Not Just A Worker Exhibition


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.

A post by Cassandra Tan


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?
He: India.
Me: U ok?
Me: U work here?
He: Ya.
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!

*Update* 21/11/116

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.

Thoughts for FYP:
Is it possible to draw responses from Singaporeans about their reflection, thoughts, experience about/with migrant workers?

Existing solution: HOME, AND A HOME, 2016



Welded mild steel bars with rust-preventive transparent coating, cast concrete and weathered steel
Dimensions variable
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 Exhibition


The Best of You

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.

Existing solution: MWAW Lunch Tag and ICOON


• MWAW 2016 • Lunch Tag #1 & #2

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: !

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.

Personal encounter with migrant workers


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.

Look refugees in the eye: Powerful video experiment breaks down barriers


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.

Existing platform: i am a migrant


i am a migrant is a campaign and platform. We create a place for the personal stories of migrants. We want to challenge the anti migrant stereotypes and hate speech in politics and society.

i am a migrant lets migrants tell their own stories – on this website, in social media and many other places worldwide. Together we want to show: Migration has a human face. Migration is diverse.

This is why we are interested in the stories of all migrants, regardless of whether they have been away from their home country for 40 years or 40 days.

Your support is needed! Become part of our campaign and help us share the personal stories of migrants.

This is how it works:

You want to tell your own migration story?

  1. Write down your story and upload it together with your picture on
  2. Create your personal i am a migrant poster to put on your wall, to send to your family and friends and to make your social media profile

You know somebody with a compelling story, who you want to write about?

  1. Ask migrants about their personal story
    1.  Record the interview with a smartphone or recording device
    2.  Write it down
    3.  Take a good quality picture
  2. Upload directly to
  3. Tell your friends and share the i am migrant profiles

i am migrant is a global campaign supported by a broad alliance of partners, including International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI).


I think that this website is very beautifully done. It has the ability to share migrants’ stories from all over the world, that might help the visitors to know more about them. The page also has an interactive a map showing global migration flows! Unfortunately, they do not feature Singapore inside.

News coverage of migrant workers in Singapore


Efforts that have been taken to improve the lives of migrant workers in recent years, as compiled by TODAY:

Through her interactions with the foreign workers, Ms Sim notes that many have sought help from the NGOs (non-governmental organisations). “The Government, the unions, and NGOs have done their fair bit,” she says. “So (now) it’s for Singaporean individuals to know what role they can play… to show basic respect for another individual and better co-exist together.”

An MOM (Ministry of Manpower) spokesperson says the ministry is “heartened by various efforts from the different groups showing their appreciation towards these workers”.

She adds: “Some Singaporeans have also reached out to some of these workers in their own ways through various ground-up initiatives throughout the year, or by volunteering their time with NGOs.”

Stories of migrant workers:

Thought for FYP:

How to encourage the public to have more respect towards the hardworking migrant workers? What are the ways to do so?

Deeper on the Migrant Topic


This afternoon, I had a phone conversation with someone from StandUpFor.SG

What’s interesting about the conversation was he helped me to dig deeper why I want to work on this topic about the relationship between migrant workers and Singaporeans.

Now, I know how it feels like to be powerless knowing other people gossiped about me. I know how sad it is to not be able to defend myself.

Let’s look back at my previous post about the incident of a bus driver scolding a foreign worker for talking on his phone.

Sheryl Chen, 22, Sharing Her Encounter with Xenophobia

Everyone on the bus was silent seeing the scene, except Sheryl Chen who stood up and defend the foreign worker. Why were they being apathetic?

Because it is a way to avoid sadness from being empathetic, by being numb. (I will do more research about this).

And how do foreign workers avoid being sad, receiving such bad impression from other people in the society? By not talking to them.

If people are avoiding each other, there will be no conversation. Therefore, the problem would not be solved.

Luckily, there are some initiatives being done to foster the conversation. One of them is Human Library SG. I am thinking to volunteer as a sub-committee to delve into this society problem deeper 😀


The diction of my future FYP Result is important. Instead of using negative world, like “Don’t be suspicious towards others”, I should use more affirmative words like “Let’s build trust”.