He borrowed a handphone from the next stall and started imitating my moves as a photographer even though it was obvious he was not taking any pictures. What amused me most was that he was holding the phone screen to his eyes as if it were the viewfinder of an analog camera.
Old habits die hard, I suppose.
It was then that I realised how sellers could be irritated by the flood of photographers frequently at the market.
But they also realise they are part of a disappearing culture and that documentation, was their only recognition. It’s their generosity and kind spirits, the kampung spirit of Singapore - helping, joking and sometimes scolding or even cursing each other.
At the end of the day you know their tongues are harder than their hearts. A few hawkers insisted on giving me items, because they said, they wanted to.
A vendor gave me a butterfly specimen in a rain soaked frame. I had that re-worked and it now sits beautifully on my bookshelf as a memento, a rather emotional one for me.
We also invited the hawkers to the opening launch of our 1 x 1 m show. A handful of them turned up, maybe 6-8 persons, including an old lady who refused to be photographed.
Watching them linger outside, peering into the unfamiliar space, wondering if they should enter, and then eventually walking in, was such an unbelievable yet gratifying moment for me.
Not just the physical space, but I feel sorry there is so little space for oddity and differences in our multi-cultural Singapore. These people do not need a lot of space, they are reasonable understanding people who would abide by the rules - such as packing up before 7pm, and keeping the place clean.
There are various alternative proposes for the relocation of the market to a nearby space, such as along the parameters of the field at Kelantan Lane, or at Jalan Kukor. The only space we really need, is space in our minds to accommodate differences and sometimes allow spontaneity and randomness to thrive.
We don’t build culture by deliberate construction. It accumulates when it has space to grow and develop over time. - Mindy Tan, 2017