The Arts Space (Season 3): Makan-Makan

The Arts Space at Level 8 at the National Library has been re-imagined as a space that brings to life our rich collection from books and photographs to artworks and poems. Inspired by the painting, “The Couple” by acclaimed Singapore artist Tan Swie Hian, the Arts Librarians have set out to create a multi-purpose space – physical and virtual, collaborative and contemplative – that not only evokes a cosy reading corner with recommended reads but a curated space for displays and exhibitions.

Welcome to Season 3 of The Arts Space – Makan-Makan. Food is essential to life – from eating for survival to indulging in the pleasures of food. As the local saying goes, “we do not eat to live – we live to eat”! Eating is both Singapore’s favourite past time and an integral part of our culture. In attempts to express the essence of our gastronomic experiences, food has been depicted across many art mediums, ranging from still life to literature to film. Come join us at the National Library this season as we explore food and its part in our everyday lives as captured by artists, writers and filmmakers.


First to the lively wet markets then to the kitchen! Getting food on the table starts from the laborious process of washing, cutting, seasoning and eventually cooking. Trace the finer details of food preparation with Poh Siew Wah’s On the Floor and Soh Chee Hui’s Pomegranate, Teapot with Cup, and catch glimpses of our local wet market culture in Chua Mia Tee’s Fishmonger.

 

About the artists
Chua Mia Tee (1931 – )
Chua Mia Tee is a prominent artist in Singapore, best known for his portrayals of Singapore’s vanishing landscapes and realistic paintings. Capturing socio-historical moments of the nation, Epic Poem of Malaya (1955), National Language Class (1959) and Works in the Canteen (1974) are some of Chua’s often-cited and discussed works. Chua’s depictions of Singapore’s landscapes and ways of life that were fast disappearing due to urbanisation are important records of Singapore’s history. Working primarily with oil, Chua has also used other mediums such as acrylic, watercolour, bronze and relief. He was conferred the Cultural Medallion Award in 2015 in recognition of his artistic contributions to Singapore.

Soh Chee Hui (1967 – )
Soh Chee Hui received his art education at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Birmingham. He was also the recipient of the UOB Painting of the Year award in 1992. Influenced by both Chinese and Western artistic traditions, Soh’s works juxtapose motifs from different cultures, prompting new ways of understanding them. For instance, Soh’s paintings frequently feature fruits, and while they can be read along the paradigm of Western still life, their arrangement and patterns on the bowl bring a local flavour to the viewing experience. Soh delights in uncovering such complexities in seemingly simple items. The pomegranate has been of particular interest to him since he discovered that it symbolises abundance in Chinese societies and sexuality in the West. One of his paintings displayed here features a pomegranate alongside other household objects.

Poh Siew Wah (1948 – )
Poh Siew Wah is a professional artist, art educator and stamp designer. A notable second generation Singapore artist, Poh is known for his abstract paintings inspired by Singapore and Southeast Asia. Aside from landscapes, his art also captures street scenes and figures. His commissioned artwork at Farrer Park MRT station, titled Rhythmic Exuberance, includes both figurative drawings and abstract expressions of sports. He also works in a myriad of mediums, including Chinese ink, watercolour and oil. Poh has won several accolades for his work, such as the NAFA Alumni Distinction in Creative Art Award (1984, 1987, 1988) and the Singapore Art Society’s Tan Tze Chor Award (2010).

Below is a selection of related resources available from the NLB catalogue or the Internet. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list.

On Artists

  • Cai, M. (2018). The art of Chua Mia Tee: A portrait of a life’s work. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions.
    Call no.: RSING 759.95957 CAI
    This publication is a curation of more than 300 paintings, illustrations, sketches and sculptures by Cultural Medallion Recipient Chua Mia Tee. Included in this book are images of his artworks that have never been published or rarely seen by the public, parliamentary sketches of 1978-1979 and essays by Zou Lu, Low Sze Wee, Chang Yueh Siang and Dr Chua Yang.

