Picturing the pandemic in Singapore

Picturing the pandemic in Singapore

A nurse eating lunch alone to prevent the spread of the virus. A community nurse visiting the homes of her patients to care for them. Foreign workers not being able to return home to their loved ones. Featured in the National Museum of Singapore’s newest exhibition, Picturing the Pandemic: A Visual Record of COVID-19 in Singapore, these photographs capture touching moments showing how people in Singapore have lived through the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the museum commissioned five Singapore photographers – Bob Lee, Brian Teo, Edwin Koo, How Hwee Young and Zakaria Zainal, as well as two film-makers – Adar Ng and Dave Lim, to visually document how the pandemic was experienced across diverse communities in Singapore. The photographs in the exhibition capture everyone from nurses and community workers to hawkers and the elderly.

The exhibition also features personal belongings contributed by members of the public and organisations, which function as a visual diary of the lives of individuals during the pandemic. The contributions are part of the museum’s Collecting Contemporary Singapore initiative, which seeks to collaborate with the public to collect personal stories and objects that capture shared moments in Singapore’s recent history.

The exhibition is on until 29 Aug. Here are five not-to-be-missed photographs at the exhibition:

Angels of Mercy - Christina (Credit to Bob Lee) contemporary art

Senior staff nurse Christina Wong helping another nurse don the personal protective equipment
Frontline health workers worked selflessly, courageously and tirelessly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, a nurse is helping another nurse don her personal protective equipment before they both enter an isolation room to check on the vital signs of a COVID-19 patient.

Staying home - Para-athletes (Credit to How Hwee Young) contemporary art

Competitive para-shooter Aishah Samad exercising at home during the Circuit Breaker
Aishah Samad is a competitive para-shooter who retired just before Circuit Breaker. Having lost her arms and legs to a bacterial infection years ago, she uses prostheses and other adaptive methods to perform daily tasks. To adjust to the pandemic, she had to create new routines around activities she enjoys, such as exercising and cooking, to help her keep fit and find purpose in everyday life.

Deliver (Credit to Zakaria Zainal) contemporary art

Retired cleaner Zulkifli Atnawi organising his purchases and donations in his living room for neighbours in Mei Ling Street
The Circuit Breaker measures disrupted many day-to-day activities, including grocery shopping. Retired cleaner Zulkifli Atnawi, together with his children, made regular grocery runs on behalf of his neighbours, especially the elderly, to ensure they had access to basic daily necessities. He and his family also packed and distributed food to neighbours in need.

Schools’ Responses to COVID-19 (Credit to Brian Teo) contemporary art

A student from Clementi Primary School walking around the school canteen with a sign reminding students to practise safe distancing
When schools in Singapore moved from full-time home-based learning to in-person lessons in school last June, safe management measures were enforced in schools to minimise the spread of COVID-19.

Community Healthcare (Credit to Edwin Koo) contemporary art

HCA Day Hospice recreating an airport and flight experience for its day patients
Some eldercare centres such as HCA Day Hospice remained open during the Circuit Breaker, with nurses continuing to care for day patients. The hospice also provided constructive and therapeutic activities for its senior citizens, such as this creative “in-flight” simulation of an aeroplane that was part of a regular therapy session.

Learn more about Picturing the Pandemic: A Visual Record of COVID-19 in Singapore here.

(Photos: Bob Lee, Brian Teo, How Hwee Young, Zakaria Zainal and Edwin Koo)

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