Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Singapore River

Photo By Yip Cheong-Fun, FRPS, Hon. EFIAP, FPSS, FSEAPS, OPCNYPS
(The photographer was elected "Honorary Outstanding Photographer of the Century" by the Photographic Society of New York in 1980, and was a recipient of the Cultural Medallion of the Republic of Singapore in 1984, the highest national award given to an individual for his or her contribution and achievements in art and culture.)

The Singapore River closely mirrors Singapore`s national life in all its stages. The history of Singapore has its beginnings in this river, when Sir Stamford Raffles and some men first steered their boats into the entrance of a swampy river in January 1819. From this humble beginning, the Singapore River began a historical evolution. It first evolved from a muddy mangrove-lined water course with crocodiles lurking dangerously in search of preys, to a mooring place and a waterway for thousands of bumboats, abutting myriads of old godowns out of which came crates and bales, baskets and boxes carried on the shoulders by coolies to small craft. Then the river turned into a polluted port area and an industrial gutter in which not even the hardiest of fish could survive.

Lady River - Andrew Yip

Remember the folks who first came to our shores,
Fleeing from floods, famine, starvation and wars.
Remember they cleared the forests, pushed back the sea.
They braved the storms and swamps, and built the place that is home to me.

Lady River, your beauty shone and lived on.
Though you might haunt, yet neither tease nor taunt.
How they came - just the same,
Not minding the rugged hills, and nature untame.

Lady River, you`ve launched a thousand ships from distant shores,
Like the Grecian beauty the ancients loved, and the modern man adores.
Thousands of junks, bum-boats, lighters nestled around,
And coolies carrying cargo crates abound.

But like unwelcome guests, they were soon gone,
Leaving behind worn-down warehouses that drew a yawn,
Now you`re very clean; even pristine,
As the twinkling skyline of affluence hems you in.

Then urban renewal plunged right in - dazzling your tearless eyes.
Its magic wand changed all - to modernise or harmonise.
Even the Merlion spewing water from its mouth has shifted.
You`ve survived and thrived - your history and tradition lifted.

You`ve watched time wink - its tricks you understand -
Whatever the fetish, fad or new trend.
Whatever slogan, jargon, or dish delicious -
They`re sometimes serious, often hilarious.

Your weary eyes have seen armies, and statesmen,
Suicides of forlorn coolies and depressed steersmen,
Floating bodies of executed spies and war victims,
Choirs and orchestras with their stirring music or hymns.

You have witnessed senseless invasions, occupations and reoccupations;
Mergers and acquisitions, debates and discussions;
The economy`s boom and gloom and recession;
And urban changes with conservation and preservation.

O Lady River, the fleeting years have not dimmed your complexion.
Twelve tall bridges are still your constant companion.
History and heritage charter your course and give direction.
Footsteps along your banks quietly follow your tradition.

Poem: Andrew Yip (Copyright)
"The boats are gone now
Carried away in tides of cliche
Policy sifted the river, its waters swelling now
Not with trade but pride, a tourist lure
In twinkling lights along the quay.
The boat house at the corner stands still
A colonial restaurant today,
A mockery of days
Gone by, almost forgotten, except
For this single, astute eye."

Singapore River thru a poet's eyes - Lemiel
"The River of Life"
"In the river of life, there is bound to be constant attrition, corrasion or erosion along its narrow winding course. There may be rapids or sharp falls and a great deal of sedimentation. There may be confluence with other lives, as the river meanders along joined by other tributaries, and one might just get confused or lost, because in this river of no return, there are few guiding lights. Much depends on how strong are the riverbanks and what forms the bedrock of the river valley. "
"The River of Life" - Andrew Yip
"If time is the river of my life,
It flows free searching for a serene sea.
Deep and dangerous is its carefree course -
A river of no return with no guiding lights to see."
(an extract from Andrew's poem, "Time - a reflection" )

A mother's love - Andrew Yip
(A special dedication to Sharon on Mother's Day 2008)

I still have a love of gold,
Purer and brighter than the sun.
Friends and fascinations come and go,
But this love endures - a blessing for everyone.

There is nothing more sublime
Than a mother's sweet love and care.
Even in youthful prime, and for all time,
It shines eternal - a glittering gem, serene and rare.

I still feel her salty tears at times,
Tides of memories swarm my mind,
Even the lull of lullabies and nursery rhymes,
The day I had fever and those tear-drops left behind.

Her job was a distant way.
But she still drove home each day
Through highways and by-ways
Beating the tricky traffic lights as always.

Was it yesterday she came,
Across the miles at midday just the same,
That I felt assured by her hug and kiss?
And for all eternity, it's a mother's love I miss.

With all my love, Mum.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Rowing At Dawn

Rowing at dawn, a Gold Medal picture, was taken by Yip Cheong-Fun at Tanjong Rhu in Singapore in 1957 at a time when Singapore became a self-governing State. It marked the dawn of a new day, with new hopes and a new life for Singapore. Notice the auspicious motifs of two sea dragons and a school of fishes in the shimmering reflections of the sea. To the Chinese, the dragon is the ultimate symbol of good fortune. In a sense, this print is often regarded as a symbol of good luck.

As an artistic creation, the forte of this photograph is the symbolism of pictorial elements - the sea as life or the life force itself, the movement of the boat as Man's effort or struggle in the voyage of life, the sampan or in some cases, the fishing nets as our heritage and the junks as our past. Lastly, dawn represents a new beginning, new hopes and aspirations. A recurrent theme in Yip's seascapes is the undaunted spirit of the average Singaporean represented by a lone boatman and his indomitable courage, always pitting him against bigger objects or in this instance, giant power-driven ocean-going vessels or the surging sea and tide. In the words of the artist, every ripple, every wave in the sea brings good fortune and prosperity. To the experts, the delicate play of light and shadows, the balance of the boats, the expanse of the water combined to make the photograph a memorable work of art. "The study combines the qualities of light, atmosphere and mood,poses a timelessness and yet a freshness," according to W.Y. Choy of NDD, London, and a fomer Curator and Director of Singapore's National Museum.

Rowing at dawn - a poem by Andrew Yip

A new dawn,
A new morn.
Shimmering lights and shadows in the sea
And what fishes and dragons our eyes can see.

Waves and ripples with far-off furrows follow
Sampans and junks filed out from anchors, deep or shallow.
Tall ships time-tested like tempered steel thru many a gale,
Majestically they moved with their mighty masts and stately sail.

Even while wind and waves still whipped with a swishing sound,
Amidst a mix of lashing, thrashing and flapping around,
The air did seem softly soothed by a sweet song of praise,
That herald in hope, faith, fortune and fairer days.

Then keep rowing at dawn and feel God's grace,
As magical as the grey mist on the sea's face.

Photo: Yip Cheong-Fun
Poetry: Andrew Yip

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Samsui Women

Samsui Women - a poem by Andrew Yip

But the Samsui Women from China came,
Braved the surging storms and nature untame.
How those Alpha Women matched the men
In hard and heavy work and tough trade then.

In factories, farms and fields, the fair force mustered;
Their ruggedness, resolve and resilience truly tested.
Whose honest and humble heart sought only to strive;
Who lived to toil or help others simply to stay alive.

No vanity, no comfort, far away from their land of birth,
And for ages, obscured and forgotten for all their worth.
Upon history and heritage they now stand tall,
As Samsui Women - honoured, lifted and lauded by all.

Photo: Yip Cheong-Fun
Poem: Andrew Yip