n°. 4

is it always
black or white?

across

With the sun just about to set, the train
finally arrived, putting an end to the long
wait for me and the two other girls. This
was taken as we were crossing the tracks
to the other platform for boarding. At last,
moving on to the next destination.

*think the Tesseract scene from Interstellar

whitehorsegrey

on the cover
<
joey chin

editor's note

This issue of qzine includes contributions that tell a story in their own way or another, stemming from our query: Is it always black or white? What the it is, how the colour black is regarded, and what white equates to. The features in this issue required our contributors to examine art and design, life and death, fiction and opinion through our question, and decide how much of black and white can be bifurcated or blended.

In Metaphorically Speaking, we categorise figures of speech through the absence and presence of light. Type-designer Calvin Kwok imagines black and white as two forces that try to strike a balance, a state of equilibrium. Funeral home, Serenity Casket navigates lightness as being, and darkness when one’s eyes are closed.

There are also the in-betweens: the or within our question. Shirley Lee, mother to a newborn, describes the moment of birth with the light of a Sunday evening. In her story, writer Constance Flux’s characters ponder on the lives and actualities of toys from their childhood.

This is an especially poignant issue as we reach the last issue of qzine, and also the month of December. Is this the beginning, the end or do they superimpose each other? We prefer to keep things open so in our closing (but open-ended) note, we wish you a wonderful festive season ahead, and the opportunity to say hello again soon.

Bloody Hell Big Head
jazlyn song

to be in black
or white?

Click to make your
own black out poem!

Every so often there will be days when everything seems too glaring for my eyes. I fold myself into corners and squeeze into the spaces of darkness. I refuse to leave. My feet are anchors that keep me rooted still and I silently dock in between crumpled sheets, taking comfort in stagnancy. The early morning quiet is a friend who strokes my ears gently in the enclosed room but the noise in my head is an enemy who wraps itself around my mind while drumming its fingers over and over again. Getting out of bed seems to be too much trouble.

However, it is in moments like these that I also recall the words from an important friend—a silver lining whisper when my head is tucked tightly under heavy clouds.

She said: “Depression is like a room in your house. There will be a point when you keep going into the room, and you’re allowed to do that. Nobody’s rushing you. But you need to know when to exit the room and close the door so you can do things like eat and shower and get some sun. And the more you get used to leaving the room and closing the door, the less you find yourself entering the room.”

So I take as much time as I need to resist succumbing to the shadows. I open the windows to let dawn break on the walls and do the smallest of things first like filling my cup with water till it is half full.

Perhaps light will come when you least expect it. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself.

reset

Every so often there will be days when everything seems too glaring for my eyes. I fold myself into corners and squeeze into the spaces of darkness. I refuse to leave. My feet are anchors that keep me rooted still and I silently dock in between crumpled sheets, taking comfort in stagnancy. The early morning quiet is a friend who strokes my ears gently in the enclosed room but the noise in my head is an enemy who wraps itself around my mind while drumming its fingers over and over again. Getting out of bed seems to be too much trouble.

However, it is in moments like these that I also recall the words from an important friend—a silver lining whisper when my head is tucked tightly under heavy clouds.

She said: “Depression is like a room in your house. There will be a point when you keep going into the room, and you’re allowed to do that. Nobody’s rushing you. But you need to know when to exit the room and close the door so you can do things like eat and shower and get some sun. And the more you get used to leaving the room and closing the door, the less you find yourself entering the room.”

So I take as much time as I need to resist succumbing to the shadows. I open the windows to let dawn break on the walls and do the smallest of things first like filling my cup with water till it is half full.

Perhaps light will come when you least expect it. In the meantime, be gentle with yourself.

hanna looi
I know it’s been a long time.

I’m sorry for leaving you behind.
But I’m here now.
That tiny voice in the back of my head all
these years, constantly reminding me that
I’ve been a bad person for ignoring your
existence. Your voice, it made me mad.
I said I heard you.

But what was I supposed to do?
“Grow up,” they said. I didn’t have
a choice. We didn’t have a choice.

Life is a university but we’re not
graduating yet.
I know it’s been a long time.

I’m sorry for leaving you behind.
But I’m here now.
That tiny voice in the back of my head all
these years, constantly reminding me that
I’ve been a bad person for ignoring your
existence. Your voice, it made me mad.
I said I heard you.

