Mother & Child

Here are two fairly similar digital paintings depicting a mother and a child preparing food together.

The first depicts a Malay mother and child making pineapple tarts for Hari Raya Puasa in their new flat, in the 1970s. They sat on the floor (covered with vintage vinyl mat) and used banana leaves, traditions they brought over from their Kampong days. 

The second painting below depicts my mother and I making dumplings in our old Sago Lane home kitchen in 1980. 

Making dumplings or any food specialty for festivals wasn’t my family’s tradition (it was so easy to just buy the food from the streets at our doorstep); but we occasionally tried home-making street food just for the fun of it. I remembered we tried making dumplings, yam-cake, laksa, mee-siam, salt-baked chicken, mooncake, sticky new year cake, and different types of desserts and kuehs. It took a lot of effort because in those days, ready-mixed sauces were not available. We had to buy and grind raw ingredients. Most times, the food tasted close enough to those sold on the streets (or even better!), but at rare times, they didn’t. A lot of trial and error?. 

The setting is my memory of my old Chinatown home kitchen. It was covered in black soot because we used firewood. The floor was always wet because we descaled fish, chopped meat, washed clothes, dishes and brushed our teeth with basins placed on the floor. That was also why we wore wooden clogs in the kitchen. We kept a cat named “Mary” to catch rats that run around the kitchen! Can you spot Mary in the painting?

View the painting process in the accompanying video. The third photo is “My Chinatown Home” mural painted at 30 Smith Street. Can you see the similarities from a different angle? 

My mother and I making dumplings in our old Chinatown home kitchen.
In this mural at 30 Smith Street, Chinatown, my mother is frying sticky new year cake in the same depicted kitchen.
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