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“ It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance; in a word it is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details.�

“TWO | HALVES� is a project that highlights the harmony in local wet markets in Singapore. Through the use of symmetry, two halves are placed together to form a new, interesting and wholesome image. It acts as a metaphor to illustrate the harmony between objects and individuals when they are put together in a place.



Harmony: The quality of forming a pleasing and consistent whole and the state of being in agreement or concord

Harmony is the principle of creation, where living things were made to coexist with each other, to form friendships with each other and to partake in joy giving. Symmetry is an important principle recurring throughout nature, including social interactions. The word is derived from the Greek root symmetria meaning “Common concept extends to include harmony, balance, pleasing proportions, rhythm and equilibrium.� Symmetry is often related to beauty, truth and good, which represent positive values in the arts, sciences and ethics respectively. The relationship between symmetry and harmony involves placing two units together to create an unified balance. Since the beginning of creation, living things were created to live in harmony in an integrated world. It is the nature of mankind to love, care and nurture one another. We are made to receive relationships, joining two hearts to form one. The unification of two elements creates a new experience, a wholesome relationship and a new perspective of how we look at things. This harmony can be seen in several aspects in our daily lives which include racial harmony and harmony with one another.



“Nature seems to take advantage of the simple mathematical representations of the symmetry laws. When one pauses to consider the elegance and the beautiful perfection of the mathematical reasoning involved and contrast it with the complex and far-reaching physical consequences, a deep sense of respect for the power of the symmetry laws never fails to develop.� - Chen Ning Yang

Harmony and symmetry have been associated together since the beginning of creation. The simplest form of symmetry can be seen in nature. In nature and biology, symmetry is approximate. Symmetry creates a class of patterns in nature, where the near-repetition of the pattern element is by reflection or rotation. The body planes of most multicellular organisms exhibit some form of symmetry, which include radial symmetry, bilateral symmetry or spherical symmetry. Flowering plants demonstrate symmetry of five more frequently than any other form. The unity between man, animals and nature creates a harmony between each individual entity. It creates an unified environment, a positive space to co-exist with one another. Each entity serves its purpose to make this world a wholesome environtment.



Harmony in social interactions brings people together. It is the basis of what forms a friendship. It reconciles any broken relationship, and build up new ones. Being respectful in the things we say will form harmony, but being rude, on the other hand, destroys it. Symmetrical nature and asymmetrical nature can be observed in social interactions and behaviour.


SYMMETRY IN SOCIAL INTERACTIONS Symmetrical nature can be observed in social interactions in a variety of contexts. These include reciprocity, empathy, apology, dialogue, respect, justice and revenge.

Apology An effective apology may be accepted when a tangible loss cannot be undone. A asymmetrical balance is established where the remorse of the offender offsets the loss suffered by the injured person.

Justice Fair treatment under the law is an important justice principle. This acknowledges the balance of fair exchange and the goal of evenhanded treatment of people under the law.

Dialogue Symmetrical exchange of ideas between peers.

Reciprocity The mutual exchange of reciprocity is based on the principle of symmetry interpreted as fair exchange.

Empathy Empathy is attaining a point of view that emphasizes the symmetry between the self and the other. It creates mutual relationships where each action benefits everyone in the relationship.

Respect Respect is recognizing the symmetry of this human connection.

The Golden Rule “Treat others as you want to be treated� is a direct appeal for symmetry in relationships.

ASYMMETRY IN SOCIAL INTERACTIONS Asymmetry is the lack of symmetry and balance. It is unbalanced, uneven, unequal, inequitable, lopsided, or one-sided. It is apparent in hierarchies, forms the basis of power; the fuel for hate, and the fundamental asymmetry of the first-person viewpoint contributes to humiliation, envy, jealousy, and unrequited love.

First Person Viewpoint Your own point of view, the way you see things, is unique. We have a great need for self-justification.

Humiliation Humiliation is the asymmetrical message “you are not as good as me”.

Hate Hate is based on emphasizing and exaggerating the differences between you and your enemy.

Hypocrisy It defines power differentials and denies empathy. Treating others as you refuse to be treated mocks the golden rule.

Hierarchies Hierarchies establish and distribute power.

Jealousy Jealousy is the concern that “you love someone else more that you love me”.

Power Asymmetry is the defining attribute of power. The strong are not the weak.