But what was I supposed to do?
“Grow up,” they said. I didn’t have
a choice. We didn’t have a choice.

Life is a university but we’re not
graduating yet.

Drowning in the vast ocean of adulthood, I was desperately grasping for air. Juggling dreams, health, studies and insecurities — it felt like overpowering waves and currents I had no control over. I was your life buoy, but you were my lighthouse.

Sure, you must have thought about the happily-ever-after endings, that life would be easy, fun and carefree. We did have our happy times, but I blame all the crappy fairy-tale movies Mum forced us to watch after school. Calcium for our creative bones, she said. Such lies, I realised. Happy endings fed us with false hopes and expectations, and made you like this.

Silly one, sleeping forever won’t pay the bills. The ones with poisoned apples aren’t old hags. They’re people who try to be your ‘friends’. Prince Charming won’t show up when you call his name.

The world is dark and cold. No fairy godmother will have time to make your wishes come true. They’ll strip you of your colours, and that was why I protected you. Your colours were transcendent. You weren’t going to fit in a grey world.

You believed we were good enough, but we weren’t.

Your kindness, giving nature, and that oh-so-pure heart. How ironic when you became the reason for our heartbreaks, sleepless nights, and overthinking.

But with all that I’ve said… I like you, little me.
And I need you even more. So, please don’t go.

You drive me nuts, but without you,
I would not have existed.

Without you, we wouldn’t have giggled while building sandcastles by the beach, or when our shovels got stuck in the sand. We wouldn’t have laughed till our tummies hurt when Ah Ma burped at the dining table. We wouldn’t have wiped away our foolish tears, crying over teenage love and broken hearts.

You gave knowing that we would have gotten nothing back. You loved without reason or condition. You weren’t afraid to say ‘Yes’. While people called the world a scary place, you refused to believe in it.

Dear little me, you watered my soul when my mind was withering. I wouldn’t have known how to love me, and this world would always remain black and white.

People say life is a roll of film made up of precious little moments, I’m glad you coloured my frames.

Old friend, it’s been a long time.
I’m sorry I left you behind.
Your voice in my head, I heard you.
But I’m here now.

yong de han

from culture
to couture

The colour black has been associated with various events since the beginning of time. The culture and intricacies of using black also differ culture to culture. In the 1600s, black had superstitious affiliations with witchcraft in the West. The colour was then associated with mourning during the Victorian era.

Coco Chanel changed the meaning of black when she created the “little black dress” and the “little black jacket”. Black meant simplicity and power; she was known for freeing women from the restrictive clothing of the 1910s. Black was then the colour of choice for British and American youths to express their alternative lifestyles during the Punk and New Romantic movements in the 70s and 80s.

Similarly, black has various cultural intricacies associated with it in the East. In China, black represents water. It also symbolises power and stability. It was a colour worn by imperial dignitaries. On the flipside, black is also associated with destruction and suffering, so it is considered bad luck to wear it to auspicious occasions like weddings. In Singapore, some superstitious elderly might still feel uncomfortable when the younger generation wears black to weddings.

In Japan, black denotes non-being, mystery, night and anger. In 1981, Rei Kawakubo made her Paris debut with a collection of dark monochromatic and unconventionally distressed fabrics for Comme des Garçons. The 80s was about colours and excesive materialism in the West. Rei’s collection was thus deemed as “ anti-fashion”, and the term “Hiroshima chic” was coined by the international fashion press to describe her collection.

Mononchromatic collections from local label Pauline Ning, known for her drapes and edgy contemporary womenwear, is a personal favourite. For me, black is a simple but authoritative colour. I feel that one would be taken more seriously when dressed in black or monochromatic garments. It can make one feel confident about him or herself. It can also be thought as a lazy color. It is easy to match and accessorise when wearing black.

I do not think there is always an absolute to anything, especially the question of black or white, right or wrong in the world of fashion where seasons and trends change so rapidly. Everyone has their own opinions and perspectives that should be treated with respect.

esther lim
shirley lee

bring to life

months and moments
before birth

serenity casket

dying to know

a funeral home's perspective

“We can’t overcome death, but we
can turn it to a celebration of life”

“There is life after death. I believe it would be a bright light, and life starts from there after the tunnel.”

—Chong Elson,
Managing Director

“The moment we fall into darkness, we will not have any strength to move, but we can still hear. Everything around us will be in darkness until we are cremated.”

