It is a very natural thing for authors to write (and speak!) about their books.

It is a lot less common for authors to write about the illustrations and artwork within their books.

But in this post, I am doing just that. Here, I’m deliberately sharing a little bit about some of the illustrations that will be featured in my book, My Father’s Kampung: A History of Aukang and Punggol.

I think there is some value in sharing a little about the beautiful and creative artwork that supports the overall narrative and community stories featured in the book.

In addition to photographs captured by several people, including Sarafian and his father; S. Lim; the Arozoo family; the Yeo family; and my own family, my book has artwork depicting various scenes from rural, kampung life in north-east Singapore in the 1900s.

Most of the images would be depictions of kampung scenes in the 1940s to ’60s.

The illustrations are wide-ranging, including street hawkers; a scene from Teochew opera; a pig farming settlement; stilt houses in Punggol; a typical village; and the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Montfort (since the book covers Aukang and Punggol, these specific images were chosen for the commission).

These individual and small pieces of beautiful artwork are rooted as much in reality, as in the artist’s imagination.

Beautifully created by a young Singaporean artist I specially commissioned for the book, these stylised paintings bring to visual life certain scenes in the book, and help readers, especially younger audiences, vividly imagine what life was like back in the kampung.

A stylised street hawker carrying food for sale in historical Singapore.
For example, this is a stylistic and simple illustration of a street hawker plying his wares in the kampung.

A kampung toilet in rural Singapore.
This is an illustration of a commonly-used facility in those days, familiar to practically everyone who lived in the kampung (clue: this facility is closely related to a specific and long-lost occupation called tar sai). Younger readers may wonder what this facility, nestled among greenery, is all about.

Scene of the hustle and bustle at Kangkar, in historical Aukang.
This landscape is an artist’s impression of the hustle and bustle at Kangkar in historical Aukang. It was a busy fishing village, so the artist has brought out in visual form the activities of carrying fish, preparing one’s boat, and arriving at the harbour with one’s catch of fishes for the day.

Consistently, throughout the book, the artwork augments and supports the narrative of life in the kampung, but doesn’t take readers’ attention away from the community and personal stories I share.

I think these artistic visuals subtly enhance the tale, by giving it added flavour, without being distracting.

As Robert Yeo observed in the foreword, “The lively interviews with prominent Teochews of the area and the apt photos and illustrations all add up to a comprehensive and intriguing tale.”

I fully agree with his beautiful words.

To me, the artwork is part of the larger tapestry of this book, and supports My Father’s Kampung to tell its comprehensive and intriguing tale.

But the beautiful artwork also supports more than just my book. The art also reaches out to a wider audience, such as the larger Catholic community.

As part of the commemoration of 200 years of the Catholic Church’s history in Singapore, the Chancery Archives also wrote a piece partially inspired by My Father’s Kampung, called the “The “Holy Land” of Aukang“. In it, they featured some artwork from the book, after obtaining my permission.

Chancery Archives also featured Aukang in an article called “The Serangoon Teochew enclave” in CatholicNews, 16 May 2021.

As I have obtained permission from Chancery Archives to share these articles, you can read or download them here:

To be able to share the good work of the artist who worked on this book with me is my privilege and honour. And I am delighted that it has reached audiences beyond My Father’s Kampung.

To circle back to my point, the beautiful artwork is an essential part of the larger tapestry of My Father’s Kampung, and a key part of its comprehensive and intriguing tale.

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I greatly appreciate the behind-the-scenes work done by my talented Singaporean artist Jeyasoorya.

Her artwork speaks volumes of her dedication and commitment, and I am deeply thankful to have her in my projects.

She is a Singapore-based illustrator who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with Honours from Lasalle College of the Arts.

She currently creates paintings geared towards children and enjoys working on whimsical, narrative-driven pieces.

Updated 20 August 2021.