NTU student took 7 days to paint Punggol basketball court blue

Bet you didn't know "Punggol" means "to throw sticks at fruit trees" in Malay.

Andrew Wong | April 24, 07:34 pm


There is a basketball court in Punggol that looks vastly different from all the other courts in Singapore.

Instead of the usual red and green patches separated by white lines, this basketball court is now awash in a refreshing sea of blue waves.

Photo by Gary Chia

This is the brainchild of Singaporean artist Toby Tan who is a Nanyang Technological University undergraduate.

Along with some residents, they hand-painted the basketball court over seven days as part of Toby’s final-year project at NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media.

We spoke to him about his project and his fascination for finding out origins of neighbourhood names.

About his project

Toby’s project is called “Kejiranan”, and directly translates to “neighbourhood” in the Malay language.

His project aims to foster an understanding of the origins of local neighbourhood names, and he does this by engaging with that particular community through his basketball court paintings.

Photo by Raphael Chin

In this case, Toby came up with the design together with feedback from a handful of residents in Punggol, and wanted something that the community could identify with.

He said: “‘Punggol’ in Malay refers to the act of throwing sticks at fruit trees. So I used sticks to form patterns in some areas of the blues, which was inspired by how Punggol is one of the first waterfront towns in Singapore.”

“Many residents chose to stay in Punggol for that reason, and they wanted a design that reflected the unique waterfront aspect of Punggol.”

Photo by Raphael Chin

Residents were generally very happy with it, Toby said, and some have even described it as their “new wave pool”.

Painting for seven days straight

Painting an entire basketball court took a week to finish, and each day Toby had to be at the court from 10am to 5pm.

The process started with priming the court, or in other words covering the existing paint with a sealer so the new layer of paint could better adhere to the surface.

Photo by Yui Min

This alone took up two whole days, and at the end of day one, Toby knew that he wouldn’t be able to finish it alone.

“That was another reason why I’m very glad to do this, because a lot of people reached out to me to help,” he said.

These not only included residents around the area, but also people who he’d never met before but who had heard about the project online.

By Kervin Teo

Support from community

The project naturally attracted lots of eyeballs around the neighbourhood and brought many residents together to help out.

Families in the area took their kids down to try their hand at painting, which gave them a rare glimpse behind large-scale art projects like this.

Photo by Raphael Chin

Janil Puthucheary, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, showed up on the last day to apply the final bits of paint.

What inspired him

Toby was inspired after finding out in a past project that the name Jurong may have been inspired by “jerong”, which is the Malay word used to refer to sharks.

He then realised that not many people in Singapore knew the origins of their neighbourhood’s names, and decided to further pursue it for his FYP.

View this post on Instagram

JERONG. 2/3 Finally posting about this after about a year. My first ever public art sculpture titled JERONG done in collaboration with @lepaklukis as part of @nacsingapore passion arts, "Our Gallery" project in Taman Jurong. JERONG is a project revolving around the origins of the name "jurong". During which we worked with the communities in Taman Jurong to make hand made paper sharks and displayed them in two large shark sculptures within the Taman Jurong community. JERONG was included in the Taman Jurong art trail as part of @sgartweek . Thank you to @shophouseco @adibjalal l for the curation, @ashcity for the oppurtunity and @friedricebucket / @thericebucket for the photos . . . #art #installation #artists #collaboration #singapore #jurong #publicart #sgartist #sculpture #spatialdesign #streetart #colour #urban #urbandesign

A post shared by Tan Xun Yi, Toby 🇸🇬 (@tobyato) on

He believes that more young people should be aware of the origins of their neighbourhood’s names as it forces us to slow down and appreciate what we have.

He said: “We are old enough to start to forget our origins, even though we’re such a young country, but we’re young enough to get it back.

Toby is visibly excited when sharing his research, like how the name “Yishun” was derived from Lim Nee Soon the “Pineapple King”, or how Pasir Ris meant “white sand” in Malay.

As a Pasir Ris resident all my life, I was amazed and embarrassed that I never understood why the mall beside the MRT is called White Sands.

Picture from https://www.whitesands.com.sg/

Future plans

Toby plans on painting two more basketball courts in other neighbourhoods, and is currently still in discussions with the relevant authorities.

The project was done in collaboration with People’s Association, Coraltree RN and Punggol Coast CACC.

If you’re interested to visit the basketball court you can visit it here.

About Andrew Wong

Andrew hates writing short bios.

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