I've Cot You (Sayang, Sarong Baby) is a heritage cum photo documentary project tracing personal Singaporean stories and memories revolving around the cloth cradle, also known as ‘yao lan’. This was a practice that was commonly adopted by Singaporean families to coax their babies to sleep in the 80s and 90s, but have since became obsolete as lifestyle trends and consumption patterns evolve.
Most of us used to be sarong cloth cradle or 摇篮 (‘yao lan’ cradle), also know endearingly as 'yo-nah' babies.
Were you one?
As babies, we could never give a testimonial, or recall that experience.
Via the ‘yao lan’ or sarong cradle as a cultural icon for interviews, this body of work focuses on family bonding, Singapore’s shared values, and ties in with a sense of collective cultural heritage via exploring memories of the family unit.
Still in keeping with her moniker of ‘I Shoot Habits’, photographer Zinkie Aw sets out to document families that are still practising the cloth baby cradle in Singapore.
Especially in an increasingly urbanised environment, this unique practice is diminishing along with modernisation of more Asian countries. For instance, I realised that my sister never adopted this tradition for my nephews; peers also preferred to purchase a ‘proper’ babycot in their new homes. For the few who still opt to use this traditional ‘yao lan’ to coax babies to sleep, they do so with the aid of a remote-control automatic spring that is deployed from a portable stand, unlike in the olden days where it was suspended from the ceilings of kampung attap houses.
It is hoped that through sets of photographs made in documentary and conceptual styles, viewers imagine that slice of memory lane that we could never remember as a baby in the cot, as well as appreciate an old trend that increasingly gets labelled as archaic.
Sayang, the sarong baby.
1: (In Malay language and Bahasa) Sweetheart. (Tagalog) A pity.
2: Sarong or traditional batik is a large fabric often wrapped around the waist and worn by men and women especially in the South East Asia region.
Heritage and Cultural Practice, Trends, Habits, Consumption Patterns, Family, Tradition, Nostalgia, Sociology, Urbanisation, Sense of Belonging, Keepsakes, Pass-me-downs.
Heritage to us is special or individual possession;
a practice from the past that may be inherited by future generations (or not). In this case, the trend of using the old-school cradle is diminishing. Yet I hope to share knowledge and the tradition parents adopting this cloth sarong cradle method, and encourage conversations in the community.
By probing into stories from the communities and families that I get in touch with, this project can foster a family identity, and build a more appreciative and cohesive mindset amongst family members in Singapore.
Stories share a generational legacy, sense of belonging via
‘yao lan’ as an icon, and prompts a younger generation to reflect about this tradition from their elders.