Landscapes of Memory I

Charlene journal 6 Comments

Nordjylland, Danmark A year ago, I published the first of a little series over at the Kage Collective, made during my first visit to the area that Flemming calls home (where his father still lives). He’s lived outside of northern Jutland longer than he’s lived in it, but still identifies strongly with the place. He belongs to the land of his birth as much as I don’t belong to mine. A year on, we’re back in northern Jutland again. I’m reminded of the nostalgia, so here’s that post in full. —— The point of departure is so often a severance. The breaking of ties, a rejection of all that is past. The stillness of old spaces. Ancient burial grounds, awaiting resurrection; the spirits that burst forth in seething, vital turmoil. At the borders of origin, can …

Radio silence

Charlene journal 21 Comments

I’ve been blogging since 1999, when Blogspot was all the rage. Self publishing was a revelation, as was the ability to connect with people I would have otherwise never encountered. Once I started blogging, I couldn’t stop. Writing for the public, even if that public was three people, was my first taste of creative production, this thing we call “getting your work out there.” It was exhilarating and terrifying and confusing and delightful all at once. Awkward and trip-tongued in real life, writing allowed me to extend myself in a way I never could otherwise, and test waters in supportive digital communities. It continues to function as my truth seeking mechanism, and publishing, a commitment to that truth. Writing gave me a voice, and the small act of hitting the “Publish” button, the courage to speak. I …

On resonance

Charlene journal 6 Comments

The other day I found Red Bull’s Singapore Seven series – a set of interviews with local movers and shakers about how they got to where they are, and what it is that keeps them going. I went through all 7 of them, back to back. Rapt for once: a non-standard response to internet video, which is usually accompanied by all the things one can do in other browser tabs. Three years ago I came back here to say goodbye to my father, and stayed eight months before hitting the road again. It had been fifteen years since I’d been back for any decent amount of time, and was the point I began coming to terms with what it meant to be Singaporean. When I left Singapore for Australia in 1999, the mission was …

The High Road

Charlene journal 4 Comments

Singapore, December 2015 I haven’t lived in Singapore since 1999, but have spent a significant amount of time there in the last 3 years. It’s a topsy turvy process, confronting the strangeness of the superficially familiar. It’s easy for me to say “I’m Singaporean” everywhere, except in Singapore, because it’s there that the phrase makes no sense.

Street hawker

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I’ve never seen street hawkers in Singapore, where I grew up. By the time I was old enough to actively think about my surroundings, they were gone, relocated to ubiquitous hawker centers found all over the island. Scenes like this never fail to make me think of home though. Not the sense of place, but situation. A communal meal with my family in Kuala Lumpur or Malacca, where we did eat on waysides, the fractures of our lives bound by ritual.

A night at the opera

Charlene journal 2 Comments

I came across a beautiful set of portraits that Chia Aik Beng made of the Teochew Opera troupe, Lao Sai Tao Yuan recently. I have returned to this series a number of times, compelled by the intimacy of his portraits, and this facet of Singapore I’ve had no contact with. Then chance stepped in. After some hours wandering around the Ramadan bazaar in Geyland Serai the other night, Flemming and I found ourselves in front of a big red and white striped tent with a performance by the very same troupe in full swing. We sat down a while to take it all in. This was my first time watching a Teochew opera. I didn’t understand the language, nuance behind the make up, gestures and various stage elements. But its story was universal enough for the gist of the tale to come …

Kopitiam, Singapore

Charlene journal 2 Comments

In an old coffee shop somewhere in/near Bugis with Chia Aik Beng: She made us teh peng and kopi ice (ice tea, ice coffee) and then scurried around serving other customers , refilling containers, clearing tables. I am frequently unbalanced by the land of my birth. When I am here I want to leave; when I have left I long to belong. Places like these are a sliver of the Singapore that I remember as a child in the 80s, tagging along with some adult, being scared of the crusty old characters that run them. I have no personal association with them, but they feel oddly accessible, unlike the things that are familiar. Thank you ABC for taking the time out of your day to meet with us. Picture: Fujifilm X-T10, 35mm, JPEG only.

Time and tide, Tangier

Charlene journal 6 Comments

September 2013 In Switzerland, they have watches. In Morocco, we have time. They, and by extension, we, had time in Morocco. This is a place that where frequent periods of lengthy rumination have intrinsic value. The bustle, while ever present, never intrudes. There is time to read and write and sit and stare, watch the world go by, chat with a stranger in the next seat doing exactly the same thing – namely, nothing, aside from nursing his cup of mint tea for the past half hour – about our lives, and his. He is from Fes, he says. We should go there. It is old and beautiful and alive. “I don’t like Tangier so much,” he says. “They have no humour. No one smiles here.” …