A vibrant oasis of colours surrounded by concrete high-rise buildings, Kampong Gelam’s mural-covered streets are arguably the precinct’s biggest draw – and a cornerstone in our nation’s urban arts scene. Ahead, discover the street artists who’ve made Kampong Gelam their canvas, the inspiration behind each masterpiece, and where to find them.
While wall hunting, recharge and refuel at the cafes/restos fronted by these murals or those nearby.
Haji Lane/Bali Lane
Easily the most famous wall mural at Haji Lane and undisputedly the wall that started the vibrant street art scene here. This intricate work of art is commissioned by the owner of Piedra Negra, a Mexican restaurant and depicts Aztec, the indigenous people dominant in Mexico before Spanish conquest in the 16th century.
The wall is the work of Didier Jaba Mathieu, a Columbian-born graffiti writer and street artist. He is the same artist for many of the eye-catching murals along Haji Lane. His style is highly refined and complex, taking inspirations from his travels and experience as a concept artist and digi-matte painter with Lucasfilm.
Location: Piedra Negra, Junction of Ophir Road and Beach Road
Another gigantic mural by Jaba on the sidewall of Piedra Negra facing Ophir Road that is hard to miss. This complex futuristic looking piece was done in phases and fully completed in May 2018.
Another Jaba’s piece, commissioned by the owner of Blu Jaz Cafe. This wall is by the side of Muzium that shares the same alley as Blu Jaz Café, a popular eatery known for live band performances. Its bold and vibrant colours instantly grab one’s attention.
Funky pop-art by multi-disciplinary artist Idris Johor, who goes by the handle PrettyFreakyFantasy, line the pillars and the interiors of the café. Almost all of his artwork radiates a feel-good factor; in his words: “I want people to smile when they see my work”. You can find another of his equally vibrant wall mural at Gelam Gallery. Hear it from the man: https://youtu.be/FNezBEmNSss
Faces from the past commissioned by The Singapura Club. This monochromatic mural featuring elderly and historic characters in the artwork: an old man in turban, a Samsui woman and a Malay man, provides an interesting contrast to the other colourful murals along the street. It also depicts the multi-ethnic identity of The Singapura Club, a restaurant that serves Asian and North Indian food.
Ceno2, a local graffiti artist who found international fame, is the same artist for the wall mural on Vintage Camera’s Museum. He is known for photo-realistic human portraits.
At the sidewall of The Mad Sailors is an art piece by Argentinian Street Mural Artist, Alo Juan. He tries to depict the mad world of sailors through these colourful shapes and forms.
Along this narrow alley that links Haji Lane to Arab Street, there is a Batik-inspired piece by Salcsatu and an untitled piece created by the trio of Slacsatu, Myow and Asno at ZNC. These pieces add an interesting dimension to the monochromatic Faces from the Past on the opposite wall. ZNC, or Zinc Nite Crew was formed by Slacsatu in 1998. He is considered the pioneering graffiti writer who helped elevate the street art scene in Singapore. He taps into pop culture for ideas for his bold creations, which usually combine alphabets and batik.
Nearby Café: % Arabica is just across the street.
Location: Sultan Arts Village, 71 Sultan Gate
Right next to the Malay Heritage Centre is the Sultan Arts Village where you’ll find fascinating street art and graffiti by both local and international artists. It’s also home to The Blackbook Studio, Singapore’s first physical graffiti store and the official distributor of loop colours. In the courtyard, there’s a 14-metre long practice wall where artists will meet and just paint for fun.
The original Batik piece by Slacsatu. You can find a few other versions of different style around the neighbourhood.
Nearby Eateries: The stretch of Kandahar Street that runs parallel to it is lined with restaurants offering different cuisines: Rumah Makan Minang, a casual eatery loved by the locals for its beef rendang and Cicheti for heart-warming Italian food. A hidden gem is Rich and Good Cake Shop, with their deliciously fluffy Swiss Rolls at affordable prices.
Location: Sultan Gate Restaurant, 29 Sultan Gate
Coffee Story. This piece was commissioned by coffee roaster ARC which is no longer here. The painting shows an interesting contrast between an old style coffee roaster and a modern hipster coffee roaster. Right now, the space is occupied by Sultan Gate Restaurant.
Yip Yew Chong is a self-taught artist who has painted over 19 murals in Singapore. Inspired by his memories of old Singapore, his murals evoke a sense of nostalgia.
Location: Aliwal Arts Centre, 28 Aliwal Street
At the back of Aliwal Arts Centre is a wall of artwork that changes every one to six months. Right now, the wall features a fierce dragon splashed in vivid hues, a colourful contrast to the grey walls of the shophouses in the back lane. This piece is by Antz who majors in oriental art and its related concepts; hence his work typically infuses Chinese culture, identity, dialect, and mythology.
The wall is “managed” by street-art collective RSCLS, which has a studio in the arts centre. Other groups that have taken over the wall so far included ZNC.
Nearby Eatery: Thyme@Aliwal Craft Café, a whimsical café with a European & Asian-inspired menu.
