Heartland is the title of a novel by Daren Shiau.
We don’t meet often, though our paths have crossed a few times at various literary readings/events.
The novel is about the coming of age of a young man who grapples with class disparities, national service (conscription) and romance.
It is also about every Singaporean son…
The heartland is the social-cultural space we grew up in.
For me, it’s what nostalgia is made of.
There is a shiny global Singapore (Gardens by the Bay, Marina Sands, Clarke Quay, etc.), and there’s also the heartland of Singapore we return to in the evenings.
It’s the uncle we see every day, loitering at the void deck.
It’s hawker food!
It’s that uncle on a bicycle I side-stepped to avoid in the morning.
All of that adds up to a sense of community…
And both national and personal growth is a kind of departure, a severing of ties from the past…
We’ll never return to the seesaw of our childhoods again.
Things are too new to be comfortable.
All that unearthing and shifting of foundations…
There’s always work in progress.
Hence all we can do is learn to look back and find a glimmer of our home again in our imagination…
For collectors: open-edition prints are available at my Saatchi Art page.
Thanks for reading!