It started off as a simple gesture to thank the migrant workers for building our houses, maintaining our roads, clearing our plates, cleaning our drains and sewers, instead of accusing them of all the rapes and robberies, for dirtying our garden city; using them as butt of our provincial jokes; or suspecting them of homosexuality – just because they hold hands while crossing the dangerous Serangoon Road. We believe the best way to express our gratitude would be to construct ‘monuments’ for them, like what is usually done for all the great historical figures and events. Two statues were in erected for about two months in the Raffles Landing Site, and Little India – a known gathering place for many migrant workers.

In the historical Raffles Landing Site, the heroic representation of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in the form of a polished statue was placed in contrast to the archetypal figure of a migrant worker represented in raw concrete with a rough finish – concrete, a construction material often associated with this marginalised group who concretized Singapore as a city. Although we hardly see them as equal – when one bears the title of expatriate-founder while the other is often labelled as foreign worker or labourer – with the two statues sharing ‘a common ground’, we attempted to eradicate the hierarchical distinction between a single ‘founder’ and the many ‘builders’, and instead, emphasizes their fundamental status as ‘foreign talents’ who contributed to the island.

Parodying the plaque on the Raffles statue – which reads: On this historical site Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles first landed in Singapore on 28th January 1819 and with genius and perception changed the destiny of Singapore from an obscure fishing village to a great seaport and modern metropolis – both pedestals of the migrant worker statues were fitted with plaques bearing the following words: On this obscure site and many others we landed on Singapore soil since time immemorial with our labour and toil changed your genius and perception from a mere idea to a concrete reality.

Public Sculpture (Concrete, Plywood & Fibreglass) | 500 x 120 x 120 cm

Collection: Private