Sunday, July 04, 2010

Historian Painter Marcus Lim & the Chinatown Connection

Ever heard of historians? Plenty. Ever heard of Historian Painter? Huh? Got such person meh? Ah, as Marcus Lim would passionately and patiently explain to you. "ya got!". A historian writes about history, a historian painter paints about history. Ask Marcus about history, and he will paint you a picture!

Said to be the only Historian Painter in Singapore, or for that matter, in Asia, Marcus looks set to strike out a new path. He is already recognised by the Asian Geographic.

copyright: Marcus Lim

Somehow, our paths crossed (how, I am still wondering) and of course, I asked him if he or his relatives were once residents of Chinatown, the inner or the greater. Indeed he has. And chances are most Chinese in Singapore would have the Chinatown connection.

" I guess my main connection with Chinatown would be with my granduncle and his family who used to live around Chin Swee Road area. I can still remember the smells of sea-salt beaten boats, stinking river and mouldy wood, the faded peeling paints on the 5-foot way buildings. My granduncle stayed on the third floor, and so whenever we go visit him we had to climb dangerously up the creaky old wooden staircase, that felt like giving way whenever my little foot climbed the stairs. It was nerve-recking but exciting; I dared not climb back down when I was about to go home.
The juxtaposition of old and new buildings in that area is etched in my mind; seeing the buildings nearby being demolished was had my memory branded.

Let's not forget the people from traditional trades. The affable old man who used to hawk the big-head paper masks. The soy sauce seller who goes around with his rattan bag with bottles of 头抽...that strong sweet smell of the freshly made soy sauce mixed with the rattan smell creates an interesting combination.

These are the little affinity that tied me to Chinatown."

And what has our Historian Painter captured from Chinatown. Like most artists, he did also roam the streets of Chinatown. He tried to capture the essence of Chinatown with a historical perspective. One day down the road, when photos fade, his paintings will be around to tell our descendants more about the Chinatown we know.

copyright: Marcus Lim

I hope that he will continue to capture the life of Chinatown, absorbing the atmosphere and the way of life, before they also become history. Hopefully, if he could recapture from the memories of the old folks of Chinatown, we would have further depth into the history of Chinatown Singapore.

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