Mangosteen Tree, Old Kallang Airport

Singapore is often known as a Garden City, but this is an impersonal image of anonymoustrees and gardeners. Our project aims to boil this generic image down to specifics byexploring the concrete, personal connections that Singaporeans have made with trees.After all, what is loving nature without loving the individual plant?Through our interviews, we found that people relate to plants in touching and occasionallysurprising ways. For example, a group of Buddhists have been circling a rubber tree for anhour a day, for the past few years, as a form of walking meditation and to absorb the tree’s“energy”. A mangosteen tree has been sheltering a man for 20 years, since he saved it fromthe bulldozers. Another woman cries when her trees don’t fruit.Besides featuring in individual stories, trees are living, breathing markers of history. Thetrees in our collection are of different ages. Some are old native species from pre-colonialtimes, when Singapore was mostly a freshwater swamp forest; others are younger treesthat their owners planted from seeds.The images on show are influenced by vintage hand-tinted Singapore postcards. In fact,Singapore, very old tree is named after the title of one of the oldest postcards in theNational Archive, a 1904 picture of an unspecified tree.