About the Project

This site-specific installation featured portraits of and photographs made by Chong Pang residents who delved into the world of relationships and intimacy during their artmaking journey. They spoke about the process of ageing, living and dying, love and grief, wishes and regrets. Through posing for a studio photograph, they performed memories that they hold dear. Like murals, these portraits became part of the heartland’s void deck landscape.

Closer - Kindling - Kow Set Tai caregiver

Strategically placed texts invite the viewer to observe the interaction of the images with each other and their surroundings. With their cameras, they are looking and asking, “What does it mean to grow old?” The images that emerged are revealing in their humour, curiosity, and hope, as well as the shifting presence and silence of human interaction.

Creation Process

Photography workshops were held for residents to learn some photography skills using a simple point-and-shoot camera. They got to bring home the cameras over 10 weeks, and some even brought the cameras to Malaysia to capture their hometowns. During the workshop, seniors were encouraged to initiate their own photography projects with and about their observations and reflections about relationships – with their loved ones (living or dead), environments, and very importantly, themselves. They also expressed their personal insights about relationships and ageing – its gains and losses, and challenges.

The artwork images that emerged from the workshops revealed the seniors’ humour, curiosity and vulnerability. With their cameras, the seniors asked, “What does it mean to grow old?”. The photos they took were included in the different installations as part of the overall public arts exhibition in Chong Pang, titled Closer.



Alecia Neo

Alecia Neo works primarily with photography, video and participatory workshops. She develops longer-term projects involving a variety of individuals and collaborators, overlooked communities, and their spaces. She is also the co-founder and Artist Lead at Brack, a trans-border arts platform for socially engaged artists.

Participant Art-Makers

Chow Bee Lian

Dere Debora Magi

Mary Guo

Goh Ning @ Goh Yong Mei

Kow Set Tai

Lau Sai Soo

Ng Ah Yam

Susie Ng Chai Ha

Ong Mui Khoon

Rukumani d/o Rajoo Naidu

Saroja d/o Suppiah

Then Inn Hwee


Closer - Kindling - Kow Set Tai and Caregiver Dere Debora Magi

Kow Set Tai & Caregiver Dere Debora Magi

Set Tai is in her 80s, but she has loved photography since her younger days.

During this process she’s made an incredible number of images with the camera, keenly documenting the Chong Pang neighbourhood while also capturing very poetic images of herself and her everyday life.

Magi, who is a caregiver has been working in Singapore for more than 3 years. Magi actually has her own DSLR camera and is an avid photographer herself.

In the journey of the 10-week workshop, Magi also helped to make many of the portraits of Set Tai using the point-and-shoot cameras we provided.

This image shows their close relationship and also the trust between the both of them.

Closer - Kindling - Ng Ah Yam

Ng Ah Yam

Ah Yam is holding the only objects which she has to remember her foster parents by – portraits of them and a coin given by them.

She was given away when she was only 12 days old. She never saw her own parent’s faces. Any photos of her biological parents were burnt away by one of her relatives. Her parents and her 4 brothers were killed by the Japanese at their home in Bukit Timah where they had land near a cinema.

Her sisters and she survived because they were given away, as sons were preferred.

Closer - Kindling - Chow Bee Lian and Rukumani d/o Rajoo Naidu (Ruku)

Chow Bee Lian & Rukumani d/o Rajoo Naidu (Ruku)

They take turns blessing each other. When one does the namaste, she will bend down if she is young. Usually, an elder will bless the young one by touching her head and showering her with good energy.

Closer - Kindling - Saroja with her granddaughter

Saroja d/o Suppiah & her Granddaughter

Touching feet is one of the forms of pranam performed during ceremonies.

A gesture of respect, foot touching is reserved for your elders. Here Saroja invites her granddaughter who is coming-of-age to join her for the photography session.

These rituals can be associated with significant stages of a woman’s life – including childbirth and marriage.

Closer - Kindling - Susie

Susie Ng Chai Ha

She shares an object which she’s kept for years – a baby carrier she made with her own hands when she had her first child.

Story of motherhood, and the weight that women carry.

Closer - Kindling - Ong Mui Khoon

Ong Mui Khoon

Mui Khoon looks back at significant moments from her younger days – when she got engaged, married and when she was still employed full-time.

Closer - Kindling - Mary Guo

Mary Guo

Her handmade knitted shawl was a gift to her mother 30 years ago. She specially made it for her mother because her mum told her that she would love a knitted top. Now that her mother has passed on, this gift has returned to her.

Closer - Kindling - Then Inn Hwee

Then Inn Hwee

This suit is special to him because it’s the only suit he has. He got it made when he got married. He was delighted to have the opportunity to wear it again during the photoshoot. For him, donning the suit again was to remember and share his reflections, including regrets and aspirations about his youth.

Closer - Kindling - Set Tai

Kow Set Tai

Set Tai was born in the year of the Rooster. This was a gift from her son to her which she cherishes.

Closer - Kindling - Goh Ning @ Goh Yong Mei

Goh Ning @ Goh Yong Mei

Goh Ning holds an image of her grandchild in her hands.

With her camera, she captures the fleeting quality of memory in her home via her body and corners of her home, often touching objects which she holds dear, including a wedding basket, sewing machine and images of her children/grandchildren.

These moments are captured in the short few months before she moves out of her home in Yishun.

Workshop Process

Closer - Workshop - Alecia Neo
Closer - Workshop - Alecia Neo
Closer - Workshop - Alecia Neo
Closer - Workshop - Alecia Neo
Closer - Workshop - Alecia Neo

Community Voices

“I learnt how to appreciate positive things in life, joy. [The] workshop is very personal, there’s this sense of ‘togetherness’ in the team in the Both Sides, Now activities.”

Participant Art-maker of Kindling