There are a total of 110 wet markets located at the heartlands of Singapore. These markets sell a variety of food stocks, ranging from fresh vegetables, to red and white meat, seafood, daily necessities and even offer services like shoe mending. These markets were implemented by the government to increase community bonding between residents living nearby, and the community. Unlike the supermarkets in Singapore, the wet market provides a casual and exciting atmosphere, where customers can bargain and interact with the stallholders like friends. Over time, these relatinship of a buyer-seller becomes a long lasting friendship. Market goers have their favourite stalls to go to, because of the friendship that has been formed. The food stocks are fresh everyday, as stallholders wake up early in the morning to buy and collect their supplies at the warehouses and fish markets. Moreover, due to the high turnover, the food stocks are guaranteed fresh every morning, as leftovers will be sold at a cheaper rate upon closing. The market caters to every race, religion and culture.




Growing up, my grandma took care of my cousins and me when our parents went to work in the day. They would send us to grandma’s place early in the morning before the sun rose and pick us up late at night after work. I remember how grandma would prepare hot milo; pour it into our small coloured enamel cups, with a side plate of crackers where we would dip it in and eat while she did her laundry. When she was all done with her morning tasks, she would lug her trolley, grab a small shopping bag and with her high pitched voice saying, “Clarisa, Russell, Deline, 去巴刹买菜了!” Immediately, my cousins and I would grumble, take our own sweet time to get off our seats and finish our last sips of our breakfast because we did not want to go to the market. The market was located at the heart of the HDB blocks, just a few meters from her house. It was so accessible that she could go anytime she wanted. It was a place we remembered as smelly, noisy, wet, dirty and crowded. We would always bombard grandma with many whys and grumblings that never ceased to end. We could grumble about every single thing, from the environment, to the people, to the vegetables, to the flies- Everything that we can find in the market. Grandma, on the other hand, always looked forward to going to the market. She had many elderly friends who she made friends with after years of going to the market. Most of the shop vendors knew who she was too- it seemed like grandma was a popular figure in the market. After every trip, she would boast to us on her buys, how she got the biggest and freshest fish at a cheap rate and that we can never get it anywhere else. As children, we could never understand why grandma loved going to the market every morning, spending hours there, just walking around that small space over and over again, talking to her friends and strangers and how that made her so happy. It was like the highlight of her day! All we could ever think of was to get out of the market, head home so that we can catch our favourite cartoon shows, play super Mario on our video game station, and go to the playground later in the day. We had a totally different definition of the word “FUN”. Day after day, we went. Weeks passed, months passed. Time flew, and before we knew it, years have passed. Going to the market became a habit, an everyday activity that we soon grew to accept. Probably, we just grew a little more matured, or the fact that the market was noisy, dirty and smelly did not bother us anymore. In fact, we enjoyed going to the market. At 7am, we would run into the kitchen, telling grandma that we are late and we needed to go before all the fishes were sold out. We became more excited than grandma


(lai wo men qu mai cai le) means “Let’s go to the market.”

“Human beings are happiest around others. They need close connections and are happy in a friendly social setting than when being alone.�



“I like to go to the market with mama because I get to see fishes” - Dylan, 4 years old

Ever since I went to primary school, I could no longer join grandma in her morning market thrills on a daily basis nor did I go over to grandma’s place that often anymore. I looked forward to every weekend, where I would meet grandma at the market early for breakfast and spend some time together. The same market that I used to detest became a favourite chill out place with grandma. Grandma and her friends would always tell me stories of their youth, about life and almost anything under the sky. As school became more demanding, I could no longer keep up to the marketing time I had with grandma in the mornings. It wasn’t too long after when grandma passed on. However, that did not mark the end of those market trips. My mum stopped work shortly after grandma’s passing to stay home as a homemaker. By then, studying in polytechnic meant a more flexible timetable, which allowed me to relive those moments all over again. Mum told me many stories on how she used to accompany grandma every morning. On our first trip together with mum, I was surprised to see how many vendors recognized my mum! It was like a community in such a small place. Everyone seemed to know each other, being able to start casual talks. There was no hierarchy of status, fame, positions and wealth. Everyone was equal. Strangers could not remain as strangers for long. There was always a common topic for people to talk about, to socialize, to share their recipes. The market now isn’t just for the elderly but for all ages. It is a common sight to see children tagging along with their grandparents in their morning routines, giving a helping hand to carry light carriers.

