Toa Payoh mural first of SMRT series to tell neighbourhood stories

Passengers passing through the gantry at Toa Payoh MRT station will find it hard to miss the almost 7m-long comic-style mural showcasing the beginnings and history of the estate.

It was unveiled yesterday by Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Chee Hong Tat, and is the first to be launched in a series of heritage-themed, comic-style murals known as Comic Connect.

In conjunction with SMRT's 35th anniversary, the rail operator is collaborating with local artists to install such artworks across 35 MRT stations. Each mural will depict the history and culture of the neighbourhood it is in. Toa Payoh is one of Singapore's first MRT stations, and is part of the various milestones in the country's history.

The 6.5m by 2.83m mural, created on vinyl sticker, encapsulates the history of the estate, starting from its beginnings as an uninhabited swamp to the first town to be designed and built by the Housing Board. It also features aspects of Toa Payoh's past, such as secret societies and gang fights.

Other prominent landmarks are also depicted, such as Block 53 - dubbed "VIP Block" - which hosted foreign dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth II in 1972.

Speaking at the launch at Toa Payoh MRT station, Mr Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT Corporation, said: "We hope these murals can bring to life the unique stories of the local communities and inspire our commuters and residents as we build our social cohesion and strengthen community resilience over the next 35 years."

Mr James Suresh, the team lead behind the Toa Payoh mural, said: "My hope is that residents will feel a sense of appreciation for their estate and the pioneers of Toa Payoh who laid the foundations for a diverse and vibrant community."

The 65-year-old corporate trainer, who is also the co-creator of the Mr Kiasu comics, spent up to two months researching the history and visiting places in Toa Payoh, before conceptualising it.

It also features Teochew merchant Seah Eu Chin, an enterprising pioneer, who worked his way up from a clerk to a merchant and landowner in Toa Payoh.

Mr Sayed Ismail, who created the digital illustrations, said: "People are readjusting to a new way of life now. What I would want is for commuters to look at a mural and feel a spark, connection, or take a trip down memory lane," the 55-year-old freelance artist said.

The team consisted of Mr Suresh, Mr Sayed and Ms Suki Chong, who was in charge of assembling the layout of the entire mural.

Preliminary designs for other stations were also revealed, such as a street graffiti style mural in Somerset MRT station.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2022, with the headline Toa Payoh mural first of SMRT series to tell neighbourhood stories. Subscribe