Hidden Gems of NUS: A Very WTF Piece of Art

If you have been observant, you would notice that there are many sculptures on display in NUS.

One sculpture in particular has quite a surprising (and quite a WTF) ending! I never knew this until a senior pointed out to me. It’s located on the first floor of the Alumni House. Go check it out when you have the time.

This sculpture is about the life of a salmon.


If you read the description on the panel, it says that we, students, are like the salmon.


Academic life can be very much like the mating season of a salmon. When the time comes, all of us students/salmon have to go through the painful ordeal of swimming upstream. Some salmon die from injury, others die because of predators. Likewise, for us students, we either die an academic death because we didn’t make it, or we got killed by predatory professors or tutors (and/or their assignments).

Graduation is pretty much like having successfully made it upstream.


Once you’ve crossed that painful hurdle (i.e. graduation), life becomes somewhat smoother (ideally).


Eventually (hopefully), you find the love of your life.


And then, you’ll make the government very happy by making babies! That’s right! Once you’re done going up the stream, the next stage in life is to reproduce. “Go forth and multiply!” says the government – and mind you, they’re not talking about anything related to maths.


Now that you’ve graduated and have made some babies, what are you expected to do next?

Well, make a guess! What do you think this salmon is jumping into? (don’t peak! try making a reasonable guess first!)


Jumping for joy? Jumping back into the great sea?


Surprise, surprise! The salmon jumps straight into a WOK!!! That’s right – it jumps into A GIGANTIC CHINESE FRYING PAN!!!!!!!


Here’s a close-up of the wok!


Interestingly enough, there is NO panel around this sculpture to describe what the wok is supposed to represent. The salmon’s trajectory is directed towards this!

That’s pretty depressing… After graduation and after making babies… You’re pretty much in hot oil! Erm… Jiayou?*

Hmm… That’s quite a bleak representation of the life of a university student/graduate. Ouch.

[*Note: For those who don’t understand Chinese, jiayou literally means “add oil,” but it is also an expression of encouragement, like “all the best!”]