 

  • National Library Board. (2016). Chua Mia Tee written by Marsita Omar. Retrieved 7 September 2019, from Singapore Infopedia.
    URL: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1010_2008-07-30.html
    A Cultural Medallion recipient, Chua Mia Tee is best known for his oil paintings of Singapore’s vanishing trades and much sought after for his skills in portraiture. Drawing from the world around him, Chua’s early works include realistic depictions or documentations of traditional landscapes and life in Singapore that were disappearing from the cityscape due to urbanization.

 

  • Soh, C. H. (2010). Notes: Soh Chee Hui. Singapore: Soh Chee Hui and Artfolio Pte Ltd.
    Call no.: RSEA 759.9595 SOH
    Published in conjunction with the Soh Chee Hui’s 9th solo exhibition of the same name, this publication features a selection of paintings by Malaysian-born artist and includes an introductory note by Quek Kiat Sing.

 

  • Poh, S. W. (1995). Poh Siew Wah : Court of Justice Hall, Flensburg, Germany, 8-30 June 1995. Singapore: S.W. Poh.
    Call no.: RSING q759.95957 POH
    This exhibition catalogue was published on the occasion of Poh Siew Wah’s first solo exhibition outside of Singapore, held in the prestigious Court of Justice Hall, Flensburg Germany, in 1995. The catalogue of this second generation Singapore artist includes an introduction essay by Constance Sheares and coloured prints of his displayed works, accompanied by excerpts of quotes by Poh.

 

 

On Subject

  • Chia, P. (2019). Wet market to table : A modern approach to fruit & vegetables. Singapore: Epigram Books.
    Call no.: RSING 641.595957 CHI
    Chef Chia’s love for the wet market is captured through over 80 recipes and stories of one of the most quintessential food spaces in Singapore. This book promises to bring readers on a culinary journey of Singapore’s uncommonly used vegetables, fruits and herbs found in our wet markets.

 

  • Kreutz, G. (2016). Oil paintings essentials. Mastering portraits, figures, still life, landscapes and interiors. New York: Watson-Guptill. Retrieved September 7, 2019, from NLB OverDrive.
    Call no: Available as eBook on NLB Overdrive
    Kreutz explains in this book how a multi-genre approach to painting can improve one’s skills. Through comprehensive, detailed step-by-step instructions and examples of his own rich and colourful artworks, Kreutz discusses the essentials of oil paintings such as selectivity, depth and light, which can be extended to a multitude of subjects.

 

 

  • Tan, S. (2016). Food.. Singapore: Straits Times Press & Institute of Policy Studies..
    Call no.: RSING 394.12095957 TAN-[CUS] Singapore Chronicles – Food celebrates Singapore’s food heritage, exploring various culinary influences and delving into the history of cooking practices and eating habits of the “food nation” that is multicultural Singapore.

 

  • Tan, A. (2012). Savour Chinatown: stories, memories & recipes. . Singapore: Ate Ideas..
    Call no.: RSING RSING 647.955957 TAN
    This book is a collection of the stories behind the history of the food in Singapore’s Chinatown and celebrates the diversity of hawker stalls, shops and businesses that have existed over the past 100 years.

 

  • Tarulevicz, N. (2013). Eating her curries and kway: A cultural history of food in Singapore. Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.
    Call no.: RSING 394.12095957 TAR
    Tarulevicz delves into Singapore’s history through an examination of food.This book explores how food serves as a “connection to Singapore’s ever-changing past” and a “unifying experience for a diverse society”.

 

 

  • Yu, O. (2013). Auntie Lee’s delights: A Singaporean mystery. New York: William Morrow.
    Call no.: RSING 823.914 YU
    Written by Ovidia Yu, this is the first of the “Aunty Lee” series of mystery novels. The series’ protagonist is Aunty Rosie Lee, a Peranakan widow, amateur detective and owner of Singapore’s best-loved home-cooking restaurant. With a nose for uncovering mystery, the amateur sleuth digs deep into her guests over her food and specially brewed teas.

