This has been an unbelievable summer of travel for me. From Havana to Ubud, and many stops in between. So many experiences, and so many drawings, I don’t know where to start. So I decided to start with Waterloo Street in Singapore, where I had the privilege of teaching a workshop at the 6th Annual Urban Sketchers Symposium.
Waterloo street, where I did a workshop called the Urban Sketchers Cookbook (more on that in another post) is located somewhere between Little India and the Malay sections of the city. Singapore is a true melting pot of cultures and religions, and while there I was constantly impressed with how active all of the religious temples/churches/mosques were, and with how they seemed to co-exist harmoniously. The drawing above is of the Sri Krishna temple. All of the workshop instructors were asked to donate a drawing for a silent auction for USK scholarships. This was my donation, in which I decided to include the elements of my reportage workshop. Please excuse the i-phone photo, no scanners in the hotel. (The man in this drawing did not feel that I captured his likeness, but I can tell you that it was right on, lol.)
I was so impressed with this temple – and the rest of Waterloo street – that when I had time between workshops I went back to do a few more drawings.
Here is the Hindu temple again – you can see the devotees praying with incense, and the Hindu gods and goddesses praying behind them. Also in the distance is the Chinese Buddhist temple – these different temples are literally next door to each other, almost like a kind of religious-themed EPCOT. Amazing.
As I was drawing the temple, there was suddenly a lot of chanting, and a priest came out and poured ghee over one of the statues. There was a lot of focused energy and high concentration of chanting and swaying while this went on. It was a very serious affair, and I felt privileged to be there and able to capture it. After this quick religious event ended, the temple quieted down again, and I decided to walk toward the Chinese Buddhist temple to see what was going on there.
The atmosphere near the Buddhist temple was somewhat livelier than next door at the Hindu one. And right outside of the Chinese Buddhist temple on Waterloo Street sit some of the hardest working women I’ve ever seen. They sit under these umbrellas in the hot sun all day and sell flowers and incense to worshippers entering the temple. My understanding is that these offerings are for Buddha, and also for ancestors. Actually, there are many stores lining the street in which you can purchase gifts for your ancestors and deceased relatives to help them on the other side. Lin Chan, one of the attendees of my workshop – and a wonderful artist – explained the various gifts to me: paper money, so they can buy what they need; paper cell phones, to make calls if necessary; paper dresses to wear, etc. etc. The idea is to buy these items in paper and then burn them, thus sending them to the other side for your relatives to use. What an idea and way to connect, and continue to take care of, those we’ve loved and lost. And also, what a busy business goes on outside the temple to sell all of these items and more.
Inside of the temple there were more activities happening, and more things to purchase to enable those activities. There were a lot of people shaking what looked like sticks, and throwing them out on the ground. Apparently this is some kind of divination practice, where you can ask the Buddha a question, throw the sticks, which in turn give you certain numbers, which you then bring back to the counter where you purchased the sticks to receive one of a set of answers that are attached to each number. Wow. A lot of people had a lot of questions, and the sound of sticks clacking was very loud indeed.
Right outside the gates of the temple were more vendors, and some beggars too. It was a very active scene, and even the beggars seemed to be a part of a whole social eco-system. As I sat making the drawing above, a Chinese woman sat next to me hawking fans. I don’t speak Chinese, but whatever catch phrase she was using, she was repeating about three times a minute. Became like a mantra. As I was finishing this drawing, the clock must have pointed to dinner time, because the entire operation – vendors and beggars – suddenly began to pack up and leave. The Chinese woman next to me, without missing a beat of her fan hawking, leaned over quickly to me and said, “Don’t worry, they’ll be back tomorrow!” I loved it! And wished that I, too, could be back tomorrow, but my plane for Thailand was leaving at 11 am the next morning.
As I headed back to my hotel to get changed for the Symposium closing party, I had to stop and draw this joyful scene around the Golden Buddha. People were smiling, laughing, and posing with the Buddha; as well as rubbing his belly for luck. I did too, more to thank the Buddha for my luck in having been able to spend some time in Singapore. And thank you to Urban Sketchers too. It’s always a privilege and a pleasure to teach at a Symposium.