SINGAPORE – Donning straw hats and balancing bundles of gambier crops above their heads, the villagers in local artist Mr Yip Yew Chong’s mural offer visitors to The Rail Mall a slice of life from Singapore’s past.
The Rail Mall comprises a row of shophouses along Upper Bukit Timah Road and is within walking distance of the Rail Corridor, a stretch of the former railway line which connected Singapore to the rest of the Malay Peninsula in the 1900s.
The Rail Corridor’s lush natural landscapes are also home to a variety of flora and fauna, such as pangolins, owls and a thriving forest.
Mr Yip, 50, a freelance artist acclaimed for wall murals in various heritage sites like Chinatown and Kampong Glam, was commissioned to pictorialise The Rail Mall’s rich history on two murals fronting the entrances of the retail strip.
The artist told The Straits Times, “I try to do site specific paintings. The murals showcase the significant history of the very charming and rustic Bukit Timah area through its different eras.”
Visitors to the mall will thus get a glimpse of how gambier crops were plucked, boiled and sun-dried to make medicine and dyes back in the early 19th century, when gambier and pepper plantations were popular there.
Mr Yip will also include the last wild tiger shot in Singapore in October 1930, in memory of the tigers that once prowled the area and the many plantation coolies killed by them.
On another wall, Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) train number 6543, the last to journey through the heart of Singapore on June 30, 2011, will be depicted entering the rustic old railway station.
A prominent feature of the murals are the rusty zinc and attap roofs that once sheltered homes and shops, but are rarely, if ever, spotted now.
Mr Yip started work on Sept 3 and the murals are expected to be completed this week.
Describing the mall’s setting as “laid back” and “village-like”, Mr Yip said there is no better way to enhance this ambience than through “artwork to educate the young and create the nostalgic feel for the elders”.