NTU students want to make Yishun great again, one photo at a time

·Lifestyle Reporter
Photo: Facebook/This Is Yishun.
Photo: Facebook/This Is Yishun.

Yishun has always had a bit of a reputation for being home to the unusual – from residents creating a cactus “wall” to stop a neighbour from harassing them, to the man who attempted to break in to a flat twice, not once, but twice.

There has even been online discussion about building a wall around Yishun to make Singapore great again. Netflix serially make fun of Yishun in their teasers for hit series Stranger Things.

This continual parodying of the neighbourhood has spurred students from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to organise a photography exhibition showing Yishun in a different light.

The exhibition, titled “This Is Yishun”, is being held this weekend (4-5 November) at the newly-opened Yishun Park Hawker Centre. A series of photo essays will be on display to celebrate the neighbourhood’s community spirit, a product of the students from WKWSCI’s photojournalism class working close with Yishun residents to develop their stories.

Changing the narrative for Yishun had its challenges, according to Dewey Sim, 23, organising chairperson in the team.

Speaking with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, he said, “Initially, we found it challenging because most of what we knew about Yishun was that there seemed to be more strange occurrences in the neighbourhood, fuelled by the negative portrayal on social and mainstream media.”

“But when we visited Yishun and walked around the neighbourhood, we realised that Yishun was more than what was portrayed. We were surprised when we uncovered many small communities in Yishun – from the chess community to the biking community and the group of old businesses tucked around the estate,” he added.

Vijayamohan Subramaniam and his family. Photo: Theodore Lim
Vijayamohan Subramaniam and his family. Photo: Theodore Lim

An example of the residents’ stories they gathered included that of Vijayamohan S/O Subramaniam, 58, and his family, who between them have been spending around $2,000 a month buying groceries for 20 underprivileged families.

They have helped more than 50 families over the seven years since they started their initiative. Vijay’s children say their father inspires them to help people in the community.

Dawn Lim. Photo: Michelle Racho
Dawn Lim. Photo: Michelle Racho

Events executive Dawn Lim, 25, started an initiative called One Block At A Time, delivering care packages of bread rolls and 3-in-1 Milo packets. She hopes that this will #MakeYishunGreatAgain.

A special segment of the exhibition will also be devoted to profiling the hawkers from Yishun Park Hawker Centre, in line with the centre’s mission of preserving and celebrating local hawker cuisine.

The public can also participate in Instawalk @ Yishun, where Singapore’s newly-crowned Instagrammers of the Year Cheryl Chew (@helloocheryl) and Veronica Ang (@veronang) will lead two groups of participants on a photo trail. The trail will see participants exploring the nooks and crannies of Yishun, from Chong Pang City to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

The students hope to “subvert” what we would normally associate with Yishun. Through their social media pages and the photo exhibition, they want to give people “a more intimate understanding of Yishun, and the many personalities that make this place a lot more vibrant than you’d imagine”, said Fabian Loo, 24, co-organiser.

Fellow organiser Lim Zi Song, 24, agreed. “I hope they will be pleasantly surprised by the variety of stories that emerge from Yishun beyond the more negative news about cat murders and cabby fights.”

“On a larger scale, it can also show that Singapore has interesting stories to share. At the beginning, our class was worried that we would not be able to find stories in Yishun as we thought nothing was happening there. But through the course of organising our exhibition, we’ve been proven wrong,” he added.

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