—Sarah Ang, Embalmer,
Funeral Director

“After death, life will go back to where we were in the first stage: in the womb, restarting the whole process.”

—Jacky Tan,
Funeral Assistan

“Not even a clue on this.”

—Brian Ong,
Funeral Assistant

Does dealing with death, bereavement and grief as part of one’s work routine shape one’s ideas on death? Serenity Casket, a Christian-based funeral home dealing with Christian bereavement care, tells us what they really think.

Death is an end of life, the closure of life, where everything else stops. We can’t overcome death, but we can turn it to a celebration of life where we cherish what we have, and enjoy every single day of it.

A handful of people do plan their own funerals. Wines, balloons, video montages, their favourite songs. They are all common in the planning of a funeral. We have done a couple of bereavements where it’s a way of celebrating the end of their life journey.

We envision black as darkness when we close our eyes, and white as the brightness when we are in Heaven (or whichever you believe in). Embracing life will not prepare you for death, but it will perhaps let you know to live with no regrets.

ng san san

There is nothing novel about black and white photography. It is a dated technology and sometimes nostalgic, but seeing the world in monochrome is a refreshing break from the usual colour. Removing the distraction of colour allows you to focus on a scene, an emotion, shapes, forms and lines. Through photos, you can tell a dramatic tale of just about anything—love, loss, or the subtleties of daily life. Through these images, San San tells her story.

Bras Basah/Bugis emanates the self-assuredness of a person with a well-lived past. Change is inevitable and one may choose to reject, tolerate or make the most of it. There is a timeless quality about this neighbourhood which has something for everyone. I had initially dismissed it as a nearly forgotten, once-favourite haunt of book lovers. But serendipity brought me to the 23rd floor of Block 233 Bain Street. And I found it to be home and hearth for many fellow heartlanders, comfortably juxtaposed alongside the glitz and swankiness of South Beach Tower, Marina Bay Sands and the Esplanade. It struck me then that Bras Basah/Bugis is a playground for one and all, whatever your heart desires.

constance flux

It is late. Jill and Maisy, rare specimens of secondary school friendships that survive for decades, have been sharing a bottle of red wine all evening. They are remnants of their band of “sisters” on this heady night, having opted for a nightcap after their usual sashimi dinner gathering. The others had left after declarations of envy. They are the only two left in the group of thirty-somethings who have not married. At this hour, all the sounds are muted—the clink of glassware and the rhythm of alcohol-fueled conversations are petering out at the lounge bar. Notes from the velvet voices of easy-listening chanteuses waft from the speakers, gently easing the two ladies further into the overstuffed sofa where they are ensconced, side by side, advancing the flush of drunken stupor from face and neck to fuddled brain.

Maisy breaks the comfortable silence by asking a question that their sluggish minds would struggle with for the next hour. “What do you think of Flora’s story about her daughter? I’m not sure if her conclusion is right. Maybe it’s not as serious as all that. Maybe she just has an overactive imagination. I’ve never heard of any children here having imaginary friends.”

Jill pauses for two beats, processing the question as she listens to the gentle throbbing in her head which she knows would worsen in the next 30 minutes. She should get home before that happens, yet she senses the beginnings of a very interesting conversation. Such moments are rare these days—first of all, they are often too busy to even meet. The demands of work and family life had reached a crescendo in recent years. And when they did meet, the conversation was dominated by gossip and complaints about life. Yes, this topic was a refreshing change.

“ Just because you’ve never heard of such cases, Maisy, doesn’t mean they don’t exist.” She chides gently. “Anyway, what’s so bad about imaginary friends? It isn’t an instant pronouncement of insanity.” Jill grabs a handful of nuts, recalling her childhood. A single, distinct character from the past leaps to mind. As she focuses on it, she can feel her memories solidifying.

“Doesn’t every kid think their toys are real, at some point?

I definitely used to. Toy Story singlehandedly convinced me that all my playthings had a life of their own once my back was turned. I even tried to catch them moving a few times, by pretending to look away and then quickly staring at the mirror! It’s just how far you take that belief, and how willing you are to share this knowledge with adults. I guess Evelyn’s case is unusual because Flora says she has been talking to empty space. There’s no...embodiment...of the imaginary friend. That seems more...severe.”

