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View of Kampungs in Tanjong Rhu in the 1980s. Photo: Quek Tong Swee

Something old for the old year that is about to pass into the past. According to the Singapore newspaper Today, Quek Tong Swee started documenting the changing landscape of Singapore in his early thirties. The 67-year-old photo enthusiast came to public notice recently when he donated 8000 photos of 1980s Singapore to the National Heritage Board. These photos are rare records of old kampungs in rural areas or on off-shore islands.

The name Tanjong Rhu comes from the casuarina trees, referred to in Malay as pokok rhu, that grew along the beach (Wikipedia). The area formerly clanked and hissed with the noise of shipbuilding and repairs, but the shipyards were located by the government in the 1990s, land was reclaimed along the coast, and modern condominiums took over the kampungs. In the photo above by Quek, the children walk away from us, just as our past will not return.

You can see the modern condos at Tanjong Rhu in the background of this panoramic shot of the Kallang River basin.


Image from Wikipedia.

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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