wishing you an enjoyable stay in Singapore.

    Regards
    YC

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *