Singapore nowadays is a glossy place. It has a cosmopolitan, international feel. These are not things that I thought I would enjoy, but having made several trips over the past thirty-five years to visit my now deceased grandparents, I now look forward to being in this environment. Spending long weeks at a time, trailing older family relatives performing their daily routine, the ordinary parts of the city have kept me interested. Maybe it’s this juxtaposition of the city’s slick against the everyday that makes it all the more enjoyable.
First of all, there is the food. The city is known for it. What I like about it—apart from the quality, the variety and the price—is the culture. Food is not just about entertainment here. It’s not all about the latest cafes with amazing interiors. It’s about being able to get a great meal at a pretty low price at any time of the day. It’s about cooks specialising in a few things, honing their craft and cooking it every day. It seems to keep the city grounded.
Secondly, the city is green. Although you walk on concrete pavements all day, everywhere you look you can see green. From tiny remainders of lush rainforests, to carefully maintained pot plants on the street, to the impressive Gardens by the Bay—the green refreshingly contrasts against the cacophony of lights and sparkling surfaces of malls.
And then there’s the weather. Although Singaporeans have made an outstanding effort to conquer the heat with air conditioning, as a visitor from a cooler climate, the weather is something to be enjoyed. No carrying cardigans or jackets around “just in case.” It’s warm all the time. Although you do need to be prepared for a chilly restaurant or sudden torrential downpour.
Singapore has positioned itself as a city of the future and the feeling is palpable and exciting. But what I will remember most are early morning walks along suburban streets, the fragrance of frangipani in the air, crickets chirping and the promise of a great meal just around the corner.
In Issue No. 1 we meet Australian fashion icon Jenny Kee, translator from Italian Ann Goldstein and French-Cuban music duo Ibeyi. We learn about Ramadan, the Aboriginal ball game Marngrook, the Kiribati dance, the art of pickling, and the importance of home. And we see what it’s like to dress up in Myanmar, live in Cuernavaca, make ceramics from different soil, and walk the streets of Florence.
In Issue No. 2 we meet New York-based Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, NASA astronaut Stephanie Wilson, and Croatian painter Stipe Nobilo. We discover how the French protect their language and the way women—all around the world—have used textiles as their political voice. We listen to lovers rock, prepare a boisterous Korean barbecue, venture to go to Feria de Jerez and eat our way around Hong Kong.
In Issue No. 4 we meet Nigerian-born artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, Indigenous Australian Elders Uncle Bob Smith and Aunty Caroline Bradshaw, and Palestinian-American chef and artist Amanny Ahmad. We peer inside the Parisian ateliers Lesage and Lemarié, muse over the iconic lines of European chair design and celebrate the colourful woodblock prints of Japanese artist Awazu Kiyoshi. And we venture along Morocco’s Honey Highway, get lost in the markets of Oaxaca and discover the favours of Ghana.
In Issue No. 5 we travel to the mountains with Etel Adnan, along coastlines wherever waves roll in, and then all over the world through the photographic archive of Lindsay James Stanger. We celebrate hair braiding in South Africa, Salasacan weaving techniques in Ecuador, Vedic jewellery traditions and the new sound of Ukraine. We meet artist Cassi Namoda, choreographer Yang Liping and lace-maker Mark Klauber. And we visit a bakery in Tel Aviv, discover the joys of making arak, and spend a summer stretching mozzarella in Italy.