I am looking into how can I display the Mahbub’s poetry in a visually enticing way. This is my effort to reinterpret his work.
Not Just A Worker is an exhibition that brings together 79 photographs by seven migrant workers, all of whom are participants of the project Topophilia and Topophobia: A Tale of Two Cities. The project is based on the “photovoice” method, where participants are mentored on aspects of photography while also engaging conversational about the issues embedded in their works. In exploring the twin narratives of topphilia (love of place) and topophobia (fear of place), the project seeks to unveil the emotive complexities experienced by migrant identities. The knowledge of pleasant, poignant and ambivalent episodes are produced not only in the participant’s capacities as workers, but also as users of the city.
Feedback for Parthiban’s video from Angeline’s class:
- Re-adjust the punctuation of Parthiban’s speech as it feels as if he is reading a script. Allow some pause moments for the viewer to think about it.
- Remove the background music to make the Parthiban’s voice as the star of the video.
A post by Cassandra Tan on 20 November 2016 at 14:31
My first passenger today brought me to tears and I had to hold it back till I dropped him off.
At 5.46am, I got a booking from Bt Timah Road. It didn’t state what number, just the road name. I called him, he said he didn’t know what number or where he was. He just said he was sitting at a bus stop at Bt Timah Road.
Bt Timah Road is so long. I asked him to describe what he saw nearby. He said cars, trees, at a bus stop. I asked him to look for the bus stop number, I got silence and muffling sounds.
Sensing something very wrong,
I said…just sit there and wait for me. I will find you!
From where I was, I thought…if the booking came to me. He must be at the few bus stops nearest to me, but Bt Timah Road was left and right. So I tried the right side first.
There he was… a lone Indian foreign worker sitting at the bus stop, looking around aimlessly.
I stopped my car, asked him if he had booked a car. He nodded. He opened the front door and asked if he could sit in front politely as he will vomit if he sit behind(his words).
He got in, I offered him a plastic bag and a sweet which he politely declined.
I confirmed his dropoff address, he nodded. He was upset. So I drove on, leaving him to calm down.
Halfway through, I asked him if he was okay. He nodded.
So I asked why he was at that bus stop (very quiet corner) so early that morning. He said he walked there.
I said from where.
He said from home.
Apparently home was where I was sending him now….very far from where he was.
So I casually mentioned…. wow that’s a very long walk.
So the talk continues…
Me: So where are you from?
Me: U ok?
Me: U work here?
Me: How long?
He: 6 months now.
I then offered him some tissues and he took to wipe his tears…
Me: It’s ok. You can talk.
Silence then…..then he spoke.
(After this, I was quiet for a long time while he spoke)
His next words:
my wife die after born my baby girl.
In that little bit of English that he could speak….
He went on to say he and his wife were orphans at an orphanage and grew up together and fell in love.
They had to “betroth”(his word “sell”) their baby girl to a family in their village so they had money to pay for doctor visits for her pregnancy. The baby was supposed to be turned over to the family at age 12.
His wife died during childbirth and the family had claimed the baby girl after the hospital turned her over to them.
This man sitting next to me now will never have the chance to see his baby girl or even put his wife to rest.
After I dropped him off, I declined to take his fare and even wanted to give him money for an airfare home.
He simply refused to take it and said no use go home.
He just said “Thank you for hear me” and left.
He probably needed to be alone now.
4 hours later when I finished my driving…. as I was clearing my things, I found 2 $10 notes in a slot on the passenger door. He had stuck them there after I refused to take his fare.
I tried calling him on the same number…. it has been off the last many hours.
My dear friends, give your kids and partner a good cuddle and many kisses today please!
I managed to call through the phone this morning. It was picked up by another Indian man who said the phone is actually his and the man (his friend) had left this morning for home.
I asked how?
He said “Boss give money send”.
He told me also….no call here again.
I hope he will be blessed and find peace within himself soon.
I didn’t expect this post to go viral but thank you to everyone who shared to let people know what some of our foreign workers face.
Welded mild steel bars with rust-preventive transparent coating, cast concrete and weathered steel
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2016 commission
Barman investigates ‘home’ and ‘landscape’ as an idea, not just in the physicality of its presence, but the space that it occupies in the minds and memories of displaced Bangladeshi migrants. This work grew out of the time Barman spent in Singapore chronicling the conversations and poetry of Bangladeshi migrant labourers. Juxtaposing the large, minimal sculptures of shop-houses (heritage buildings which are sometimes used as dormitories for hundreds of workers today) alongside rust-transferred drawings and cement sculptures, Barman explores the parallel realities of the migrants’ experience – the house they live in in Singapore and the ‘home’ they dream of in Bangladesh. In the artist’s words, “transferring rust impressions onto paper, casting abandoned domestic objects in concrete … realising skeletal definitions of homes – is more like sculpting from memory – reconstructions rusted in time”. The sound piece of the workers’ poems in Bangla reflects the untranslatable journey of the displaced people.
