Ethos Books presents The Singapore I Recognise: Voices from the Ground



The Singapore I Recognise (15 Jul - 6 Aug)

This 3-week National Day initiative celebrates the many facets, definitions and narratives of Singapore. Featuring a short video documentary, pop-up bookstore and community collaborations, as well as an exclusive "one bookshop, one title" showcase (a first in Singapore!), The Singapore I Recognise seeks to engage Singaporeans in meaningful conversations about where we are now, and where we want to go. #theSGirecognise

Voices from the Ground

Capturing interviews with 15 socially-engaged pioneers, thought leaders and practitioners across politics, academia, civil society and the arts, Voices from the Ground illuminates the Singapore they know and their hopes for our country.

You can access the full transcript of the video below. 


Jamus: We have enrichment classes for everything - art, music, sport. 

Sharul: Kumar is uniquely Singapore. His brand of humour is the best. 

Mysara: Russell Lee’s True Singapore Ghost Stories. 

Meng Ee: Singlish.

Alfian: An obsession with rankings.

Constance: Advanced medical infrastructure.

Rajkumar: Pasar Malam.

Corrie: Public Notice SG.

Jean: Having a PSA for all the basics, like, courtesy stuff.

Sharul: We could be at blu jaz cafe and still hear the call of prayer from the mosque.

Constance: When it comes to a crisis like the pandemic, we do trust the government.

Walid: I think a lot of times we like to emphasise Singaporean exceptionalism. We create a sense of superiority complex. I fear that we will close the doors to learning from other countries. 

The Singapore I Recognise

Edwin: The Singapore I recognise and treasure is the one that is multiracial. My father knew malay well, he could write in Jawi, and he had to learn it because his students were writing about him on the board, and he and my mother spoke in malay when they didn’t want us to understand. 

Poh Yoke: Behind our home was a Malay kampong. The Malay women living behind us would ask my grandma for some chillies, and she would give them away happily. We helped and cared for each other.

Haji: Imparting the right spirit is important. If we teach our children well, imparting to them a spirit of diversity, let them intermingle in a multi-racial community, all of them will grow up with that heart.  

Corrie: I'm always very inspired by the work of theatre companies like Drama Box, where they are able to bring Singaporeans together—whether in public spaces or in more conventional theatre spaces, to have these facilitated conversations about things that are actually really important to us but that we don't usually talk about.

Rajkumar: I aspire to showcase our rich heritage not only within our local community but also on an international platform by blending our unique Singai culture with Western art forms.

Walid: The Singapore I recognise is full of contradictions because human beings are full of contradictions. I am quite heartened by the level of non-mainstream ideas that come out of Singapore. It’s very useful and healthy for a society to have counter-hegemonic voices.

Jamus: I think the Singapore I recognise is open and warm, rich in many intangibles, but yet we’ve allowed the rich in the tangibles, to crowd out these intangibles. 

Paul: The Singapore I’m most proud of is actually the Singapore of the activists. It’s not just people who are here at Hong Lim Park, but it’s also people who in their own small quiet way, are standing up for what they believe is right.

Andrew: Prior to 2008, there was no term for the sign language used in Singapore. In 2008, the term "Singapore Sign Language (SgSL)" is coined and has been gaining recognition since. While we continue to advocate for further recognition, much still remains to be done.

Constance: Civil society is important because we women had to fight for what we have gained. The women’s charter of 1961 was the most progressive legal document anywhere in the world at that time.

Siew Kum Hong: I always believed that repeal would happen in my lifetime. 

The Singapore I Envision

Jean: The Singapore I want to see would be a Singapore where people can hold space and love for each other. And be happy for each other’s successes rather than competitive.   

Sharul: I would like to see that more people get representation. Even on television, I hope that we get to see more mainstream artistes who are of different races, and not just one token artiste. 

Meng Ee: Inclusion, diversity, openness. I think it really stems from the kampung spirit. A great sense of to be included is by first helping and including others.

Haji: We want to live peacefully. Together with everyone in the community.  

Mysara: Marginalised communities such as your migrant workers, domestic helpers, contributed one way or another into this idea of like, Singapore. I think we can do better, definitely, in including them in the narrative.  

Andrew: I hope for the eventual recognition of SgSL as an official language to be used in our education system, in the community, and in the field of interpreting. For those who would like to communicate with the Deaf community, SgSL should be the language to learn.

Alfian: The Singapore that I want to see places more trust in its people. Otherwise we have quite a paternalistic system, where it’s seen that apparently people don’t know what’s good for them.

Jamus: I hope that as Singaporeans, we will take a step back. And I understand that it’s tough. But in the end, it’s about the moments, it’s about the experiences, that make life ultimately worth living.

Mysara: It’s okay if, you know, things are not working out, or that we’re not a perfect country. I think we need to take it as a way to strive to be better. 

Walid: Politics should be the domain of every single Singaporean. It shouldn’t be the case where somebody wants to say something, “oh, if you want to have this political opinion, you must join politics.” I hope those days are long gone.

Paul: I hope for a more democratic Singapore, and I hope for a Singapore where everybody has an equal chance to have their voice heard. It may seem really remote and very far away, but there are these flickers of hope all over Singapore.

Alfian: There’re so many ways to love Singapore, not only  one way. 

Constance: We can be proud of our financial material wealth, but we still have a long way to go in recognising and celebrating our humanity, and that of the neighbours who surround us.

Sharul: Singapore and Malaysia have been together in harmony now for years, okay. We want to keep it that way. Are we sorry or not? If you cut a Malaysian person's veins and you cut a Singaporean person's veins, it's the same thing running in our veins—Malaysian water. Are we sorry or not? Give them a round of applause okay. 

Jean: Hopefully one day, we would be able to see ourselves as like, enough. And in turn see the merits in all these other people who are just trying to do their best.

Rajkumar: Hopefully as it strives more towards modernity, that it also still can look back on its history so that no one gets left behind.  

Edwin: We all have to be true to ourselves. Our real selves. Not our imagined selves, but our real selves. That is important.


What is the Singapore you recognise?

Featuring: Alfian Sa’at, Andrew Tay, Constance Singam, Corrie Tan, Edwin Thumboo, Haji Ali, Jamus Lim, Jean Seizure, Paul Tambyah, Mysara Aljaru, Rajkumar Thiagaras, Sharul Channa, Sng Poh Yoke, Walid J. Abdullah, Wong Meng Ee

Special thanks to ArtsWok Collaborative & Drama Box, Chan Wai Han & Fong Hoe Fang, Derek Yeo, Dink Collective, Equal Dreams, SG Unbound, Pink Dot SG, T:>Works,
Workers Make Possible