We, the colours of Singapore.
This August we celebrate 51 years of independence.
51 years of against-the-odds survival. 51 years of cringe-worthy drama serials, of Hello Kitty edition Happy Meal queues, of arguments over the best chicken rice in town.
Yes, we know that we are a confusing mess of contradictions. Stark signs of modernity with our jungle of glass-clad skyscrapers vis cramped colonial-era shop houses and their five-foot ways. Our genial, affable, Instagram-loving Prime Minister vis his monolithic, book-banning, show-stopping, courtesy campaign-touting government.
Yet nothing contradicts more wildly than the spectacularly Singaporean circumstance of spending more than a S$100,000 on a car, only to bend over backwards just avoid spending a paltry $2 in parking.
Pantone 143, Kiam Kana* Orange
*Lit. Salted Olive, meaning a stingy person.
Or more memorable could be the mini crisis your parents invoke on the way to pick you up:
Pantone 1365, Kan Cheong Yellow
If our boring Literature classes taught us anything, it would be that blue represents peace, serenity, and calm – and perhaps for a good reason.
Dotting the gentrified green spaces amongst our towering HDB estates, these benches play host to our brisk walk-exhausted elderly in the morning, work-worn couples in the evenings, and inebriated youngsters in the twilight. (Remember, kids: no consumption of alcohol in public spaces between 10:30PM to 7:00AM)
Pantone 3005: Lepak Blue
Don’t you think those tiled round tables in the void decks have one of the deepest, richest, most beautiful blues I’ve ever seen. Sort of a cross between Lapis Lazuli and Cobalt – this deep, bodied tone never fails to make us feel at home.
Pantone 2756: Void Deck Blue
Speaking of home – how about the sprightly splashes of pink that adorn our roadways and bridges? The pink Bougainvilleas that embellish the roadsides and overhead bridges are the perfect counterpoint to the repetitive masses of asphalt, shrubbery and signage.
Pantone 224: Overhead Bridge Violet
“Clean and Green”- the first words out your mouth when asked about your country. Clean and Green? Nothing could then be more Singaporean than our national mascot: the Rubbish Bin.
Journeying abroad, we soon realise how much we’ve taken for granted the omnipresent trashcan here at home.
Pantone 344: Rubbish Bin Green
And then there’s red. Our national colour; the colour of universal brotherhood and equality of all man…
Pantone 1805: Bahaya Red
We Singaporeans are a curious breed. We kaopei our National Service, lament the sad state of our public transport, decry the tyranny of the Nanny State.
But yet, we, the citizens are roused, united, whenever we top an international ranking: the best airport, the best living standards, or even the most expensive automobile prices. We grin at being something more than a Little Red Dot. We’ve made it. The world has seen us.
You’ve been great, Singapore.
Pantone 032: Majulah Red
Hi, I’m Ian, and Uncommon Tragedy aims to curate my ideas, images and pieces, while serving as a platform to engage and share these works.
A photography portfolio is also maintained on instagram @bokeh_bomoh