 

  • National Library Board. (2005). Ellenborough Market written by Vernon Cornelius. Retrieved 7 September 2019, from Singapore Infopedia.
    URL: https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_480_2005-01-07.html
    A brief introduction to Ellenborough Market, amarket and trading centre in Ellenborough Street by the Singapore River, located in the Central Region of Singapore. It was named after Ellenborough, Lord, the Governor-General of India (1841-1844). The original Ellenborough Market was first built in 1845 but was later extended with another structure by its side in 1899. Fire gutted the market in 1968, and the building was demolished sometime later.

 

  • Zhuang, J. & Ng, S. (2016). Eating together: The design of sharing food in a connected work. Singapore: In Plain Word.
    Call no.: RSING 394.12095957 ZHU
    In conjunction with the 2016 exhibition of the same name, this publication provide highilights of the exhibition by Justin Zhuang and Sheere Ng. Held at Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film, the exhibition examined how design shaped our eating experiences in Singapore.

 

As a multicultural society, Singapore has a rich food heritage that speaks of a fusion of diverse cultures. Be it a piping hot bowl of laksa enjoyed at the hawker centre or kopitiam, or kacang puteh at a roadside food stall, there is something quintessentially Singaporean about seeking out culinary treasures from all corners of the island. The origins of our hawker culture can be traced all the way to the 1800s when travelling hawkers peddling food and drinks were common sights on the streets of Singapore. Through the works of artists such as Chua Mia Tee and Poh Siew Wah, we can venture back in time to visit the hawkers of the past and catch a glimpse of Singapore’s early street food culture.

 

About the artists
Chua Mia Tee (1931 – )
Chua Mia Tee is a prominent artist in Singapore, best known for his portrayals of Singapore’s vanishing landscapes and realistic paintings. Capturing socio-historical moments of the nation, Epic Poem of Malaya (1955), National Language Class (1959) and Works in the Canteen (1974) are some of Chua’s often-cited and discussed works. Chua’s depictions of Singapore’s landscapes and ways of life that were fast disappearing due to urbanisation are important records of Singapore’s history. Working primarily with oil, Chua has also used other mediums such as acrylic, watercolour, bronze and relief. He was conferred the Cultural Medallion Award in 2015 in recognition of his artistic contributions to Singapore.

Poh Siew Wah (1948 – )
Poh Siew Wah is a professional artist, art educator and stamp designer. A notable second generation Singapore artist, Poh is known for his abstract paintings inspired by Singapore and Southeast Asia. Aside from landscapes, his art also captures street scenes and figures. His commissioned artwork at Farrer Park MRT station, titled Rhythmic Exuberance, includes both figurative drawings and abstract expressions of sports. He also works in a myriad of mediums, including Chinese ink, watercolour and oil. Poh has won several accolades for his work, such as the NAFA Alumni Distinction in Creative Art Award (1984, 1987, 1988) and the Singapore Art Society’s Tan Tze Chor Award (2010).

Andrew Yeo (1964 – )
Andrew Yeo is a Singapore artist whose practice spans several mediums such as watercolour, oil, pastel and acrylic mixed media. Yeo sees painting as a way to preserve memories of Singapore’s landscape, shop houses, street scenes and vanishing trades. Although his works may seem documentary in nature, the scenes he depicts are often places he visited or memories from his childhood. What he seeks to portray are not straightforward snapshots, but the sense of nostalgia associated with these scenes, some of which have already disappeared. In Johore Road, Yeo captures a bustling street that was famous for its street hawkers and wholesalers. Johore Road was located near the site of the current National Library building, but no longer exists today.