Location: Aliwal Street
Right next to the side alley entrance of Aliwal Arts Centre is another vibrant Batik-inspired piece by Slacsatu. Part of the Aliwal Urban arts Festival 2019, this batik piece with loop colours is a breath-taking explosion of colours.
Nearby Eatery: Happy Crab, a cozy no-frills open-air seafood restaurant specializing in crab dishes
Bejeweled: An Homage To Kampong Intan reminds us that part of Baghdad Street was once where diamonds and precious stones were traded.
TraseOne is regarded as one of the leading pioneers of the local street art movement. He started off by just scrawling his name on the streets. His approach has evolved to creating a more intellectual dialogue of his art that contains subliminal messages.
Location: Back lane of Baghdad Street
Hidden in the backlane of Baghdad Street Rise-up by Zero. Try and spot the familiar objects and landmarks depicted here around the neighbourhood.
Zero is the founder of RSCLS. His signature style is mask-life faces and his works revolve around street culture, pop culture and current affairs. RSCLS has a studio at Aliwal Arts Centre and members of the collective can often be found working on the walls behind the building.
Nearby Eatery: Kampong Glam Café, an extremely popular casual eatery serving local Malay food and Western cuisine.
Separated by Bussorah Street that leads to the mosque are 2 parallel back alleys named Muscat Street. This is where you can find Singapore’s first out-door art gallery. There are close to 30 artworks by local and international artists on display here. Framed pieces hang alongside wall murals and commissioned graffiti. The art ranges from colourful modern pieces to works reflecting the culture and heritage of the neighbourhood.
Check out the few pieces below that show the range but nothing beats seeing them in person, with a camera in hand of course.
Framed artwork by Lasalle graduate Sararuddin Abdul Hamid (aka Dyn) at the entrance from Baghdad Street. He draws inspiration from the heritage and varying aspects of the area.
Boogie in the Dark by artists Nicia Lam, Yullis Lam and Novena Angela. The vibrant artwork depicts sea creatures at an underwater disco-themed party.
llustrator and graphic designer Liyana Farzana Binti Zaihan experiments with colours and art forms with her works.
Japanese tattoo artist Sei Nishiyama does large-scale tattoos and goes by Sei10 on the walls. This will make a pretty stunning tattoo on someone’s skin.
Hands and marbles by Malaysian artist Andharas. Hailing from Malaysia, Amir Andhar, who specializes in mural art painting, got his start in the art world by picking up basic techniques from his airbrush car painter father. The art piece is a throwback to our simple childhood game of playing marbles on the ground.
A whimsical piece by multi-disciplinary artist PrettyFreakyFantasy, known for his pop culture elements in bright and bold colors. His murals and interior decoration pieces can also be seen at Blu Jaz Cafe, Piedra Negra, and Funq. He got his moniker based on the elements from his art. Pretty would be the butterflies and flowers, freaky represents the eyes with tentacles and fantasy captures the surreal feel of the whole effect. PFF tries to emphasise the feel-good factor in all his artwork. In his words, “I want people to smile when they see my work.”
Just in front of the Muscat back alleys is Bussorah Mall, where you can find a myriad of Middle Eastern cuisines in Alaturka, Beirut Grill, Byblos Grill, Derwish, Sultan, Taste of Lebanon, Tabbouleh and Turkish & Middle Eastern Cuisine.
Venture across North Bridge Road and walk down the narrow lanes and you will see another wall mural by Ceno2 and numerous others by Ernest Zacharevic or ZACH as he calls himself, a Lithuanian-born multi-disciplinary artist. In 2012, ZACH received worldwide recognition after creating a series of six street art murals for the George Town Festival in Penang, Malaysia, with the BBC calling him Malaysia’s answer to Banksy. He is currently based in Penang.
Location: AMC Asia! Building, 18 Jalan Klapa
Commissioned by owners of the buildings AMC Asia!, Children in Wheeling Trolleys attracts people taking interactive photos because of the supermarket carts attached to it.
Situated just beside Children in Shopping Trolleys is Boys Climbing In and Out. This mural is interestingly broken into two segments, whereby the continuation of the painting “Boy in Window” is round the corner of the building.
Nearby Eatery: Kumoya Singapore @ 8 Jalan Klapa, a character-themed Japanese-French café
Location: Victoria Street
ZACH combines fine art techniques with his passion for creating art outdoors. His primary interest is in the relationship between art and the urban landscape, with concepts often evolving as part of a spontaneous response to the immediate environment, the community and culture.
Nearby Eatery: The Beast Southern Kitchen + Bourbon Bar, a southern-style American restaurant with an impressive selection of over 30 Bourbons
Location: Vintage Camera’s Museum, 8D Jalan Kledek
This eye-catching portrait of a man holding a camera is befitting of the Vintage Camera’s Museum, a striking building in the shape of a Rollei camera. This piece is by Ceno2, the same artisit for the monochromatic wall at The Singapura Club in Haji Lane.
Nearby Eatery: Symmetry Café, a laid back restaurant and bar featuring modern Aussie cuisine.
Location: Wall between Jalan Kledek and Jalan Pisang
Nearby Eatery: Hjh Mainumah Restaurant, serves up traditional kampong-style (village-style) Malay cuisine.