The passage of time is mean; it is a malignant and unkind force. Faces fade into flickering figures, places become paler and sounds settle into silence. Like old photographs that become yellowed and frayed with time, our memories get stashed away in drawers, stowed deeper into the recesses of the mind.
In this collection of love stories from Singapore’s past, revisit history through family photographs, treasured keepsakes and personal memories about love. Each frame is the alchemy of the particles of time, space and mood in history. We only need to pause and look.
These are our love stories – and our shared human experience.
For many of us, our brush with Singapore history started in school. We pored over textbooks, and learnt about past events like the Japanese Occupation in World War II, the Maria Hertogh riots and the Bukit Ho Swee fire; prominent figures like Sang Nila Utama, Sir Stamford Raffles and Lim Bo Seng; and dates like Raffles’ landing in 1819, Singapore’s separation with Malaysia and our independence in 1965.
This national narrative about our past seemed larger than life. Sometimes, we struggle to find our place in it, so history becomes remote, distant and disconnecting.
Instead, can we look at history through the lens of love, family and relationships? They are, after all, our personal windows to the past.
With nine love stories, the publication is organised into three chapters that mirror the stages of love: beauty, uncertainty and letting go. Every story teaches us something about love, history and ourselves.
Issue #1 is presented as part of The Future of Our Pasts Festival.
We met as students at Nanyang Technological University’s Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, where we worked together for an overseas reporting course that took us to Iran. Our story on the Islamic country’s boom in cafes – since bars and clubs are prohibited publicly – was featured on The Sunday Times’ Insight.
The project would not be possible without all of our interviewees, who helped shed light on a time and world in the past that is not seen. We would also like to thank our teachers, for their training; our mentors, for their direction; and our sponsors, for their support.