Maisy ponders, sipping her wine while resolutely avoiding the nuts, filled with envy at the sight of still-svelte Jill munching away. “Now that you mention it, I was affected by Toy Story too. My parents got me and my brother an airplane once. It was a big one, and when you pressed a button, it would emit noises and move on the ground like a car for a few seconds. I had memories of it taking off on its own after travelling on the ground, and then landing and extending its stairs out onto the floor. I believed this without question, and told everyone our plane could fly. But when I grew up, I realised that that kind of technology couldn’t have been available when we were kids.” Maisy pours herself another glass. The bottle is now empty, and fills her with a degree of wistfulness. “But”, she asserts, “that’s not the same as having an imaginary friend.”

Jill wonders if she should share her story. She would regret it if Maisy threw back her head and laughed in her face, or mocked her in front of the rest of their group, which she had done many times before. But Maisy is sometimes unexpectedly kind, and Jill trusts that the amount of red coursing through their red would wash away any embarrassment and distinct memory of this conversation by dawn. Jill lowers her voice conspiratorially. “My stuffed dog was real.”

“What? You’ve got to be kidding me.” A beat, as she sees Jill’s face fall, and recognises that it was a serious confession. Guilt seeps into Maisy’s heart and reels in her loose cannon.

“Maybe it’s normal. If my plane had been an animal instead, 11maybe I would have gone down that path too. You should have told Flora. Then she wouldn’t be so worried that Evelyn has a screw loose. She would know that it’s normal—because you went through it too.”

“I don’t know if it’s the same as having empty space for a friend. Maybe it’s not that different, but I can’t imagine it. Actually, deep down I still believe it. I called him Ruff. He was a small, rainbow-coloured, scented soft toy that could fit into my palm.” The heat that crawls up her face now is not induced by wine. But she presses on, swept up in the momentum of the story, and the weight of her confession.

“Ruff followed me to wait for the school bus every day. He wasn’t in my bag for the rest of the day, so I knew he went home whenever I got onto the bus. He’d always be waiting on my bed when I got home. We played games together, Uno and Monopoly. Sometimes he would win. He even taught me some new strategies. I knew he was as real as my teachers and friends. I never questioned it. I cried buckets when I lost him at a theme park a year later. I know he was real because he made me feel happy and sad, and I saw with my own eyes that he moved and thought and talked. I didn’t need anyone else to believe in him to know that he was real.”

Maisy is silent—pensive, or perhaps the alcohol’s dominion over her mind is complete. Jill makes her conclusion. “If a creature is not spotted for a long time, is it really extinct or has it just found a way to hide itself from humans? Most humans only believe what they see. For all we know, toys and other ‘inanimate’ objects could be real. It’s just that no one believes they can talk and have lives of their own. Because no one has seen it except children. And no one believes children.”

“Sorry, I still find it too hard to believe. If stuffed animals can be real because they evoke feelings, then doesn’t it mean that you and I are as “real” as them?”

The waitress who has been serving them all night strides purposefully towards the table with the bill. “We’re closing soon, Ma’am. Would you mind settling the bill?”

The spell is broken, along with the tension. The two friends oblige the waitress, embrace, book their cabs and climb into different vehicles that speed them back towards the same reality: a hangover.

At home, Maisy waits for her hair to dry. She pads into the living room, extracts a dusty photo album guarding her childhood memories, and flips through the pages. She finds what she is looking for, stops and stares. It is a picture of her and her brother, posing with dopey smiles and silly poses, with an airplane on the ground. Instantly, she is transported more than two decades backwards in time. In her mind’s eye, vivid memories of the plane, firmly airborne as she and her brother watch in awe, play one after another. She sits perfectly still as waves of realisation wash over her, imbuing her with absolute certainty that those memories are real.

She lives alone, so there is no one to share this epiphany with. In fact, she realises that most of her life is spent in solitude. She thinks back to Jill’s conclusion about extinction, and finds it chilling now. If she does not make contact nor go out for a long enough time, people could assume that she had ceased to exist. She shudders at the thought, and pinches her own arm, just to be sure that she is real.

calvin kwok
@questionzine
joey chin

metaphorically speaking

Metaphors are neither embellishments for language, nor a matter of writing devices only for writers. We use them in our everyday lives as means of describing, explaining, and categorising our thoughts and experiences.

