Singaporean Artist's Gorgeous Mural Draws Crowds In Coimbatore

Created by Singaporean artist Yip Yew Chong, a 15m x 14m masterpiece showcases the beauty of street life through tea sellers, rice lentil pancakes and mouth-watering dishes
The painting is part of the Ukkadam Mural Festival by the St+art India Foundation
The painting is part of the Ukkadam Mural Festival by the St+art India FoundationCopyright: Yip Yew Chong

Public spaces rarely evoke joy in India. The dust, traffic, motorcycles, cyclists, cars, autos, pedestrians, nonhuman animals wandering around, narrow streets and non-existent footpaths make street life a hodge-podge of frustration and impatience most of the time. Sometimes though, a piece of street art will stop you in your tracks as its beauty allows you to appreciate particular elements of life anew.

That is what has happened in the Ukkadam locality of Coimbatore. A mural depicting Tamil cuisine is attracting sightseers after it went viral on social media, and its artist has been flooded with praise and gratitude for bringing lightness to the streets.

A pani puri seller who served the fare near the mural in the evenings was included in the artwork
A pani puri seller who served the fare near the mural in the evenings was included in the artworkCopyright: Yip Yew Chong

Singaporean artist Yip Yew Chong painted an approximately 15m x 14m artwork on a four-storey building showing a tea seller pouring chai and a woman making a rice lentil pancake called a thosai. A huge banana leaf shows dishes like idli, medu vadai, dosai and uttapam with chutney, and a goat and cat peeking from its edges. At the bottom of the mural is a pani puri seller who served the snack in the evenings and who Chong decided to include in the artwork.

Writing 'Come, let's eat' in Tamil
Writing 'Come, let's eat' in TamilCopyright: Sohil Belim

The painting is part of the Ukkadam Mural Festival by the St+art India Foundation whose goal is to make Indian streets more interactive through the medium of urban art festivals. Chong left a career in accountancy once his children were grown to pursue a career as a visual artist but this is not his first visit to India. It was the setting for his honeymoon and back in 2019 he had painted murals in the Lodhi Art District of New Delhi, again on the invitation of the St+art India Foundation. So far, the artist has painted around 60 murals in Singapore and close to 20 overseas.

It took Chong and an assistant nine days for the mural to be completed
It took Chong and an assistant nine days for the mural to be completedCopyright: Yip Yew Chong

Chong's inspiration for the theme of the mural came when he was researching what to paint. "I found that there were different themes such as animals, local activities, the famous fish market, etc. but none of them had food as [the] main focus. Food is universal and is loved by everyone from all strata of society. Everyone will be able to relate to the mural", he said.

"Moreover, one of my signature themes in my other murals in Singapore and other countries is food, too. [I chose] Tamil food because this is Tamil Nadu. And moreover, I am familiar with Tamil food because there are many Tamils in Singapore and Malaysia".

It took nine days from start to finish for the mural to be completed. At the bottom, Chong added the Tamil phrase 'வாங்க சாப்பிடலாம்' which means 'Come, let’s eat', and is reminiscent of the typography used for wall advertisements in the city. Visitors would let him know how much they loved his work by gesturing with 'supera' hand signals, which "overwhelmed and touched" the artist.

A crowd gathers to take photos of the mural
A crowd gathers to take photos of the muralCopyright: Yip Yew Chong

Asked about his experiences interacting with local residents, Chong says he had a wonderful and memorable experience. "What struck me most is the gentle, genuine and friendly people. I don’t speak Tamil nor Hindi and most people don’t speak English nor Hindi [but] I had great experiences communicating with people - body language!" he says.

He added: "As I walked around the market, houses and shops, people readily smiled and even posed funnily for photos without further asking me to buy things or tips. In the evening after my work, I also had the chance to play with the kids who showed me their drawings and also taught me how to play their sports. Residents who knew I am an artist would show me their pets and ask me to draw them on the wall".

On the last day of his visit, the Residents Awareness Association of Coimbatore (RAAC) draped a ponnadai shawl on Chong's shoulders, a mark of huge respect. The opportunity to paint for the mural festival has left Chong with gratitude towards the St+Art India Foundation, the Coimbatore Corporation, Asian Paints and RAAC.

Now back in Singapore, Chong's current focus is a personal project called 'I Paint my World', a canvas painting of a few hundred metres long which encompasses all the places he's been to and experienced, including India. Asked on when he will be in the country next, Chong remains hopeful. "If there’s a compelling invitation to do some meaningful or prominent mural somewhere, I will surely come again", he says.

The Information

Where: Visit the Ukkadam Art District to see Chong's mural.

Reaching Coimbatore: Book a flight to Coimbatore International Airport and take a taxi to Ukkadam 12km away. Coimbatore Junction is the city's railway station but you can also drive there on national highways or state roads from your point of origin.

Related Stories

No stories found.
Outlook Traveller