In A Mirror Dimly

A painting of an old woman led through a door by a small girl saying 'ta-da'
I don’t recognise it anymore” —Popo, Singapore 2050


Dear Reader,

The body of a dying grandfather.

The face of someone you know, but inadvertently stared far too long at.

Niënor, turned Níniel, when faced with her brother Túrin Turambar, in The Children of Húrin.

Shifts, all of these, one state from another.

I realised recently that I find it deeply unsettling when someone I’ve spent sizeable amounts of time with—therefore one I recognise on a profoundly fundamental level—is altered. The subtle and seemingly inconspicuous shifts tend to raise my walls a lot more; mistrust is a powerful compeller.

Last year, we brought to Ethos 26 books revolving around Singapore’s bicentennial anniversary. Of these, Drewscape’s Singapore 2050 strikes a chord most resonant. What Singapore has developed into, the story’s protagonist, Popo, no longer recognises (she grew up with Game of Thrones and home-cooked Peranakan food); it becomes then the impetus for her daughter and granddaughter to gently show her what this era that has been thrust upon her truly is. A simple premise, really, but Drewscape’s art, and the voice with which these characters speak, will transport any reader into this new world with unexpected tenderness.

Working on this project introduced to me the split between the Singapore I recognise and the Singapore I don’t. It has been a fulfilling journey, working with numerous artists, writers and designers to experience what all of them, in their own little ways, see and don’t see.

So come, see and feel for yourself—26 lenses through which one can distinguish between the Singapore they recognise, and the one they don’t.


(From February 29, 2020)