Love stories from Singapore’s past in Meantime magazine

by Steve Watson in April 2019
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Meantime magazine tells the story of modern Singapore via a collection of love stories featuring people who have made their lives in the city state. Reading the tales of people who have been married for decades gives a lovely sense of permanence that contrasts with the story of Singapore itself; the young nation that won independence in 1965 and is still trying to figure out its own identity. The first section of the magazine emphasises that contrast, with old archival photographs printed on carefully torn pages, simultaneously durable and fragile.

The difficulties faced by the country are also represented, both directly and indirectly: There’s the story of a British man and a Malay woman who married in the 80s, when interracial relationships were rare, and an interview with Monica Choon, who was born in 1945 to a Cantonese mother and a Japanese father, a soldier who was part of the Japanese occupying forces. These historical stories are resolved, the interracial couple still happily married and Monica having tracked down her Japanese family, but by comparison same-sex couples remain conspicuous by their absence, reflecting the severe restrictions still faced by LGBT people in Singapore and their exclusion from the country’s history.

Engaging with the more problematic side of Singaporean society while also revelling in the comfort and security that people from around the world have found there, Meantime is a love letter to Singapore and its people, and a beautiful and touching piece of print.

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