Wednesday, 22 June 2016

New book My School Uniform hopes to remind you of your carefree secondary school days

A new book aims to document the memories of school life while tracing the evolution of school uniforms here
By Sonia Yeo, TODAY, 20 Jun 2016

How would you like to remind yourself of the happy, carefree times when you were in school? This is what Yix Quek hopes you would feel after you have read her book My School Uniform.

“We decided to call the book My School Uniform so that it is more personal. To the reader, it’s my school uniform. It is almost like you have an ownership over it” Quek said.

The author is known for her children story books. Her first publication, The Book That Was Handed Down, was released in 2008, and won the inaugural Hedwig Anuar Children’s Book Award for Outstanding Book. She decided to step away from the genre to do her first photography project with My School Uniform. The work features over 365 pages of uniforms from 142 secondary schools in Singapore, and was inspired by street photography and books like Humans Of New York that are filled with profiles and interviews. “I thought that it would be interesting to cast school uniforms in that light. Photography, I feel, is the right medium to help bring out the content. It captures the human touch and documents school life at a particular point of time.”

She added that she chose the topic of school uniforms as they were a big part of our lives and could well be transient in nature. “Schools might not be around tomorrow. The uniforms might change. And these will still matter to you even though you have left the school,” Quek explained.

The lecturer at Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts took two years to complete her labour of love. Other than the book design by designer Yong Kam Ling and photography — which was done by four shutterbugs Nicky Loh, Louis Kwok, Soh Qui Ling and Benny Loh and took one and a half years as there were so many schools — Quek wrote and researched everything herself. What helped tremendously was the S$42,000 grant she received from the National Heritage Board as part of its heritage project grant. “The grant really helped not only in terms of money but in terms of getting the schools on board. The schools then helped shortlist the students for us. All we have to do is just arrange the date and go down to conduct the shoot. The grant also covered some of our manpower costs so we are able to pay the photographers for their work,” she added.

With this book, Quek hopes to reach out to not only Singaporeans who have graduated, but also students who are in Primary 5 and 6, and are interested to find out more about different secondary schools. Each school has a write-up of its history (For instance, Nan Hua Secondary School only allowed girls in dance club to have long hair back in the day) and a profile of interesting programmes they offer such as aviation and judo which might appeal to potential students. “It can be a nice catalogue for them,” she quipped.

And since school badges are an essential part of the uniforms, a special section analyses these badges to reflect the changes in Singapore’s education programme. It cites how there were technical schools in the 60s and 70s unlike today and those school badges would include designs of gears, cogwheels and hammers.

Ultimately, Quek hopes this book can be used as archival material as 24 of the schools featured in this book will be merged by 2018. “Some of these schools have a rich history to them. It’s a pity if we just let it go to waste. We wanted this book to be a sweet reminders of the happy days in school and that can be something you can keep for years to come.”

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