The Backyard Before You

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Benjamin Ong
2017. The Rimba Project | Universiti of Malaya
Softcover. 16.1 cm x 12.1 cm, 96 pages
Colour Illustrations
ISBN 9789670380827


The Backyard Before You is a narrative of photographs and vignettes that celebrate the wild beauty of the urban residential spaces flanking Jalan Universiti. lt is a study of wildlife that thrive in our backyards, a whole world that comes to life if you stay long enough to watch: birds of all shapes and colours, bats, frogs and toads, millipedes, worms, all manner of insects and more. It is a meditation on the wilderness we neither create nor control, a celebration oftransience and beauty, a collec- tion of everyday realities and a contemplation of what it means to redeem the time and space in which we live. lt pays homage to the life-affirming power of nature in our neighbourhoods.Above all, it is an invitation to explore the urban wild wherever it may be found. For in finding it, we may perhaps find ourselves. In seeking a compelling narrative for this story, therefore, a recurring keyword was “explore.”

The structure of this book reflects the different extents of engagement with nature in which we may find ourselves. Most easily, we perceive nature from a safe distance, out the window. Egged on by a certain visual or aural cue, or the need to get some fresh air or exercise, we commune with plants and animals along the footpath. And then maybe, just maybe, curiosity gets the better of us and we begin a different kind of adventure where the paved road ends, and journey into the thicket. It is perhaps best to think of this short volume as a starting point, a chapter in the ongoing story of urban ecology and conservation. Perhaps these observations may serve as a reference point some years hence of what once existed in these neighbourhoods.

Times change, and places change: since the author started in late 2014, eight of the Section 12 bungalows have been demolished and converted into a car park. Whether by natural or human forces, the landscape is greatly pliable. In this light, this book celebrates existence, history and the ongoing conversation between humans and the rest of nature.

The Backyard Before You is a mirror unto ourselves: is nature a part of urban identity or disconnected from it? We often encounter and experience nature even in our concrete jungle ― a favourite tree, a go-to park in the mornings or weekends, the annoyingly noisy birds that defecate on our cars. While there may not be all that many obscure or endangered species in the city, a tree is a tree regardless of whether it is a 60-metre giant in the forest or a 6-metre dwarf in your garden.”

Weight 300 g
Dimensions 16.1 × 12.1 × 0.9 cm

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