URA Reviewing Its Stance On This Mural After Public Feedback

A mural depicting a young samsui woman smoking a cigarette in Chinatown has sparked controversy, with the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) ordering its modification due to concerns over its alignment with anti-smoking policies and public complaints about its portrayal of the historical figure.

However, after a debate among artists, scholars, and the public about artistic freedom, historical representation, and censorship in public art, URA has since asked the artist behind the image to delay any changes to his work as they now review their stance on amending the mural.

Here’s what happened.

URA Reviewing It Stance On This Mural After Public Feedback

This provocative mural on the exterior of 297 South Bridge Road has ignited a heated discussion in Singapore’s art community.

Image: zaobao.com.sg

Completed in early April 2024, the artwork depicts a young samsui woman smoking a cigarette, challenging traditional portrayals of these historical figures.

The artist had wanted to showcase a different perspective of samsui women, portraying them in their youth and during moments of leisure rather than the typical depiction of older, working women.

However, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) issued an order to erase the cigarette from the controversial mural, citing Singapore’s anti-smoking policy stance and feedback from a member of the public who found the depiction offensive, who even compared her with a “prostitute”.

The URA reportedly requested a “revised proposal” by 3 July, warning that failure to comply could affect the renewal of the building’s temporary permit for Ya Kun Kaya Toast restaurant, which expires on 27 July.

There was an outcry online, with many claiming that the mural was a recognition of samsui women’s labour and lives, and removing the cigarette would not be an accurate representation of history.

It’s reported that the mural was completed without approval from URA.

After it was completed and submitted to the URA, the URA had identifying the cigarette as an issue and had requested a new proposal.

Now, they’re re-evaluating its stance “in the light of recent public feedback.”