The culture of Singapore is a melting pot of mainly Chinese, Indian, British, and Malay cultures which reflects its immigrant history. Interracial tensions were high after the separation of Singapore from Malaysia in 1965. With the combination of the different races being on economic and social statuses, possibility of rivalry and past racial riots, the leaders of Singapore at that time were concerned about the political stability of such a nation. Hence, multiracialism was introduced to alleviate any racial tensions and disparities that were present. The government thus adopted a policy that accords equal footing and status to every constituent race in Singapore. Multiracialism not only serves to recognize the differences of the people of different races but even maintains it. the state strives to maintain and strengthen the cultural identities unique to each race and religion, giving them a sense of identity , belongingness and acceptance. One of the reasons for doing so is that during the early post-colonial days, the inhabitants of Singapore were merel immigrants of diverse origins, brought in by the British without any sense of attachment to the territory and land of the island. Immigrants of different origins will not associate closely with one another. Therefore, this idea of multiracialism celebrates the irdenty of everyone in Singapore, and promotes the idea that although Singapore is racially and culturally diverse, all can coexist in harmony. In the market, The stall vendors spoke in every language and dialect, which made it easier for any one of a different race to communicate. A stall vendor shared with me on how being in the market reminded him of the old kampong days, where he would run to his neighbor’s house to trade an item for some rice, and there was no such thing as a stranger. The atmosphere’s so lively, that everyone is chattering away, bargaining for the best prices. Nothing was kept rigid in the market.

Multiculturalism: The doctrine that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country�



“I miss home sometimes, but the friends I’ve made here (market) makes me feel better...” - Elena, 43 years old, Domestic helper

The history and fortunes of Singapore have always been closely intertwined with migration. As a British trading colony established in 1819, most of the city’s population growth until the World War II was due to immigration. Supported by a fledging colonial economy, Singapore drew in large numbers of laborers from China, India, and the Malay Archipelago. Consequently, its population quickly grew from a few hundred to half a million by the 1931 census. Immigration temporarily ceased during the Japanese occupation in 1942 to 1945, and Singapore’s road to self governance in the 1950s and 1960s saw the passing of new ordinances that limited immigration to only those who could contribute to its socioeconomic development then. It was not until the 1980s, when Singapore became more industrialized, that the question of migration returned. Today, foreigners now make up 39% of Singapore’s population. New figures released by the Department of Statistics show that Singapore now have a total population of 5.4million. This is made up of 3,313,500 Singaporeans, 531,200 PRs, and 1,554,400 non-resident foreigners. Therefore, one can see that the total number of foreigners is 2,085,600. The number of foreigners have been growing consistently resulting in a shift in demographics in the market. A place that used to cater largely to local Singaporeans, women in general is now a commonplace for domestic maids and foreign workers from China, Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar and India. These maids have now take on the responsibility of getting the daily necessities on behalf of their employers, while construction workers get their food sources at cheaper and more affordable rates as compared to those in the supermarket. This serves as a good socializing place for them, to be able to mingle around with the locals as well at their fellow country mates. It gives them a sense of familiarity, acceptance and a sense of identity in the foreign land. A small community here is like a second home to many.



Local wet market is an easy place to initiate conversations even with strangers, hence, showing relevance to initiating community bonding between indiviuals of different social and cultural backgrounds. Sometimes, we do question why are markets still around when there are supermarkets located at easily accessible places. Decked in a more conducive environment, fully air-conditioned, clean floors, beautifully presented food stocks, which allows you to shop at your own comfort, at any desired time. However, people still patronize markets because of its fresh food, cheaper rates, and above all, there is a relationship that has been built. It is an experience that cannot be replicated elsewhere. No doubt, many are bothered by the fact that the market is a wet, dirty and smelly place; there are others who enjoy being in a vibrant environment. It brings warmth that touches your heart as you see how people come together. There is a balance between the good and the bad. Despite of its foul smell, it did not stop people from going because there was something much deeper than what our senses can feel. That is harmony. For some, it is like a second home, where they find comfort and love because that is where they can find genuine friendships, people who care. For some, it is a place to get all their necessities. But for me, it is a place that holds many memories that I had with grandma and my mother, a place that held importance of my childhood, a place that allowed me to see the world as a place of love because, it is a place of harmony.

“ There are some things money can never buyand that is genuine love and harmony. �


















Harmony book  
Harmony book