URA ‘re-evaluating’ stance on modifying cigarette-holding samsui woman mural


The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) has asked the artist responsible for a controversial mural featuring a samsui woman holding a cigarette to hold off on making any changes to the artwork while the authority reevaluates its decision on altering the mural.

URA is currently re-evaluating its position on a Chinatown shophouse mural after facing public backlash over its request to erase a cigarette depicted in the artwork.

The mural, created by artist Sean Dunston, shows a young samsui woman smoking, which URA deemed as not aligned with Singapore’s anti-smoking policy.

As per the report, the mural was completed without prior approval from URA, prompting the authority to instruct the building owner to submit the proposal for assessment.

“After consultation with local stakeholders and relevant agencies, the proposal was not supported as the depiction of smoking on the unauthorised mural is not aligned with Singapore’s anti-smoking policy,” said URA in response to CNA queries.

“In light of recent public feedback, URA is re-evaluating its stance on the mural”, it added.

Despite initially ordering the removal of the cigarette by Jul 3, URA is now reconsidering its stance following recent public feedback.


The mural, located at 297 South Bridge Road, was completed without prior approval from URA, and the depiction of smoking is not aligned with Singapore’s anti-smoking policy. The initial order from URA to erase the cigarette from the mural has sparked debate and discussion online, with the artist, Sean Dunston, receiving support from many individuals after he shared the news on Instagram.

Source : seanpdunston/Instagram

Sean Dunston, the artist behind the mural, shared the incident on Instagram, stating that he was instructed to remove the cigarette from the artwork by Jul 3. He mentioned that he is considering alternative options that would be acceptable to URA.

The artist also revealed that URA received feedback from a member of the public who found the mural offensive and disrespectful towards samsui women, suggesting that the woman portrayed in the artwork appeared more like a ‘prostitute’ than a hardworking samsui woman.


In response to the public feedback and the artist’s post, URA stated that it is re-evaluating its position on the mural. The agency requires all proposals for murals on conserved buildings to be submitted for approval before works can begin, and the unauthorized completion of this particular mural led to the initial directive to remove the cigarette.

The situation has sparked a larger conversation about the representation of cultural heritage and the balance between artistic expression and aligning with government policies.


Pictures via Instagram/seanpdunston

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