The Weight of
Inheritance

alvin teo

SERANGOON GARDENS

A terrace house in Serangoon Gardens where he lives with his family of six, some 40 pet birds and cabinets of antiques collected by his father.

Connecting the pieces

It is hard to say when I started being fascinated with the antiques in the living room. I guess studying history in secondary school got me interested in these antiques. Then you start realising that all these little things are pieces of family, pieces of what makes you who you are. It would be a waste if these things were lost and went to someone else – you lose a part of your identity. It would be heritage lost for good. For example, I used my dad’s bicycle, which I will never sell off. I can pass it on to my son in the future.

"All these things are pieces of family makes you who you are."

When the clock strikes

When I was young I did not really know what these antiques were. but I know that they were important because my dad took great care of them. He would always say: “Don’t touch, don’t anyhow open!”

Once in a while, my dad would tell us about the stories of these antiques at random occasions because I think he wants us to know about our family history. He shares what the item was used for and who it belonged to, which leads to stories about people like my great grandfather and what kind of a person he was. Most of these are Peranakan antiques including figurines, cutlery and household items.

"There are close to 20 clocks, not including those in the bedrooms."

There are more than 20 clocks in my house that go off simultaneously every hour. My father also owns about 40 birds. I grew up with their chirping around 6am every day – a very good wakeup call for me.

Our family is not very close. To be honest, I don't know when it happened, maybe over time or because we all pursued different interests. Everyone coops up in his or her own rooms. I don't have a strong attachment to this house, that's why I don't have an answer to what's my favourite spot at home.

I will probably take over these antiques when I have my own family and house. My father collects them because he likes history, but I will keep them because of the links to my family.