Loy Chye Chuan (1940 – )
A self-taught painter, Loy Chye Chuan started painting in 1958. He gained recognition as a watercolour artist by learning from other renowned practitioners such as Lim Cheng Hoe in the 1960s. Eventually developing his own style, Loy’s works include landscape scenery and street scenes of an older Singapore, where he used bright colours to inject a fresh and lively feel. Loy is one of the 13 founding members of the Singapore Watercolour Society, which was established on 18 August 1969.

Below is a selection of related resources available from the NLB catalogue or the Internet. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list.

On Artists

  • Chua, M.T. (1997). Oral History Interview with Chua Mia Tee. Singapore: National Archives of Singapore.
    Chua Mia Tee speaks about his family and background, his time in the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, as well as various milestones in his artistic career. Key works such as “Workers in a Canteen” and his views on the importance of content in paintings are also discussed during this oral interview, conducted in 1997.

 

  • Loy, C.C.(2011). Loy Chye Chuan’s watercolour world. Singapore: Loy Chye Chuan.
    Call no: RSING Chinese 759.95957 LCC
    This book includes a foreword by the artist who briefly introduces his artistic philosophy and creative journey. Loy’s paintings are presented chronologically from 1960s to 2011, including his scenic artworks of Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, and China.

 

 

 

  • Yeo, A.(2004). Memories of yesteryears. Singapore: A.R.T. Gallery.
    Call no: RSING 759.95957 YEO
    The catalogue of Andrew Yeo’s first solo exhibition at The A.R.T. Gallery includes an article by Singapore artist Ong Kim Seng on Yeo’s approach of using watercolour to paint street scenes in Singapore.

 

On Subject

 

  • Kong, L.(2007). Singapore hawker centres: people places food. Singapore: National Environment Agency.
    Call no: RSING 381.18095957 KON
    The author traces the genesis and development of hawker centres in Singapore since the early days when itinerant peddlers plied their trade along the streets. This publication also contains many personal anecdotes and photographs of well-loved hawker centres in Singapore.

 

  • Kong, L., and Sinha, V., eds. (2015). Food, foodways and foodscapes: Culture, community and consumption in post-colonial Singapore.. Singapore; New Jersey: World Scientific.
    Call no: RSING 394.12095957 FOO
    This volume brings together various perspectives on food culture in Singapore, including pig-farming, food-blogging, the history of kopitiams, and the globalisation of food in Singapore. More than descriptive texts of culinary experiences, this book examines the historical, social, and economic aspects of food production and consumption in Singapore.

 

  • Our hawker centres: A heritage & art project, a commemorative collection of murals and art installations. 2015. Singapore: National Environment Agency.
    Call no: RSING 725.71095957OUR
    The “Our Hawker Centres – A Heritage & Art Project” initiative was jointly organised by the National Environment Agency and the National Heritage Board, in partnership with the National Arts Council. It was launched in 2015 to raise public awareness of the heritage and cultural value of Singapore’s hawker centres. This book documents the processes, stories, and images of various art murals and installations created by schools and organisations in hawker centres all over Singapore.

 

  • National Library Board. (2016). Travelling hawkers written by Thulaja, N.R.. Retrieved 7 September 2019, from Singapore Infopedia.
    URL: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_47_2004-12-27.html
    In the 1930s, there were as many as 10,000 hawkers (licensed and unlicensed) along the streets of Singapore. This article looks at the history and types of itinerant hawkers, as well as the customs that developed along with their trade.

 

 

 

  • Quek, B. (2018). “Makan places and coffee socks” in BiblioAsia Vol. 14, Issue 3. Singapore: National Library Board.
    Senior Librarian Barbara Quek highlights some publications from the National Library’s Legal Deposit Collection that showcase Singapore’s hawker culture and history.

 

Capitol entrance

Whether as an aesthetic prop or as a symbolic vehicle of complex emotions and socio-cultural perspectives, food has been used in films for a variety of purposes. From heart-warming, tear-jerking family dramas to nail-biting horror flicks of cannibalism and supernatural cravings, food has been a common motif used across genres. Explore the multi-faceted nature of food in film with snippets from the Asian Film Archive Collection.