What are darkness and light perceptual symbols of ? Why and how do we allocate events and ideas into the categories of light and dark, clarity and grey areas, animals and vision? How similarly and differently do metaphors in other languages function?

as ● ● ● ● as thunder

● ● ● ● ● market

● ● ● ● forces

● ● ● ● area

blankets of ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

● ● ● ● ● metal

kept in the ● ● ● ●

fade to ● ● ● ● ●

● ● ● ● horse

● ● ● ● ● personality

● ● ● ● ● death

crossed over to the ● ● ● ● side

plunged into ● ● ● ● ● ● ● ●

love is ● ● ● ●

● ● ● ● ● sheep of the family

in my ● ● ● ● ● ● ● hour

● ● ● ● ● ● ● out

● ● ● ● ● ● ● listed

saw the ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ washing

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ forces

eyes ○ ○ ○ up

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ lie

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ of my life

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ noise

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ at the end of the tunnel

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ elephant

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ –clear

shed some ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ on

○ ○ ○ of hope

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ bulb momemnt

hands ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ to see

○ ○ ○ ○ ○ as day

face ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ ○ up

come ○ ○ ○ ○ ○

christopher luke collins
vanessa lim

contributors

Serenity Casket

www.serenitycasket.com.sg

A Christian-based funeral home dealing with Christian bereavement care.

May Chua / whitehorsegrey

www.whitehorsegrey.net
Instagram: @whitehorsegrey

A visual artist from Singapore, interested in the space between things—the unspoken language between objects and people. In the pursuit of understanding, she has been exploring various media in the recent years, apart from her main body of work in illustration and graphic design.

Christopher Luke Collins

A lawyer during the day (and all through the night) hailing from Basildon, he drinks sugarless tea and enjoys a bit too many chocolate digestives.

Constance Flux

A writer who writes to connect, and to exorcise bizarre thoughts from her mind before they feed her vivid dreams. She credits the inspiration for her strange stories to her diet of dystopian novels and her runaway imagination.

Bloody Hell Big Head

Instagram: @bloodyhellbighead

A Bangkok-based illustrator.

Calvin Kwok

hello@calvinkwok.co
Instagram: @cliko

A type designer who graduated from University of Reading, specialising in multilingual type design and typography.

Shirley Lee

A daughter, sister, wife, mother, coffee addict, shopaholic consumed by wanderlust. A firm believer that all good meals must end with dessert.

Esther Lim

Instagram: @douchebagbobo

Bobo makes haiku
broke-ass art student is she
bad life decisions

If you ever meet
please give her pat on the back
perhaps small change too

Hanna Looi

She spends her time overthinking her whole existence, but on free days, you may find her drooling over Nam Joo Hyuk or wishing she could time travel back to when Wanton noodles were fifty cents.

Aida / Yellow Mushmellow

Instagram: @yellowmushmellow

Believes in seeing the magic in everyday things, and draws from her personal experiences in comics and stories.

Ng San San

www.frames23.wordpress.com
Instagram: @ng_s_s

She finds taking photographs inexplicably entertaining and is immensely thankful to the person who invented nifty camera phones.

Jazlyn Song

www.thelittleglass.wordpress.com
Instagram: @thelittleglass

Chases sunsets for a living and loves watching words dance around each other on paper. She photographs life and writes poetry to keep her sanity. If you ever meet her, she’ll tell you that smelling a book every day will keep the doctor away.

Yong De Han

instragram: @dehan.sg

A fashion designer who strives to create luxurious Asian-inspired casual wear, with a focus on intricate textile details inspired by the cut of various Asian garments for the contemporary man and woman in the tropics.

issues

1
the letter q
3
what is stepping in, out, or around the self like?
2
what is the meaning of home
4
is it always black or white?
1
the letter q
2
what is the meaning of home?
3
what is stepping in, out, or around the self like?
4
is it always black or white?

about

The oeuvre of the zine seeks to ask questions—sometimes unique, sometimes nondescript, sometimes commonsensical, to get a variety of responses. Our contributors range from children to industry professionals—so there is always something asked or answered with a fresh perspective.

publisher & editor
qu’est-ce que c’est design

8a cuff road
singapore 209719

enquiries

info@quest-ce.com

content

across editor's notes sun & moon to be in black or white? dear little me from culture to couture sleeping alone together bring to life
playground imagined reality equilibrium social media q&a metaphorically speaking confession faceless