On Race: National Newspapers on National Day

Sarvesh (left) and Veena (right) of Minority Voices. Singapore, 9 Aug

This is quite the year in Singapore for me. I’d left the country before I was eligible to vote, so 2020 marks my first time voting in the Singapore General Election on 10 July.

And then my photos of the exceptional Minority Voices duo Veena and Sarvesh got published in local papers:

The Independent: Founders of @MinorityVoices: “We just want to start a conversation”

and on 9 August, Singapore’s National Day, our local broadsheet The Straits Times: Let’s talk about race.

The run up to the election sparked many conversations about pressing issues among community leaders and activists. One of those topics was race / racism. You’ll hear in any number of official settings that Chinese-dominant Singapore claims to have nailed racial harmony. This is not true. Minorities can tell you otherwise. I can tell you otherwise.

When I was young though, there was no room for civil conversation about race. It was deemed too sensitive for the nation. You avoided discussing race related issues publicly like the plague, because it had a real impact on your life – job prospects, relationships, safety etc. There’s arguably still a lack of space for this conversation, but it’s happening anyway, because communities are forming online that are encouraging the conversation, and standing in solidarity. Young folks in this nation are standing up and saying “enough. Let’s do this.” I’ve been marveling at this for the last couple of years. What an amazing movement.

Minority Voices, the brainchild of Sarvesh and Veena, is a space created for minorities to share their stories of discrimination. Instagram is where you can read stories if you prefer that platform, but they do have a beautiful web archive for large screen enthusiasts too.

I did these shots for Veena and Sarvesh as part of their press kit. I was chuffed to see it in not one, but 2 local publications so boldly stating that minorities have the right to be heard. Right when nation building, celebration, and the angst of civil growth was on overdrive, this was a significant milestone in my life as a photographer, and perhaps in that of the nation too.