 

Film montages on show

11 Nov 2019 – 31 Jan 2020
1. 3Meals by Colin Goh (2005)
2. Eat Rice by Angela How (2004)
3. Four Dishes by Leon Cheo (2008)
4. Family Portrait by Ellery Ngiam (2004)
5. The Reunion Dinner by Anthony Chen (2011)

1 Feb 2020 – 15 Apr 2020
1. Buy Me Love by Ric Aw Yong Liang (2005)
2. Friday Morning by Gill Lim (2006)
3. Lunchtime by Wee Li Lin (2000)
4. Wanton Mee by Eric Khoo (2015)

16 Apr 2020 – 31 Aug 2020
1. Crab! by Jolene Teo (2009)
2. Gourmet Baby by Sandi Tan (2001)
3. Unlucky Plaza by Ken Kwek (2014)
4. Mee Pok Man by Eric Khoo (1995)

Below is a selection of related resources available from the NLB catalogue or the Internet. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list.

On Subject

  • Bower, A. L. (Ed.) (2004). Reel food: Essays on food and film. New York: Routledge.
    Call no.: 791.436559 REE
    This book explores the relationship between food and film and the unconventional ways in which food is employed to make meaning in film, as an evocative element that holds symbolic power to signal various issues of identity, race and gender.

 

  • Brown, J. (2013). Cannibalism in Literature and Film. Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY : Palgrave Macmillan.
    Call no.: R 809.93355 BRO
    Horror, revulsion, then intrigue, fascination, and even an odd sense of pleasure – these emotions fill us when we encounter cannibalism in literature and film. The cannibal is simply pervasive in popular culture. Through the chronological study of the transgressing cannibal figure across different genres, Brown is able to provide us with insights into the accepted norms, prejudices, taboos and very real fears a society harbours, especially pertinent to all of us living in a modern era of consumerism and overindulgence.

 

  • Miller, C. J. & van Riper, B. (Eds.) (2017). What’s eating you? : food and horror on screen. New York, NY : Bloomsbury Academic.
    Call no.:791.436564 WHA -[ART] The old adage, “We are what we eat” rings true in this wide-ranging collection of essays that delves into the cinematic portrayal of food and consumption, examining the complex connections between our food choices and our beliefs and value systems. Across a tantalizing spread of horror narratives, of dangerous dishes and grotesque cannibalism, the consumer unwittingly becoming the consumed, this book destabilizes all our notions about the human condition and forces us to question our very human nature.

 

  • Murck, A. (Ed.) (2013). Mao’s Golden Mangoes and the Cultural Revolution. Zürich : Scheidegger & Spiess.
    Call no.: R 951.056 MAO
    Who would have known that something as innocuous as a mango was once a key vehicle for important political propaganda in China? During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, the golden mango was a potent symbol of the power and respect Chairman Mao accorded to the working class. It signified an important power shift to the proletariat which became the main force of order and stability amongst the chaos. In the chapter Political Awakening through the Magical Fruit: The Film Song of the Mango, Adam Yuet Chau discusses the central element of the mango in the 1976 film Song of the Mango situated in its political context.

 

  • Segan, F. (2009). Movie Menus: Recipes for Perfect Meals with your Favourite Films. New York: Villard. Retrieved September 10, 2019, from NLB OverDrive.
    Presenting a collection of authentic recipes paired with classic films, like Gone with the Wind and Shakespeare in Love, this cinematic cookbook not only provides an easy guide to creating an unforgettable screening-and-dining experience but also features film trivia, recommendations and quotes interspersed with the recipes..

 

  • 谭慧. [Tan, H.] (2008). 电影中的美食地图 [The real history behind movies cuisine]. 北京 : 外文出版社.
    Call no.: Chinese 791.436559 TH -[ART] From Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Babette’s Feast, from the classic French cheese board to the spicy hot chilli peppers of Mexico, this book explores a myriad of local food cultures through film. The rich and colourful food heritage of Europe, America and Asia is revealed to us as against the varied backdrop of comedy, tragedy, romance and horror. In English and Chinese.

