“KARUNG GUNI UNCLES” OF SUNGEI ROAD THIEVES MARKET

Published on 22 June 2017

Two local artists pay tribute to the heritage of this iconic landmark.

By Melanie Lee

Artists Ben Puah (President’s Young Talent) and Teo Eng Seng (Cultural Medallion Recipient) both have fond memories of Sungei Road Thieves Market. For Puah, he recalls buying an old army First Aid box here in 1996 and he eventually included it in a proper, exhibited work of art in 1997. Likewise, for Teo, who remembers his father buying postage stamps and coins from this famous flea market.

“This is truly a place for treasure hunting. It’s all about the moments when you’re able to spot your own ‘pieces of treasure’,” says Puah.

While Puah and Teo were discussing a joint exhibition last year, the idea of focusing their art on Sungei Road Thieves Market came up since the area will be closing on July 10 this year for future residential developments. Teo came up with the project name, “Karung Guni Uncles” for their project.

For Puah, 40, he created 16 small and colourful sculptures placed on a floor sheet titled “A better tomorrow for future generation depends on every little thing we do today”. To him, they resemble chess pieces, and he hopes that the next move for this well-loved flea market won’t lead to its extinction.

For Teo, 78, he has opted for performance art with his father’s British Army Locker Box. In this performance, he conveys the valuable economic and cultural contributions made by this market for over 80 years.

“This market arouses people’s curiosity and this leads to innovation and community. I have always frequented Sungei Road and many of my art pieces have parts bought from here,” he says.

Underlying their creative works inspired by the site is also a vision to save Sungei Road Thieves Market. By showing their art there, they are also hoping to talk to more people about their proposal to relocate the market across the canal at Rochor Canal Road/Jalan Kubor.

Catch the “Karung Guni Uncles” on Saturday, 24 June 2017 from 3-6pm. The last day of operations for Sungei Road Thieves Market at its current premises will be 10 July 2017.

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