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How muralist Belinda Low, 65, is preserving Singapore’s past: Kampung life, old playgrounds, min jiang kueh sellers

Sun beaten and rain soaked, murals may fade and peel, but these public galleries hold a special magic for 65-year old artist Belinda Low. In CNA Women’s National Day series, she says she hopes to breathe life into Singapore’s collective memories and bring back the kampung spirit with her murals.

How muralist Belinda Low, 65, is preserving Singapore’s past: Kampung life, old playgrounds, min jiang kueh sellers

Muralist Belinda Low has painted more than 100 murals around Singapore over the past 10 years. (Photo: Belinda Low)

If you walk past Block 89, 90 or 91 of Tanglin Halt on a weekend, you may notice a woman painting the walls throughout the hottest hours of the day.

Working quietly in her artist’s smock on her latest mural project, the 65-year-old captures the most cherished memories of the neighbourhood on 12 walls: The couple behind Tanglin Halt Market’s famous peanut pancakes that usually sell out by morning, an old-school Malay barber, a Setron TV room in the 70s.

This mural by artist Belinda Low at Tanglin Halt Road shows the famous min jiang kueh sellers at Tanglin Halt Market at 48A Tanglin Halt Road, which is slated to be demolished in future. (Photo: Belinda Low)

Each scene captures the nostalgia for one of Singapore’s oldest districts where more than 31 flats, seven commercial blocks and two markets and food centres will be demolished under the Selective En bloc Redevelopment Scheme.

Meet Belinda Low, one of the oldest female muralists in Singapore.

“Painting on a wall is challenging because it is not smooth. Old walls have rough surfaces so it’s hard for the paint to sink in,” said Low, who was painting at Sago Lane in this photo. (Photo: Belinda Low)

The full-time administrator at a multinational company paints part-time, on weekends. She started her art journey 12 years ago at the age of 53. Her sons, who are now 35 and 33 years old, were then in their 20s and she was experiencing empty nest syndrome.

She filled the sense of void with vivid colours and memories by painting on canvas every weekend. Two years later, in 2013, she painted her first mural – a lion in a tunnel at Clarke Quay MRT station. This was part of a series depicting Singapore’s history from the days of Sang Nila Utama.

One thing I feel nostalgic about is moving out of the kampung into flats … So when I paint on walls, I try to create the neighbourliness and the kampung spirit again.

“Painting my first mural was euphoric. It was just a giant canvas and I just ‘free flowed’,” she said.

“I thought to myself, Singapore has so many HDB blocks, how nice it’d be if we were to paint every block,” she mused. “And I didn’t know I’d be doing so many over the years.”

Indeed, since then, Low has painted slightly over 100 murals all around Singapore, bringing Singapore’s collective memories to life with each brushstroke.


You may have seen a "Belinda Low" without even knowing it. Low’s art dresses the walls of enclaves such as Clarke Quay, Chinatown and Holland Village. She has also enlivened the walls and void decks of heartland estates such as Bishan, Punggol and Yishun.

One of her favourite people to paint is her late grandmother, who died 40 years ago. “I came from a divorced family. My mother left me with my grandmother during the week and only spent the weekend with me so it was my grandma who took care of me,” she said.

“I like to paint my grandma because she was the one who took care of me,” said Low. In this mural at Block 674, Yishun Ring Road, she paints her grandmother as a shop owner at All Saints Silver Lifestyle Club. (Photo: Belinda Low)

“I spent my childhood running free in the kampung, unlike the children nowadays. My grandma would come looking for me and scream ‘Litta! Litta!’ because she couldn’t pronounce my name.

“She was so loud her voice would ring through the kampung,” she laughed, sharing that this childhood memory inspired her to paint children running free as well.

“One thing I feel nostalgic about is moving out of the kampung into flats. We had to change our ways and lost touch with our neighbours. It’s kind of sad. So when I paint on walls, I try to create the neighbourliness and the kampung spirit again.”  

Low has also done more than 100 canvas paintings. In this drawing commissioned by her sister in 2016, she captures the joy and innocence of her nephews and niece. (Photo: Belinda Low)

Low does not just paint from personal memory, but also taps into the memories of residents from each district, painting people she befriends.

“When I was painting in Holland Village, I talked to many of the residents, mainly retirees,” she said.

“There was an old man who was single and lived in the blocks upstairs. He came down to watch me paint every day. The people who knew him said he kept to himself. One day, he started talking and joking with me, and even bought me teh C,” she recalled.

“He was practically there the whole time I was painting, so I asked him if I could paint him on the wall. He agreed and posed for me, but asked me not to paint his face so I painted his back.

“A few years later, I found out that he had passed on. I felt sad, but also glad that I painted him,” she said.

Low often paints residents she meets and befriends in different neighbourhoods, such as the woman (right) in this mural at All Saints Silver Lifestyle Club in Yishun Ring Road. (Photo: Belinda Low)

At one mural Low was working on, a woman came up to her and hinted that she would like to be painted on the wall – Low obliged.

Sometimes, the residents inspire her in other ways. “A woman at Holland Village came to tell me about a playground that used to be in the area and showed me pictures of it, so I painted it as well.

“While I was painting it, a father saw it and told his child that he used to play in the playground I was painting. I felt happy to be bringing back such memories,” she said.


Low said that she is one of the oldest female muralists in Singapore because painting murals takes a lot of endurance.

“Now that I’m working at Tanglin Halt, I will have my Yakun toast and eggs for breakfast, and work for six hours straight from 9am plus to close to 4pm without breaking for lunch. When you’re in the zone, you just want to finish the painting,” she reflected.  

Low works through the rainy season as well, running in and out of shelter to complete her murals. She expects to complete the Tanglin Halt project in a few months.

One of Low’s most famous murals is Welcome To Our World at Block 5, Banda Street, featuring samsui women. The two orchids were added after the deaths of Singapore’s founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his wife. (Photo: Belinda Low)

When painting external walls, she also often works directly under the scorching sun with little more than a black boat hat and a long-sleeved shirt or golf sleeves for protection.

“When I was painting one of my walls, an old man came up to me and said, ‘Can you please sit down now? It’s very hot’,” she laughed.

A woman at Holland Village came to tell me about a playground that used to be in the area and showed me pictures of it, so I painted it as well.

“A lot of my friends my age who come and visit are not comfortable with the sun and rain, and complain of leg pain. But I am looking for challenges,” Low said.

Though Low is planning to retire from her full-time job in the near future, she intends to continue painting. “A lot of people say I should retire (from painting murals) at my age because it is so tiring, but I won’t listen. I’m the restless type and I don’t want to sit down and just watch the latest K-dramas all day,” she said.

“My advice to young people: Listen to your own inner voice. Don’t worry so much about the future or make your decisions from fear,” said the artist.

Low painted these three sisters playing hide and seek at All Saints Silver Lifestyle Club – she took this picture with them when she bumped into them again in the estate. (Photo: Belinda Low)

This did not change when Low was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer three years ago. “I was scared at first and went through denial. But I had a very strong girlfriend who encouraged me to fight it,” she said, sharing that she went for 10 sessions of radiation, and is currently on medication.

“My breast cancer diagnosis made me feel very mortal. I just want to seize the moment. So if there is a wall job, and if I’m still alive, I’ll do it,” she said. 

CNA Women is a section on CNA Lifestyle that seeks to inform, empower and inspire the modern woman. If you have women-related news, issues and ideas to share with us, email CNAWomen [at]

Source: CNA/pc