Netizens get creative after URA requests removal of cigarette in mural of smoking samsui woman

Singapore public discusses solutions for samsui woman mural

On Wednesday (19 June), an artist took to Instagram to share that his mural of a samsui woman smoking had been reported to the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

A member of the public claimed that the mural was “offensive” and “disrespectful” to samsui women.

Painted on the side of a building, the woman had a cigarette in her hand.

Source: @seanpdunston on Instagram

The artist was then asked to remove the cigarette by 3 July.

In light of this, suggestions have flown in from netizens on what he could replace it with — such as money or the letter from URA itself.

Artist asked to modify mural of smoking samsui woman

The artist behind the mural — Singapore-based Sean Dunston — shared an excerpt of the letter from URA on Instagram.

The government agency brought attention to public feedback that stated:

The woman depicted in this mural looks more like a prostitute than a hardworking samsui woman.

Dunston then summarised that URA “don’t want smoke”.


In the post, Dunston also noted that if he did not get rid of the cigarette on the mural by 3 July, his client’s tenant would be denied their licence.

After which, they would be forced to close.

“Right now, I’m thinking of alternatives that would be acceptable to the URA, and will be modifying the mural for them in the next week or so,” said Dunston.

Netizens offer artist creative suggestions

The Instagram post has since garnered more than 5,000 likes and over 400 comments.

Many users stood by the artist, with one local tour company noting that the mural was a crowd favourite.

“It helps us tell the story of the Samsui women,” read the comment. “What a shame to have to change it.”

Source: Instagram

Others, however, got creative and provided suggestions on what other objects the samsui woman could hold.

One user said that she could be holding letters from home — or the one from URA itself.

Source: Instagram

Others had a simpler suggestion of censoring the cigarette with pixels.

Source: Instagram

Singaporean artist James Tan went so far as to sketch his suggestions in a drawing that he posted on Facebook.

His ideas included a pile of cash or a book.

Source: Facebook

He also suggested turning the mural into an anti-smoking advertisement — or more daringly, featuring the woman entirely in the nude.

URA re-evaluating stance on mural

According to The Straits Times, the authority has asked the artist to delay any changes to his work while the authority reviews its position on amending the mural.

In a statement to MS News, URA said that all proposals for murals on conserved buildings should be sent to the building owner and URA for approval before works on them begin.

However, the artist had completed the mural on the conserved shophouse at 297 South Bridge Road before URA approved it.

URA had informed the building owner to submit the mural proposal for assessment.

Source: @seanpdunston on Instagram

“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 a URA spokesperson.

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

MS News has reached out to Sean Dunston for comment.

Also read: Tampines North HDB Residents Put Up Dragon Mural For CNY, Artwork Gets Removed After 2 Days

Tampines North HDB Residents Put Up Dragon Mural For CNY, Artwork Gets Removed After 2 Days

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Featured image adapted from @seanpdunston on Instagram.

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