Join ‘Tampines Boy’ Shaifulbahri Mohamad on a theatrical walking experience to rediscover the estate

, Join ‘Tampines Boy’ Shaifulbahri Mohamad on a theatrical walking experience to rediscover the estate

See Tampines like you’ve never seen it before. 

Located in the southeast corner of Singapore, Tampines is a bustling suburban estate with HDB flats, schools and community hubs. 

But for Shaifulbahri Mohamad, artistic director of arts company Bahri & Co, it’s much more than that. The place holds fond memories for the longtime resident of Tampines Central who has lived, worked and played in the estate for over 35 years.

, Join ‘Tampines Boy’ Shaifulbahri Mohamad on a theatrical walking experience to rediscover the estate

In his latest work, Tampines Boy, he addresses feelings of home, belonging and memory, and tackles existential questions about the impermanence of people and things in the ephemeral spaces around us. 

More than just a performance, Tampines Boy is a theatrical walking experience that takes audiences to different spots around the Tampines Central estate. As they journey through the places and spaces he grew up in, Shaifulbahri ponders upon whether he and his family should sell the house (property valuation in the estate at an all-time high) and move elsewhere in this city of constant progress.

SG Magazine speaks to Shaifulbahri and finds out what makes the estate so endearing, his inspiration in writing and performing the work, and his favourite haunts.


Who is Tampines Boy, the actor and the character?

He is one and the same. He is Shaifulbahri Mohamad who, in recent years, mostly produces theatre, dance and sound projects for the stage. While he began as a theatre-maker, he has not written or taken to the stage in Singapore in the last nine years. 

He is also a Tampines resident for pretty much his whole life. He loves living in Tampines Central and finds it hard to consider moving somewhere else. He is 37 now. He went to secondary school in Tampines, and also started and ran a youth community theatre group, Yellow Chair Productions, for around 11 years. 

While he has many memories of growing up in Tampines, he also notices that many of his friends who grew up with him have moved away over time.

, Join ‘Tampines Boy’ Shaifulbahri Mohamad on a theatrical walking experience to rediscover the estate

In a nutshell, what makes Tampines so endearing? Can you share a fond memory of the place or a favourite hangout?

One of the most endearing traits of Tampines is having a lot of friends and family here. It grounds you; it makes the whole town and not just the estate, home, sometimes. I have a lot of family members who live in Tampines, and beyond friends, have also built a connection of some sort with other people like shop owners, etc. in Tampines Central.

Growing up in the ’90s, I fell in love with pro-wrestling (WWE) and while it was available on free-to-air TV on the weekends, the main pay-per-view events weren’t. Plus, back then, Singapore was always at least three months behind in terms of what was being aired. 

There used to be a VHS rental shop near Tampines Round Market that my family frequented, and we would always reserve the tapes in advance. I remember them calling our house to inform us that a copy was available, and we would then be able to rent it for a one- to two-day turnaround because it was in demand. And after you’ve watched them, you had to rewind them to the beginning for the next customer.


How have things changed in the estate since you were young, and how do you feel about such “progress”?

There are definitely changes big and small. The most monumental change has got to be the building of Our Tampines Hub (OTH). There was a lot of excitement around it, and it’s proven to be such an important investment in the town. 

In the show, I mention how it’s become an inextricable part of my life and town, it’s as if it’s been around for a very long time, when it isn’t even a decade old yet.

There are good examples and there are not so great ones too. Like a small field where I grew up playing football with other teenagers from the estate was replaced by an aviary kind of structure for caged birds when the area isn’t known for such. 

So, in terms of progress, that wasn’t great as it took away an organic playing space. No one really used it, and it was eventually replaced with a dog run in recent years, which is much better utilised and appreciated by residents with pet dogs.

, Join ‘Tampines Boy’ Shaifulbahri Mohamad on a theatrical walking experience to rediscover the estate

This theatrical walking experience sounds like a labour of love. What inspired you to create Tampines Boy?

It is indeed. It began life as a solo performance made for the stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017. Back then, the work carried the existential crisis of someone turning 30 and pondering whether he should stay on living in the UK or to move back to Singapore. 

In the work, the Tampines Central estate was featured a fair bit through multimedia, photographs and text. When my team and I first spoke to OTH, we had plans for it to be on the stage, but with the pandemic, that plan had to be shelved. When we revisited the idea, coming out of the pandemic, we realised it would make for a more visceral experience for audiences to be told stories about a particular place while being at the place itself. This was how the current version of the work came to be.

Now, the struggle is to sell or not to sell our house. The pragmatic way would be to just do it, but we also really sayang it very much. So it’s really about capturing the millennial experience of growing up, growing away and managing and dealing with expectations around parents, family, friends, society, etc.


What can participants rediscover about Tampines (without giving away too much)?

One of the joys of an experience like this would be for residents to fall in love with Tampines all over again. It’s an opportunity to pause and reflect on one’s relationship with their estate, which also extends to non-Tampines residents. 

What is your relationship with your estate/home like? You think you know where you live well, but do you, really? Add to that, you’ll get to encounter Tampines in a different way even if you’ve visited it before. You’re going to be taken in and around the estate, and you might spot differences between my estate and yours. The public housing and living situation is unique, and we need to be more accepting of this. I’ll finish this thought with a line from the show.

“We are infatuated with taking photos and capturing little details when we travel to other cities but forget that sometimes the beautiful things are right there in front of us in our estate. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit more looking up, looking down or looking around.”


If you could wish/change one thing about Tampines, what would it be?

This may come across as a bit selfish, but it would be great if my friends all live in Tampines once again! [laughs]

Tampines Boy will run from Sep 8 to 17 at various timings. Each performance runs for two and a half hours over a five-kilometre distance. While there will be appropriate breaks and access to refreshments, audience members are encouraged to be prepared for the walk, where needed, with a suitable pair of walking shoes, sunglasses, a hat and water. 

The show is free, but registrants will need to pay a $5 deposit to confirm their registration. The deposit will be returned to the audience when they attend the show.

The experience is presented by Our Tampines Hub and led by Singapore-based arts company Bahri & Co as part of the National Arts Council Arts and Culture Nodes Network which has been developed for people to come together to participate in, enjoy and experience the value of arts in their neighbourhood. 

To find out more about Tampines Boy visit