Exhib: Singapore, very old tree

The wonderfully talented Robert Zhao Renhui is back. This time with a showing of a terrific new series, Singapore, very old tree, named after a mysterious 1904 postcard from the national archives featuring a tall tree.

For his new project, Robert in collab with Adeline Chia (Editor and writer), Joyce Teo and Ng Jinxi (Research) records and reveals people’s stories and personal fascination with trees.

“Singapore is often known as a Garden City, but this is an impersonal image of anonymous trees and gardeners. Our project aims to boil this generic image down to specifics by exploring the concrete, personal connections that Singaporeans have made with trees. After all, what is loving nature without loving the individual plant?

Through our interviews, we found that people relate to plants in touching and occasionally surprising ways. For example, a group of Buddhists have been circling a rubber tree for an hour a day, for the past few years, as a form of walking meditation and to absorb the tree’s “energy”.  A mangosteen tree has been sheltering a man for 20 years, since he saved it from the bulldozers. Another woman cries when her trees don’t fruit.

Besides featuring in individual stories, trees are living, breathing markers of history. The trees in our collection are of different ages. Some are old native species from pre-colonial times, when Singapore was mostly a freshwater swamp forest; others are younger trees that their owners planted from seeds.

The images on show are influenced by vintage hand-tinted Singapore postcards. In fact, Singapore, very old tree is named after the title of one of the oldest postcards in the National Archive, a 1904 picture of an unspecified tree.”

(Design by Roots. Hand Tinting by Sokkuan Tye)

Stories and photographs of the trees are shown in an exhibition on Level 10 – Promenade in the National Library Building. The exhibition runs through 28 May. Don’t miss it!

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