All owners of conserved buildings must submit their mural proposals for approval. 

Such proposals may be reviewed in consultation with community stakeholders and other government agencies to ensure that they relate well to the area, consider cultural sensitivities and values, enhance public space and are welcomed by the local community. 

“If necessary, we will work closely with the building owner on any required modifications,” said the authorities.

In the case of the samsui woman mural at 297 South Bridge Road, URA told the building owner’s representatives on Mar 22 that approval had not yet been obtained for the mural and requested that a submission be made immediately. 

URA then reminded them on Mar 25 of the need to obtain approval before continuing with the mural works. 

“Despite this, mural works continued. An application for conservation permission was only submitted on Apr 11 after the mural was completed,” noted the joint statement. 

It added that URA will continue to work closely with relevant agencies and stakeholders to ensure that its guidelines and processes for murals on conserved buildings not only provide space for creative expression, but also “safeguard the character of our conserved buildings and address the larger public interest”.  

“Owners of conserved buildings are reminded to obtain the relevant approvals before commencing any works. Failure to do so will result in enforcement against offenders, including prosecution for egregious cases.”

Many samsui women historically took on work as labourers, such as at construction sites. 

According to Mr Dunston in his Jun 19 Instagram post, URA ordered the removal of the cigarette following feedback from a member of the public who found the mural “offensive” and “disrespectful” to samsui women.

URA later clarified that it had asked for the mural to be modified in view of Singapore’s anti-smoking stance, and not because of public feedback.

Mr Dunston wrote on Jun 19 that the complainant described the woman in his mural as looking “more like a prostitute than a hardworking samsui woman”.

Instagram users chimed in with their views – many of them leaving comments in support of Mr Dunston and his artwork. Some criticised URA’s decision, sparking debate and discussion online. 

Those who weighed in on the matter included famed mural artist Yip Yew Chong and women’s rights group AWARE. 

Mr Yip said on Jun 23 that he believed that Mr Dunston’s work was not offensive, neither was it promoting smoking.

“In reality, samsui women indeed smoked a lot and had many personalities, being human. It is not impossible for a young, freshly migrated samsui woman to smoke and sit like that. We cannot be too stereotypical and expect certain occupations must have only a specific look and no others,” Mr Yip said on Instagram. 

“Art’s intention is a much wider than to document actual history or beautify a place. It is primarily intended to draw emotions, thoughts and conversations.”

AWARE previously stated that it welcomed the discourse surrounding the saga and appreciated that URA was considering public feedback.


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