Photo essay exhibition, A Place To Call Home, reveals homes and lives of single-parent families

October 13, 2018

This post was originally published as a press release on 13 October 2018.

Shots of messy, colourful bedrooms, of stainless steel cleaning appliances and of post-it notes from daughter to mother on a kitchen wall – these images are part of A Place To Call Home, a photo essay exhibition currently on showcase at Intermission Bar and organised by gender equality group AWARE. The exhibition explores the idea of home, and all five photo essays were put together by individuals from single-parent families.

Three children from single-parent families, and two single mothers – one divorced, and one whose husband passed away several years ago – opened the doors to their homes in an effort to expand the national conversation about life in single-parent families, and challenge the restrictions and stereotypes they often face.

The essays tackle issues like difficulties with getting stable, affordable housing after divorce; stereotypes of what single-parent family life and relationships look like; and what taking on household chores and domestic responsibilities as a single mother can feel like, among others.

The exhibition is a continuation of AWARE’s campaign for equitable housing policies for single parents. MP Rahayu Mahzam will be gracing the launch party for the exhibition on 13 October (Saturday), as Guest-Of-Honour.

“A Place To Call Home was hugely inspired by the kinds of conversations we had with single mothers over the last few years as we embarked on our journey to advocate for their right to affordable and swift housing access,” said Corinna Lim, Executive Director of AWARE. “We met dozens of mothers who struggled with giving their families what they needed because of the constraints that come with being in a single-income household, and mothers who, on the daily, deal with prejudice and stereotypes from their family members, peers and even officials they met through their housing cases.”

“With the exhibition, we wanted single-parent families themselves to share their own perspectives and experiences, and what they felt was most important to them as a family. Too often, we hear of their stories through data, reports and headlines – but single-parent families are not homogenous. The lives they lead cannot be put in a box, nor can the families they raise and the homes they deserve.”

The photo essays were developed in a two-part photography workshop in June, led by Nurul Huda Abdul Rashid, a researcher, photographer and educator. Participants were given the chance to pick up technical skills on photography, essay-writing and storytelling in an environment where their experiences of life in a single-parent household were understood and shared by others.

Said Kate Moey, a 53-year-old divorced mother who is part of the exhibition, “It is my hope that all our policies and laws will continue to evolve to be fair and non-discriminatory for everyone, and that our housing policies are fairer for single parents. I hope that this can create a Singapore where we are all regarded as one family without any walls differentiating parents who are all trying to build a home for our children and to give our children a place they can assuredly call “Home”. “

“Taking these photos and presenting them here has given me the chance to visually depict my story while welcoming others into my little slice of the world,” said Sherlin Giri, a 41-year-old mother of two who contributed to the exhibition with her daughter. “Perhaps someday, no one would think twice about treating us as equal to all other families – as complete and contributing families in our own right.”

Another participant, Nursarah Safari, a 19-year-old undergraduate from a local university, said: “This exhibition is an immersion into the lives of the single-parent families within our neighbourhoods and along our corridors. I hope that it sheds light on the struggles we go through to seem “okay” and “fine” on the outside – despite facing psychological, financial and social challenges – and on the support society can provide to ease the struggle for others just like us.”

The photo essay exhibition is showcased at Intermission Bar until 4 November, and will be toured in community spaces next year, to call for more support for single-parent families.  

In 2017, AWARE published their in-depth study (with accompanying Annexes), involving interviews with 55 single mothers, which found that 95% of respondents who sought public housing faced problems like the unrealistic income ceiling, long debarment periods and lack of transparency and clarity in policies.