GastroGeography of Singapore, 2016/17

WOWhaus and Fort Canning, Singapore Biennale 2016, 27 October 2017 to 26 February 2017.

National Parks Board (NParks), Galleri Nila, 4 March to 14 May. 



2016/17 Singapore

GastroGeography of Singapore, an art project revolving around the idea of "belonging", explores unique tastes and aromas of the wild flora native to the island of Singapore. 

The project is inspired by GastroGeography (coined by the Singapore Biennale Creative Director, 2016) and created by the Mamakan Art Collective: Danish-born, Singapore-based artist Mamakan with contributions from Singaporean artist Steve Chua, Singaporean entrepreneur/writer Laletha Nithiyanandan, Danish artist Mette Langebaek and several local botanists/biologists.

The aim is to open our eyes and realise that food is everywhere, we just need to look for it. Mamakan is a philosophy that focuses on the sensed connection of food with places and people with stories.

The theme of "GastroGeography" refers to the complex relationship between food and place, culture and nature. We build connections with what we eat and where it’s grown. In short - “GastroGeography of Singapore” - is a play of location and identity, thus tying in with the Biennale’s theme of An Atlas of Mirrors in the context of contemporary Singapore.

The artwork for the SB 2016 presents two installations and eight artist tours with tastings and maps featuring native plants, fruits and herbs growing in the heart of Singapore.

Food forms our earliest memories. Eating is part of our shared history.  Fine dining reflects our cultural aspirations. 

What would the fine dining scene of Singapore tell you about our cultural aspirations: an import culture of French foie gras, Italian truffles, Japanese Wagyu and Chinese shark fins?

Is Singapore still trying to catch up to the perceived sophistication and modernity of the North and the West? Is a self-image based on homegrown produce being less worthy than the produce from foreign soils? Are we so blinded by the promises of far-away glamour that we miss out on the unique abundance of tastes yet to be discovered nearby?

What if we should wake up from the blindness? What if a “GastroGeoMap” would lead us to new paths of meaningful memories? What if tasting food from one’s neighborhood could bestow us with a deeper sense of “belonging”?

Visitor Feedback

“I’m a traveller who is interested in food. This combination of food and art, with additional ‘seasoning’ of history, both of Singapore and Singaporeans, plus agriculture, is unusual. Food usually focus on restaurants and/or markets, but this goes in a whole new direction. Is it foraging as performance art? Definitely not. To my knowledge, it’s something completely new.*” South China Morning Post, Hong Kong

"GastroGeography is one of the highlights of the Singapore Biennale". Lianhe Zaobao, Singapore

Looking for a different biennale experience? the #mamakan project seeks to explore the gastro-geography of singapore, creating infusions and spreads from common local plants, all found within the civic district. in doing so, mamakan hopes to recover an older knowledge about these botanicals, and their sensory and therapeutic qualities. Part of the project is a unique tasting experience.” Tan Siu Li, Assistant Director of Programmes and Curator at Singapore Art Museum (SAM)

“Thank you for inviting me to this wonderful experience.” Susie Lingham, Creative Director of Singapore Biennale, 2016

“Thanks for having us at GastroGeography! Everyone enjoyed themselves and were really blown away.” Kennie Ting, Director of Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM)

“I wanted to write and thank you for an absolutely incredible evening last week. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt so inspired, and learned so much – I had no idea about all these unique flora and fauna that we can forage in central Singapore! Thank you for introducing them to us in such an authentic, engaging way.”  A.S.

“Thanks for the wonderful tour! Everything was perfect, from the weather to the company to the many taste testers. It was so well organized and the knowledge imparted was just invaluable. What u said at the Rukam masam tree really hit home. I have stayed in Singapore my entire life and I never knew so much natural wealth existed in my own backyard! Do keep me informed about the mount Emily tour, would love to go for it too! I’ve also paid for the poster from the mamakan website, I will definitely be framing this up in my new kitchen!” Jaime Tay

“Thank you Mamakan for the tour today. Its the best tour ever I had. It opened my eyes and really we had overlooked so many treasures we have in SG. Today onwards, I am looking at our city so differently. ” Gee Soo Boo

“We’ve learnt so much about the botany of our own country, and what you said about eating from the soil to grow roots really connected. Growing up in my era of Singapore, consumerism became king and plants have always been seen as ornamental and growing food seemed very taboo because we’re no longer an agricultural society, so no one really enjoys the work of tending to plants to fruit. With my daughter, we’ve started to grow some of our own edibles and it has helped her to learn to be patient. I’m really glad to have chanced upon your exhibition and tour.”  Trinity Ang