I am excited to see the performance tonight! It is heartwarming to know that migrant workers’ talent are recognized here, in Singapore Biennale.
These are some photos that I took during my visit to poetry recital by migrant workers on 29 October 2016, 5PM.
Takeaways for FYP:
I think that it is good to have the migrant workers present at the exhibition as it would allow interactions between the performers and visitors.
The Best of You movement is about finding quiet moments in our busy lives to take stock of our accomplishments and appreciate our lives. In asking this question, we want to inspire you to celebrate the accomplishments, life experiences and the people that have brought out the best in you.
Started in 2014, this movement is powered by these tributes to one’s life accomplishments and experiences. Coming from all walks of life, these are tributes that speak of courage, regret, community, love, encouragement, redemption and, most of all, empowerment.
I came across this Exhibition on 7th October at Buona Vista. I participated in the initiative by writing my story on a postcard and having it illustrated by Sharlene Leong.
This project is to bring audiences on a journey to know about the lives of migrant construction workers in Singapore. There are a total of 322,700 of them here and the number is counting on. We see them around us and acknowledge their existence but how much do we know about them? Many try and draw sympathy to this group of minority beings but few take the effort to truly empathize them. Thus, my team and I made this documentary, which shows the lives and voices of these people who walk among us but are generally treated as unseen. We do not aim to educate audiences on the right and wrong, but we hope they can bear a more open mind when they see or hear about migrant workers after watching this documentary.
Thoughts for FYP
In his FYP report, this statement struck me the most:
I had a long conversation with the founder of Healthserve, Doctor Goh Wei Leong on the migrant workers’ community. When I told him that I wanted to do a documentary about the migrant workers and Healthserve, he told not to do one which emphasized only the sadness of workers as it would not bring out a good message, that I inevitably agreed on. I believe what is crucial is to bring out inspiration despite the inevitable negative stories of this group of people.
My project should be a platform where it is inspirational for people who sees it. My goal is to be a channel of migrant workers to have a stage to be inspirational for others..
Have you ever wondered how a genuine conversation with people who helped built the infrastructure of your home will go? Do you want a chance to meet people you would otherwise pass by, and actually interact with them?
The two Lunch Tags allow two people who would have never otherwise met to sit down and connect over a simple lunch. RSVP here: http://tinyurl.com/rsvpmwaw !
Lunch Tag #1
31st Jan, 9am – 1pm, at Yale-NUS College Elm Dining Hall
This will kick-start with a friendly lohei decoration competition involving both participants and migrant workers. After which, everyone will be paired up to have lunch together at the Yale-NUS College Elm Dining Hall.
Lunch Tag #2
3rd Feb, 11.30am – 3pm, at Botanic Gardens
In the style of a picnic, this Lunch Tag will take place out in the nature at Botanic Gardens. There will also be games where participants will interact with foreign domestic workers from the HOME Shelter in a different setting than what we usually do.
Through a meal, people could have a more personal conversation to know each other. How would my FYP be different from this existing event is that:
- It would not be a big event. For a meet up, there will only be 3 locals and 3 migrant workers.
- I will document each session in the form of either photography, audio, or video, to be later be compiled for my installation.
- I will design a set of conversation starters, accompanied by English and Tamil or Bengali translation. If needed, I will also design pictograms to help the conversation flow seamlessly.
I am thankful to be involved in Human Library as a volunteer as I got the chance to meet friendly migrant workers and interview them. Without this conversation, I would not know about their lives other than working as construction workers. They are a group of poets who meet on daily basis to discuss about poetry. Through this community, they get to know people, foreigners and locals, who share the love of poetry.
Zakir Hossain, third from the left, won Migrant Poetry Competition in 2014 and 2015. As reported by The Middle Ground, Mr Hossain said that he felt many Singaporeans had harboured negative feelings against migrant workers after the 2013 Little India riots, which involved about 400 people. He was pleasantly startled at how “this competition has opened the door for many people to change their negative views about migrant workers” and wishes for more of such competitions to be held.
This morning, Zakir Hossain sent me the link to his TedX Talk he delivered last year in NTU. Enjoy 🙂
Thoughts for FYP:
I definitely want to hold a similar small gathering like this for the public to get to know the migrant workers on a more personal level. In return, the migrant workers will also get to know the participants.
The film shows natural, spontaneous reactions between people meeting for the first time in a warehouse near Berlin’s old Cold War-era crossing, Checkpoint Charlie. The refugees came from Syria and Somalia and had lived in Europe for less than a year.
In this experiment, it is clearly shown that by having a communication, the barrier between people of different culture will melt down.