Ongkowidjaja, Nadia Priscilla
Date of Issue2016
School of Art, Design and Media
In this project titled “Permanent Resident”, I would be focusing on my perplexed life as a Permanent Resident in Singapore. I consider my life to be perplexed as my roots had been unknown to me for the past twenty-two years and am consequently still unsure of who I am. My citizenship and place of residence were decided by the previous generation and hence I have never lived in nor known my native country. I therefore reside in a land that I consider home and yet do not fully belong. Thus, my understanding of who I am is minimal, and standing in society, fairly questionable. I intend to research on my heritage, where my ancestors originated from, the intent of their migration and how I came to be in Singapore. As one who has always felt at a loss of who she is, I would also be addressing this confusion as a Permanent Resident in Singapore. I have struggled internally as a Permanent Resident in Singapore and had to come to terms with the conditions of being one. This study therefore gives me the opportunity to figure out who I am and my place in society. I find that it is important to discuss the case for those who are mixed and do not live in the country of any of their ancestors, but are Permanent Residents in other countries. There are many people like me presently and more to come in the future who will be confused about their heritage, culture and standing in the society they live in. They are both unsure of who they are and their place in the country they reside in especially when they have not known life beyond that country. With the growing ease of moving across borders, comes the increasing trend of inter-racial marriages and migration. Hence I would like to discuss the struggles of today’s generation of Permanent Residents in Singapore as they are a group of people who are barely heard but might increasingly come under attack due to the growing strife of Singaporeans towards foreigners. Their quietness might be due to the knowledge and acceptance to the reasons why they are offered differing benefits from Singaporeans. They do not dare to request for similar treatments as they are living on other peoples’ land. Although they might seem contented with the quality and way of life they have in Singapore, deep down they might have growing fears of abandonment especially during the election periods. As one that has grown up in nearly the same environment as any other Singaporean but is a Permanent Resident in Singapore with a diverse heritage, I am at a position to discuss this issue. I hope that through this study, others who are in the same predicament as me might not feel alone. As my study is a reflection of my past and present across numerous generations, it set my work up to be content heavy. I did not want to overdramatize my images by having intense lighting and colours, making my work seem too exhaustive. I therefore chose to go for an overall light and soft look with a tinge of contrast and neutral tones. I utilized a porty, strobe lights and light boxes and shot my subject against a plain coloured wall. The light boxes provided me with the ability to create a softer look and I liked the textured background. I took to using this same approach for the rest of my images. I have experimented in various ways of composing and presenting my work, from single images to juxtaposed images in various sizes. I have also tested accompanying the images with text. I even tried my hand at producing videos which failed to work. The content that I wished to portray in the videos were eventually translated into a book form. Hence for my final presentation, it would include both single images and a book. In this study I have gone from virtually knowing nothing about who I am and the history behind my family to being able to trace my lineage and accompanying stories back to the generation of my Great Great Grandparents. I have gathered as much information as I could from my relatives and have therefore finally understood the mix I am. However, throughout the process of retrieving information, the sad truth that I realized is that most people in my family only remember the names and lives of their family members back two generations. Our life in this world is truly just a passing vapour, soon to be forgotten in the generations to come. I have learnt that I come from a family of migrants which explains how my family ended up in Singapore – a home to many migrant families. Most people chose to come to Singapore due to her economic opportunities which has continued to be prosperous even till today. As I continued to learn of the reasons behind the decisions to move to different countries from my ancestors’ lives, I re- evaluated my position and place in Singapore. I was often conflicted on whether I should take up Singapore Citizenship since living in Singapore is the only life I have ever known, but I concluded that it is precisely this reason that I should not renounce my British Citizenship yet. I am still young and have years ahead of me. There is no reason for such a rush and I still have a lot to life that I have yet to experience before making such a life- changing and permanent decision. I will therefore continue to live and stay resolute in the choices I have made. My name is Nadia Priscilla Ongkowidjaja. I was born and raised in Singapore for the past twenty- three years of my life. Although I am born in Singapore, I am not a citizen of Singapore since birth. My citizenship lies with The UK but I have never been there. I have relatives in China, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, The UK and Singapore but I barely keep in contact with any of them. However, their existence gives rise to my existence. Without them, there would not be me and therefore other than my name being different from Singaporeans, I also look different. I have struggled internally because of my looks, name and citizenship. As these aspects are largely different from regular Singaporeans, I was consequently always unsure of who I was. Furthermore, the differing benefits as a Permanent Resident sometimes made me question my choice of citizenship. Today, I am thankful to my ethnically - diverse ancestors for this rich life that I am blessed with. This has enabled me to experience varied backgrounds, languages and cultures as a “local” instead of a foreigner when I visit Indonesia, Philippines, China and The UK. I am now sure of who I am and my position in Singapore. I am a descendant of a family of migrants. I am a Chinese- Indonesian- Filipino mix and proud of it, a Permanent Resident of Singapore till the day I am sure of taking up a Singapore citizenship and a British subject who has yet to experience the life of one. Singapore will also always be my home.
DRNTU::Visual arts and music::Photography
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University