So the long awaited golden jubilee SG50 long weekend finally arrived, and with it came lots of excitement.
Courtesy lion Singa quit his job as the courtesy ambassador several years ago because of an increasingly miserable society. But he’s kind at heart, and when he sees his best pal, the Merlion, throwing up non-stop, he just can’t bear not to step forward to lend a helping paw. This is truly “inconspicuous compassion”: he’s doing it for the sake of kindness, not to be seen.
This piece resonated with many Singaporeans, and generated many laughs. It was really fun and satisfying to see people engage with the piece and to watch it spread across multiple platforms – I received several texts about people sending it to one another through WhatsApp. Someone even requested to make a T-shirt out of it lol 🙂
“Party Hard” was posted at the start of the long weekend, but as the festivities across the island began to wind down and people settled in to watch the parade, it was time to gather with friends and enjoy the country’s birthday party.
Some context: the four children are from the cover of the Civics and Moral Education textbook we used in primary school. The little animals are from a series of primary school English textbooks studied for at least a decade across all Singapore schools. Known as PETS textbooks, they featured a bunch of loveable pets that appeared in illustrations throughout the books; each level from Primary 1 through 6 had a different animal representing it.
I wanted to evoke a quiet sense of nostalgia, which really did strike a chord with many Singaporeans of my generation. I couldn’t help but wonder who the original illustrator of the textbooks was, and if he or she would come across my work.
Next thing I know:
A week after National Day, I was sitting down to coffee with Roy Foo, who was the legend himself – he had illustrated practically every single page in those textbooks, entirely by hand and with traditional watercolours.
Of course I asked him to sign a copy of my work. And he made the same request of me.
Roy is still drawing. He had no idea that the textbooks impacted so many children growing up in the 90s, and was really pleased to learn about it. I never imagined that an illustration of mine could connect me to someone whose work had been such a big part of my childhood.
As the nation celebrated 50 years of independence, I feel like I too have come a long way – but have an even longer way to go. Happy birthday, Singapore. Let’s work hard together. 🙂