"Traveling to the islands, you move into a space where you feel vulnerable. You are surrounded by the elements you can’t control. Only when you go out, you can really get the sense that you are literally an island nation." - Marcus Ng, co-curator of Balik Pulau: Stories from Singapore’s Islands.
"When it comes to fishing, the Southern Islanders know best. Back in the day, fishing was not only to put food on the table but it was also their livelihood. Besides rods and nets, they also used a specific type of trap known as bubu to catch fish." Photo: Edwin Koo.
Former Pulau Sudong islanders gathered at West Coast Park on February 2015 for the 'Pulau Sudong Games'. They also signed a petition to the government that day to allow them to return to the island for a day. Photo: Edwin Koo.
Singapore’s last native southern islander Mohamed Sulih Bin Supian with his wife on St John's Island ferry pier.
Choo Huay Kim (left) and Mohamed Sulih Bin Supian, were born on St John's Island (Pulau Sekijang Bendera). They grew up together on the island forging a special friendship till today, with Choo visiting Sulih on the island close to once a month. As a school teacher on the island till 1976, he didn't want to leave. He said: "It was a paradise. I would have stayed there forever." Photo: Edwin Koo.
St John’s Island English School was one of the two English medium schools on the Southern Islands. At any one time, it housed only 100-120 students. But that didn’t stop former teacher and coach Choo Huay Kim, 68, from wanting to train the best football team in Singapore. Choo was born on St John’s Island in 1946, then known as on Pulau Sekijang Bendera. Photo courtesy of Choo Huay Kim.
The girls from Lazarus Island or Pulau Sakijang Pelepah – (left to right) Noor Aisha Mustari, Siti Fatimah Salleh, Kamariah Yacob, Suzana Rahmat, Saripah Maimunah, Aspalila Rahmat – pose on the beach where they used to welcome foreign tourists in the late 1960s. Photo: Edwin Koo.
Lazarus Island (Pulau Sekijang Pelepah) children pose for a photograph with Japanese tourists. Photo courtesy of Kamariah Bte Yacob.
The late Tijah Awang (centre), 91, pictured with her daughters, Samiah, Kamariah and Anon (left to right), was born and raised in Pulau Rengit. They then had to shift to Lazarus Island (Pulau Sakijang Pelepah) for the fear that the ocean will swallow up the island during extreme high tide. They now reside in Choa Chu Kang. Photo: Edwin Koo.
Pulau Sakijang Bendera islanders Mustari Dimu (left) and Yacob Dimu (right), hold large corals caught from the sea during low tide. They would bring them to Kusu Island during the annual pilgrimage season to sell. This photograph was taken by Teo Yen Teck, in the early 1950s. As Yacob Dimu died young, Kamariah never saw the semblance of her late father until she saw this photograph, which the Island Nation team reproduced from another islander’s archive, Teo Yen Teck from Pulau Seking.
Mustari Dimu (seated) with his son Sardon (left) and grandson Hazwari (middle, behind) near the furnace beside the temple. “It has been over 60 years since I first started work here,” 91-year-old Mustari Dimu, a former resident of Lazarus Island, says in Malay. And every year since then, Mustari has returned to Kusu for a full month – maintaining his long family tradition and deep friendship with Seet Hock Seng, Seng Huat’s late father, the temple’s former caretaker. Photo: Edwin Koo.
"When you pray to God, the further you go, the better. It’s like the eight immortals crossing the sea. It will bring luck." Seet Seng Huat, Caretaker of Da Bo Gong (Tua Pek Kong) Temple at Kusu Island. Photo: Edwin Koo.
Kusu Island before reclamation where pilgrims have to use boats to cross between the temple and the shrine in November 1971. Photo: Courtesy of Ivan Polunin.