A mural is any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other permanent surfaces. A distinguishing characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of the given space are harmoniously incorporated into the picture. (Wiki)
One of Singapore’s most notable neighborhoods is Little India, a destination for tourists and locals alike. With its bustling streets and the smell of Indian delicacies wafting through the air, it is a cultural Mecca. Within this small district, Singapore’s diverse cultural identity can be observed – a leisurely amble along its roads and alleys will lead you to almost a dozen murals that illustrate the nation’s past.
Maitreyi Sanadhya explores in words and pictures.
Grab your water bottles and a pair of comfortable shoes and commence on a Little India Art Trail to explore Singapore’s heritage. This trail takes around two hours to complete without stops at the neighborhood’s landmarks.
- WORKING CLASS HERO by Zero
Start your journey on Hindoo road, where you will come face-to-face with Tamil superstar Rajinikanth. He is an iconoclast of Indian film, and having come from a modest background himself, is admired both for his acting and rags-to-riches story.
Millions of Indians view him as a symbol of success and find representation through his role in Tamil cinema, hence the title of the mural, Working Class Hero.
- ALIVE @ CLIVE by Traseone
The second mural you will encounter is situated on Clive Street, and depicts a traditional dancer mid-performance. This mural features vibrant colors and pays homage to the dozens of Indian traditional dance-styles.
The dancer wears classical jewelry and is shrouded in a fog of color, reminiscent of the Hindu festival Holi, where powdered color is thrown in order to celebrate the arrival of Spring.
- I AM STILL HERE by Dyn
Lurking in the shadows, this mural is only a short walk down Clive Road. Shrouded in palms, the likeness of a girl in a dupatta (traditional Indian scarf) is hidden next to a performance stage.
The camouflage print represents the concealment and mélange of cultural identity in Singapore, and this mural serves as a reminder that Indian culture is still present here; we simply have to look for it.
- LOOPS OF THE PRECIOUS by Priyageetha Diayalan
Walk along Upper Dickinson Road to discover this mural on the walls of a side-alley. This mural is a homage to the artist’s grandfather, who was a jeweler and goldsmith; the trade of jewelry-crafting is currently dying, and the artist’s intention was to commemorate it and display the spectacular beauty of intricately-crafted pieces commonly worn and valued in India.
In this mural, white necklaces intertwine against a backdrop of pure gold.
- KATHAK by Didier Mathieu
Stunning costumes and dramatic make-up are what this mural is composed of. Just around the corner of Kerbau Road, this work of art pays tribute to the traditional Indian dance-style of Kathak – known for its rhythmic movements and energy, alongside the story told through each dance.
North Indian story-tellers would travel the country and perform Kathak to share common mythological stories or epics; the style is reminiscent of Greek theatre.
- SIYAMALA BOOKSTORE by Lim
Located at the crook of 84 Serangoon Road, right across from Kathak, this mural commemorates the 30-year-old Siyamala Bookstore. This store is stocked with Indian magazine paraphernalia and pop-culture tidbits.
The mural advises that you tell the bookstore owner “nalla,” as it means hello.
- FESTIVAL by Izzad Radzali Shah
This Fauvist-styled mural spans the length of the wall opposite the Daily Deliveries mural – it features doodles that come together to celebrate the diversity and heritage of Little India.
The energetic shades of color make it a perfect spot to stop by and snap a photo!
- DAILY DELIVERIES by Mathieu
Located on Baboo Lane, the artist Mathieu painted this mural to pay respect to delivery drivers that brave the traffic on their carts to deliver fresh ingredients to the restaurants and people of Little India.
If you look closely, you can make out that the wheels of the cart are also equipped with turbo-engines!
- CATTLELAND by Eunice Lim
Situated outside the Little India MRT, this mural features whimsical cows in vibrant shades of color.
While the cows were painted by the artist herself, she enlisted the help of the public when it came to painting the small flowers that surround each animal.
- LAYERS by Shah Rizzal
This mural is a perfect spot to end your walking tour – it depicts Little India’s complexities and mélange of architecture in entirety. The signature dhaba, or Indian restaurant, can be seen next to the classic produce store, and the contrast in architecture styles is clearly visible.
Little India is a nexus of cultures, and this mural perfectly wraps up the co-existence of different people in one frame.
Text and photography by Maitreyi Sanadhya.