Learning to Leave

Until the age of eight, I lived on a quiet street facing nothing but trees. It was in this house that I made mazes out of cardboard boxes, towns out of pebbles, and where I fell off a see-saw, head first, on carpet grass.

The childhood home, like kin, is an inheritance borne not out of choice nor effort, but sheer happenstance. It is the literal starting point of our life stories, the knot from which the rest of the thread unravels. My childhood home, and my early experience within its walls, shaped me indelibly, for better or for worse.

I moved away when I was eight, and returned after 16 years to document the remarkable emotional resonance of place. 

Using found childhood photographs superimposed onto newly made photographs of the site, I tried to compress the years between the family that was and the individuals we are today. I wanted to reconcile with my childhood, and be able to move on.

I found a picture of me holding my helper tight. In many ways, it marked me as a child: a little sad, a little afraid, and unsure of where I stood in this family.

My father was always away, and my brother, seven years older, was in a world of his own. But in this picture I see a rare glimpse of someone happy to be a father. I don't remember this. 

I found the place where my brother's room most likely used to be. We were always opposites, and have remained distant through the years. The boy in the photograph is the closest I can be to him.

My brother and my mother were more alike. In that house, she made her presence felt. I still recall the screaming, and the blows. 

Clearly, I do not remember this kiss. 

This series was produced under Noise Singapore's The Apprenticeship Programme, organised by the National Arts Council. It won the 2014 Noise Singapore Award.

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