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District 14: Benda Workshop

| Documentation by Syarifuddin Sahari |

Part 1

29 September 2020, 2pm - 3:30pm

Geylang Serai

As the room in the Sriville Residents’ Committee office was inaccessible, Mysara (the facilitator) and the 2 participants decided to conduct the workshop at a pavilion nearby. Mr Anuar, the representative for the Geylang Serai Merchants, was able to arrange for us to use a room at the nearby Kampung Ubi Community Centre, however everyone preferred to not go through the hassle of shifting over.

Deciding to stay under the cosy shelter for the workshop.

Mysara started the session by refreshing the merchants’ memories of their previous session held the week before along with the artistic direction of District 14 and the key role they play in the process. They were previously requested to bring an item that was significant to them, their stall and/or Geylang. Those items will then each be wrapped up in a ‘kain’ (cloth) that had been developed through a journey and subsequently marked during the previous stages, and the stage following this will involve dancers feeling the wrapped items in the cloth and interpreting / embodying what they feel through Rasa (affects).

She invited them to share the items that they have brought:

- Mangoes, as Mdm Kadariah owns a fruit stall.

- A small assortment of Malay ‘kuih’ brought by Mr Khalid; putri salat, talam ubi & koleh-koleh

(Logistically thinking, it is an interesting proposition to consider the preservation of items that decompose / are perishable as they are wrapped in a cloth)

A show-and-tell of items found in Geylang Market & Food Centre.

Iskandar then elaborated further on the histories and ‘penghijrahan’ (journey) of the ‘kain’ and how they have went from letters images sounds physically materialising through textiles and being marked, perhaps in the hopes to inspire an additional layer of depth into the decision-making of the items to be wrapped in the cloths (something that might have been overlooked during the previous sessions).

To further aid in the scaffolding and flow of thoughts / imagination, the conversation then went on to asking the merchants what personally makes Geylang special to them or if they have any special memories from the area:

- Almost all the food and stalls in Geylang are halal, except for one non-halal butchery.

- One of them grew up at Jalan Alsagoff, however their friends all moved out.

- Being a merchant / store attendant is ‘seronok’ (fun), own-time-own-target, it’s a different story every day, meeting new / different kinds of people including those from the past.

- ‘Suasana’ (vibe, environment) makes them go back to Geylang and its bazaar despite many other bazaars that take place in Singapore, and they can see the identity of Malays in the architecture around Geylang.

- A bit quieter this year due to CoVid

Iskandar then went on to help the merchants to start thinking about the ‘lambang’ (symbols) behind what the items can mean, what was the first thing they sold or they put on display or any crucial items that their stalls cannot function without (such as ‘timbang’ [weighing scale], spatula, ‘loyang’ [tray] for the ‘kuih talam’, the display of the ‘kuih’), as well as the possibility to expand further from / to other objects. They were then able to get first dibs to select their ‘kain’ out of the seven.

Selecting the ‘kain’ that they resonated with the most.