 

  • Zimmerman, S. & Weiss, K. (2005). Food in the Movies. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland.
    Call no.: 791.436559 ZIM
    Food in the past has always been an ever-present yet seldom noticed element in film. Food films as a new genre did not emerge until the late 1980s. Covering over 500 American and British movies of every genre, the authors identify the many prominent roles of food as a prop, transition device, symbol and metaphor through a historical overview of different storylines.

 

  • Basker, K. M. (Director) & Salleh Ghani (Screenwriter) (1961). Sultan Mahmood mangkat di-julang. [Videodisc]. Singapore: Asian Film Archive.
    Call no.: RSING Malay 791.4372 SUL
    In this Cathay-Keris film based on a 17th century folklore, the pregnant wife of Megat Sri Rama, Wan Anum (played by Maria Menado), eats a slice of jackfruit from a tree planted by Sultan Mahmood, leading to tragedy and revenge.

 

  • Cheek (Writer & Director). (2000). Chicken rice war. [Videodisc]. Hong Kong: Mei Ah Entertainment.
    Call no.: RSING 791.4372 CHI
    In this modern Romeo and Juliet tale set in Singapore, two star-crossed lovers, Fenson and Audrey, are caught in-between the rivalry of their families’ chicken rice stalls.

 

  • Khoo, E. (Director) (1995). Mee pok man. [Videodisc]. Singapore: Asian Film Archive.
    Call no.: RSING 791.4372 MEE
    Originally released as a motion picture in 1995, this debut feature by Eric Khoo was the first Singapore production from the revival period (1990s) of Singapore filmmaking to receive international critical acclaim. Set in a notorious part of Singapore, Mee Pok Man tells the tale of a dim-witted noodle-seller’s bleak relationship with a disillusioned prostitute, Bunny, who desperately wants to escape her vicious pimp. When the Mee Pok Man “rescues” an injured Bunny after a hit-run-accident, a bizarre and touching love emerges.

 

  • Khoo, E. (Director) (2013). 回味 [Recipe]. [Videodisc]. Singapore: Health Promotion Board.
    Call no.: RSING 791.4372 REC
    Madam Ching, a hawker stall owner selling scissor cut curry rice is diagnosed with dementia. Her daughter, Qiu Yun, a French cuisine chef, brings her home to stay, bring mother and daughter closer as Qiu Yun reacquaints herself with her mother and the traditional local cuisine. Commissioned by the Health Promotion Board, this telemovie, starring veteran actresses Zoe Tay and Li Yinzhu, was made to raise awareness of dementia, and received one of the highest viewership on Channel 8 for the year.

 

  • Khoo-Toohey, K. (Producer) (2017). Old friends = Lao peng you. [Videodisc]. Singapore: Objectifs Centre Ltd.
    Call no.: RSING 647.955957 OLD
    Most of us connect to certain foods, whether as a source of comfort or as a nostalgia memory. This documentary features 49 bite-sized segments on different hawker stalls, and the relationships that Singaporeans develop with these hawkers and their food.

 

  • Woodford, N. M. (Writer & Director), & Tan, J. Q. (Writer) (2011). Kitchen quartet. In Sinema showoff!: class of 2010 :A collection of Singapore’s emerging filmmakers. [Videodisc]. Singapore: Sinema.
    Call no.: RSING 791.4375 SIN
    A promising female chef is affected by a patronizing food critic’s review. Forced to question her culinary career, she re-examines her relationship with her hawker mum, while the critic’s young son uses food as a means of connecting with his father.

 

Photographs used are from the Lee Kip Lin Collection, Paul Piollet Collection and Gerald Pang, courtesy of PictureSG. The information in this resource guide is valid as at November 2019 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2019.

Written by Kong Leng Foong