“Susan and I really enjoyed the “food” journey along and around Niven Road. Mamakan is so passionate about this journey into rooting sporeans to mother earth and plants growing in the region that gave life to that generation .....and the need to revive the richness of what we had and do have...” Chandra Mohan K. Nair

“Thank you for an amazing experiential walk in spite of the humidity. I enjoyed discovering so many little common plants we know in our foods but not the actual plant itself. I also loved how these plants are common around us and we may see them when we walk about but didnt know their uses in our everyday lives. I fully support what u are doing in creating an experiential awareness outdoors; walking, seeing, touching, feeling, sensing and combining that with our mind to form a deep lasting imprint in our being to be reconnected and get reacquainted with our bountiful nature’s offering and simple beauty (depicted in your beautiful shots of them). Our education system needs to include a direct experiential impact thru’ our 5 senses and not just using the cognitive mind to understand. Please continue your awesome experiential art work and I hope more people can experience what I had yesterday.” Pauline

“Thank you for presenting us an eye opening and sensational tour around Wilkie edge. My family and I had a good time bonding with each other while tasting the different kinds of edible flowers and plants in the park. Little Sofia and you have been the most hospitable artists I had ever met. Keep up the good work!” Janice and family

“I just wanted to thank you again for the wonderful, informative, transformative time we spent with you on Monday. Thank you again and it was an absolute pleasure to meet you. ” Paul

“That was hands down the most fascinating art show I’ve ever attended. Thank you for a life changing experience.” Jessieca McNamara

“It had been an eye opening experience for my family to know that Spore is blessed with many rich and edible plants. My kids are happily identifying these plants as they see them now. Thank you for making history alive for us. :)” Agnes Low

“Well, I was really impressed!” Julien Royer, Chef and Founder, Odette

“I wanted to thank you for your fantastic presentation. It has really captured the team and gave us a lot interesting ideas for the future. I hope it will be the beginning of a longer and deeper partnership with you.” Eric MALINVERNI, Firmenich, Switzerland

“I wanted to thank you again for yesterday. The GastroGeography event was loved by the team. It inspired them and made then think differently.” Laure LLORENS, Firmenich, Singapore

“What better way to spend a Saturday morning than having an opportunity to have a hands on experience learning about the wealth of edible plants growing all around us. It is possible to connect with nature in a meaningful way right here in Singapore! Mamakan is a wonderful communicator and generous, inclusive teacher. Highly recommended for adults and children alike.” Prue Dixon, Artist

“Amazing how many plants you can eat in downtown Singapore. You get a completely different perspective on the city when you walk around eating it. ” Mikkel

“Going for a walk in Singapore and find out that there are hidden gems and treasures just in front of you, you just have to open your eyes and senses. Who would have thought that there is such a fantastic variety of fruit and spices in the city centre of Singapore? Now I know what a nutmeg looks and tastes like when it is fresh.”  M. Lundgaard



GastroGeography of Singapore is a parallel project of Singapore Biennale 2016 with venue support of WOWhaus and FORT by Maison Ikkoku. 

Also thank you to Quinten, Sofia and Coco Oustrup Laureijs, Jenefer Marcos Espero, Maria Warner Wong, Alexius, Doris and Project 33, Sumita THIAGARAJAN, Dounia Crivelli. Ethan Leslie Leong and the FORT team, Susie Lingham, Tan Geok Kuan, Eliane Stadelmann-Boving, Veera from Greenology, Gin Kai Chan, Roberto Tejeda Toca, Sweelee Lim, Ondina and Mark Montgomory, Adam Lyle, Dorthe Kroeyer, Michael Lundgard, Per Justesen, Anders Vognsen, Mikkel Nielsen Oestergaard, Ning Wong, Linda Koh, Irene and Tim Hamons, Pok Carsten Pedersen, Carmn Fitz Gibbon, Shree Nairr, Leong Yu Jing, Balaji Swami, Harish Pilay, Andrew Habgood, Rahul Vijayan, Sajeeve bahl, Maria Hirota, Ryan Chua, Matt Hunter, Albert Wang, Gouri Betigeri, Susanne Frey, Ethan Tan, Mr Murthy, Mr Anson, Owen, Rajesh and all from Toh Kim Bock group (TKB), Su Lin and Sock Fong (Emily Hill), Life Church, Ronny (Artichoke), Caroline Tran (Pernot Richard), Sabrina Yeo, Nazie, Eva and Pamela Rizk, Chia Aik Kek, Chua Chee Siang, Jean Lai, Tan Shir Ee, Shirley Khng (Singapore Art Museum)