What does it mean to be Singaporean?

What does it mean to be Singaporean?
Track and field legend C Kunalan.

What does it mean to be Singaporean?

It is a question Mr Lim Meng Jin posed to people who agreed to take part in his photography project, We the Citizens.

The 34-year-old civil servant asked participants to reflect on the question and write their answers on a whiteboard. Then he takes a photo of them holding it.

So far, he has highlighted 11 people and their reflections. These include local singer and songwriter Dick Lee, and football legend Fandi Ahmad.

Photos of these Singaporeans and their reflections are uploaded on a Facebook page he created for the project.

He says We the Citizens was sparked by the negativity he noticed among Singaporeans surrounding "hot-topic issues" such as immigration, overcrowding and rising costs.

"I am trying to get people to think about things - both tangible and intangible - that contribute to why it means something to be Singaporean," he explains.

While other local projects online have sprouted to capture the stories of ordinary Singaporeans, Mr Lim's aim is to get people thinking about "what makes being on this little red dot special".

The Facebook page has received 449 likes since it went live in April.

"I started out with asking friends and friends of friends to be part of my project," says Mr Lim.

Later, he was inspired to make the initiative more meaningful.

So he began approaching people who have made an impact in his life, as well as those who have left their mark on the Singapore landscape.

It has not been easy. Not every person he approaches agrees to be featured.

In fact, only one out of four is willing to take part.

"The challenge is to get people to buy into the project, because every one is busy these days," he says.

Still, he presses on, armed with an old Canon camera, his trusty whiteboard, a marker and a "huge dose of thick skin", he says with a chuckle.

His eventual goal is for the photo collection to be part of Singapore's 50th birthday celebration.

"I hope to collect the responses of 50 or more people. I'd like to produce an exhibition, a book, or both next year.

"But that all depends if I can find a sponsor and a venue to exhibit," he adds.

This article was published on Aug 10 in The New Paper.

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