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Ghosts and Other Mysteries

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When we arrived in Singapore we soon found a flat in a public housing block managed by Singapore's HDB – the Housing Development Board. More than 80% of Singaporeans live in such HDB blocks. All the developments have names. Ours is called My Buona Vista.

When we moved in, there were two things I could not make sense of: the rusty oil-barrels at every entrance and the giant awkward disks on top of every building.

The purpose of the barrels quickly revealed itself. They are used to burn offerings of incense and paper money during Chinese festivals – especially in the 7th lunar month known as Ghost Month. During this time, the gates of heaven and hell are open and the deceased are free to roam on earth. The offerings appease the hungry spirits. These images were taken on 31 July 2011, the first day of last year's Ghost Month.

The purpose of the giant disks that crown my house, however, has remained a mystery.

The illuminated disks and the otherwise functional austerity of HDB architecture, the lived spirituality of my Chinese neighbours chanting in the morning and burning offerings, the omnipresent sports facilities for adults and playgrounds for children – these are my daily vistas of Buona Vista.

HDB architecture, spirituality, and recreation facilities probably have little to do with each other. Yet, I cannot help seeing all of these things together. The make the little world I currently call home.

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