My Chinatown Home 我家牛车水

This mural has got to be my most intimate mural ever painted, because it depicts my very first home in Sago Lane, Chinatown. Every detail and object in the entire composition was painted based on my fond memories of the home – from the common living room, the common long wooden bed where my siblings, aunt and co-tenants slept on, the dining area, to the kitchen. I also painted my late Grandmother, who was a seamstress, sewing a patchwork blanket. On the long bed, my siblings and I were playing the “aeroplane chess”. At the kitchen, my mum was frying the new year sticky cake. Can you spot the cane, the mosquito coil, the cassette player, door bell, wall gecko and the rat trap? Do you know why is that cabinet hanging from the ceiling?

My family was the anchor tenant of the house on the second storey, just above the funeral parlour on the ground floor. We rented it from an Arab landlord and sub-tenanted smaller units to 4 other co-tenant families. In 1983, my family had to  move out when  the entire street was slated for demolition as part of the big Chinatown cleanup. Apparently, all the waste water from the street markets and households in Chinatown flowed into the Singapore River. My family moved to the HDB block above the Chinatown Complex market at Smith Street.  Ironically, the plot lay empty for over two decades until the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was built in 2007. My dear home is now a carpark next to the Temple. In a few years time, it will be the entrance to the Maxwell MRT Station.

Photo courtesy of Richard Lee

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