#SG50ReadingChallange: Beyond The Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner by Teo Soh Lung

ori5dp8obikyflwt10it(On January 1, 2015, I challenged myself to read twelve history books this Jubilee year to fill in the gaps in my knowledge, and blog about them.)

February’s read was Beyond The Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner by Teo Soh Lung, a lawyer who was arrested in 1987 and detailed without trial on allegations that she was involved in a conspiracy to subvert existing social and political systems in Singapore with a view to establish a Marxist state, otherwise known as “Operation Spectrum.”  Twenty-two people were arrested and detained, many of them from the Roman Catholic church, and social activists.

Beyond The Blue Gate is divided into two parts: the first is a record of her first detention experience (May 21, 1987 to September 26, 1987), written in the form of a dairy; the second is a narrative of her second detention experience (April 18, 1988 to June 1, 1990), written a year after her release.

The book reads as a thriller (it is a quick read), though it gets bogged down in legalese and such in parts. It is unabashed in its criticism of Lee Kwan Yew and the People’s Action Party (PAP). In his introduction, Dr. Yash Ghai, Professor Emeritus at Hong Kong University, writes, “[The book] is about the cruel and Kafka-esque world of Lee and his security staff with their devious and bureaucratic ways, prisons and detention centers, arbitrariness, and worse, torture, all flourishing under the judges and legislators who turned a blind eye to the violations of fundamental rights of citizens, and far from holding the government to accountability, took and enthusiastic part in chastising its victims.”

Beyond The Blue Gate was published in 2010 when, in Teo’s words, “Today’s more tolerant political environment would welcome such a publication. Furthermore, the young people are curious to know about Singapore’s past.” Teo also unsuccessfully contested a parliamentary seat in the 2011 General Election.

So, definitely a good and necessary read, though it assumes readers already have a lot of background information about this era in Singapore politics. I found myself Googling quite a bit while reading.

FYI: March’s read is The 1963 Operation Coldstore In Singapore by Poh Soo Kai, which will be a good partner text to Teo’s book.

Timmy and Tammy: A Giveaway


I wrote about a new-ish series of books, Timmy and Tammy by Ruth Wan-Lau and illustrated by Eliz Ong, here. And while I continue to have issues with how few commercially-published fiction titles feature non-Chinese children as protagonists in realistic, contemporary settings (as detailed here), I also admit that Timmy and Tammy are well-loved in the notabilia household.

The Toddler is beginning to read high frequency sight words, or words she can automatically recognize in print without having to use any strategies to decode, and the series’ Level 1 books are perfect for my emergent reader. She loves spotting the familiar sights of her adopted home, such as the Botanic Gardens and Changi Airport. But her favorite book of this set is Make Pineapple Tarts, as she just assisted in making a batch for the Lunar New Year in preschool!

o o o o o

The kind folks at Armour Publishing have sent me a set of five Timmy and Tammy books to give to one of you—Make Pineapple Tarts, At the Botanic Gardens, At Changi Airport, At Chinatown, At the River SafariTo win, leave ONE comment below. (Entries without an email address will be disqualified. Multiple entires will be disqualified.)

This giveaway is open to my readers in Singapore only and will close on March 4, 2015 at 12:00AM UTC/GMT +8 hours. The winner will be chosen by random.org and be announced on March 6, 2015.

Featured on The Travelshopa Blog!

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The Travelshopa Blog featured my partnership with The Weave Co., purveyor of premium stationery products using recycled materials and traditional fabrics ethically-sourced from around the world, and Typesettingsg, Singapore’s only handset typesetting studio, in their latest post!

These limited edition albums are perfect for gifts *hint hint*. The Weave Co. provided me with handblock-printed fabric from India and Typesetting SG handset letterpressed our logos. Here is a blog post about our process.

The accordion bound albums are square (15.2cm x 15.2cm) and I’ve used only acid-free materials and glues. Choose from two designs—maroon and cream or indigo and white.

The albums are priced at SG$19.90 and only 20 have been produced. Note that due to the nature of the product, there may be some slight differences with fabric and design, making each album truly unique.

The Weave Co. is currently stocked at DulcetFigSeriously Ice CreamNaiise, and Hipvan.

Imprint: New Works by Suzann Victor


Imprint is an exceptional exhibition of works produced by Suzann Victor, one of Singapore’s most distinguished artists, during her residency at Singapore Tyler Print Institute in 2014, notable more so because Victor is a practitioner for whom printmaking is unfamiliar in her studio practice. Victor is “new to me,” and I was gobsmacked by the beauty and technique on display in this show. Imprint is a showcase Victor’s skills as an abstract painter and installation artist; it incorporates site-specifity, light, kinetics, and the peculiarities of materiality.

In “The Art of Inversion: Seeing Backwards, Thinking Forward, Making Oblique,” an essay in a uniquely bound (a pamphlet bound into a belly band) exhibition catalogue, Dr. Susie Lingham, Director of the Singapore Art Museum, writes, “Her work unfurls from a deep awareness of the distinctive qualities of stuff, the fluidity of form, and the very real tangibility of color. This innate ability and sensibility brings sensuous materiality, unique forms, and conceptual structure together, giving rise to intellectually informed works that are also at once strikingly beautiful, and full of nuanced presence.”

So, in short: GO (especially if you are looking for an excuse to get away from nosy family this Chinese New Year lol)! Imprint closes on Saturday, February 21.

(Additional credits: Holding 2 (2014). Decollage and weaving on layered paper pulp. 91cm × 294 cm.)

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple


In celebration of Valentine’s Day (and Galentine’s Day), we popped by my favorite temple, Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple on Serangoon Road, before tucking into the best chole bhature in Little India. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Kali, the fiercest of the Hindu deities. The temple was built in 1881 by indentured Bengali laborers working at nearby lime pits.

(The photograph above was taken on my first visit to Singapore in 2009, a year before we moved to the city-state.)

Punggol Point


In my ongoing quest to find calm and healing near bodies of water, I “discovered” Punggol Point.

I had spent a soggy afternoon at the newly-opened Punggol Waterway, a 4.2-kilometer long man-made canal that connects the Sungei Punggol and Sungei Serangoon reservoirs, in 2011, but had not ventured back since, despite frequenting nearby Pasir Ris. In 2011, I asked, “Who knows how much longer this area will stay relatively undeveloped? Blink and this city transforms itself.” Over two years on, surrounding Punggol New Town, a sprawling housing estate on the edges of the island, has grown, ever-encroaching on acres and acres of lush, tropical secondary forest.

Yesterday, I ventured past Punggol Waterway Park to beautiful Punggol Jetty Park and walked along Punggol Point Walk, a winding boardwalk from where one can see Pulau Serangoon and Pulau Ubin, towards Punggol Beach, where, in 1942, 200 Chinese civilians were killed as part of the Sook Ching Massacre.

It was really the best and I can’t wait to go back again.


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