Singapore Coffee Festival: No cash accepted at this Barter Market

At Barter Market, vendors may offer services such as a portrait, in exchange for a poem. (PHOTO: INDIGOISM)

Singapore Coffee Festival: No cash accepted at this Barter Market

Goods, services are exchanged at event for that ‘human touch’

by: Elisabeth Gwee
published: July 23, 2017

SINGAPORE – Exchange a durian for a haircut. Or give a back rub in exchange for a hand-drawn postcard.

Just do not offer any money to the vendors at Barter Market at the Singapore Coffee Festival 2017 on Aug 5 at the Marina Bay Cruise Centre.

Barter Market is where goods and services are exchanged for anything but cash. It is the brainchild of artist Samantha Lo, 31, who goes by the moniker SKL0. She says: “The aim of Barter Market is to bring back the human touch in everyday exchanges.

“I wanted to create a different way of looking at the value of things, other than putting a monetary value on something; to remove the pre-conceived notion of the market rate of a service or product, and let the artist determine how he or she values what he has to offer. Without putting a numerical value to things, we are able to see what something is truly worth, which is subjective to the individual.”

Ms Lo is better known as “Sticker Lady” after she was arrested in 2012 for illegal street art of Singlish slogans, such as pasting stickers that read “Press Once Can Already” on traffic light buttons. She was sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

So far, 26 vendors have signed up to take part in Barter Market at the Singapore Coffee Festival. Institute of Technical Education lecturer Terence Lau, 39, will be offering barber services in exchange for durians, drinks or “tips and tricks on how to roast coffee at home”.

Poet Jedidiah Huang Qi, 22, is looking to receive “anything self-made, like a drawing”, in exchange for a personalised type-written poem. He says: “As long as someone offers me something that they’ve put effort into making, I’ll take it.”

The first Barter Market was organised in December 2015 by Indigoism, a non-profit social enterprise set up by Ms Lo. Eight markets have been held so far. The one at the Singapore Coffee Festival will be the biggest yet. Vendors do not have to pay to take part.

For this upcoming event, Ms Lo received a grant from the National Youth Council’s Young ChangeMakers programme to help with logistics, decor and other costs.

To help festivalgoers come prepared to barter, a list of requests from vendors will be on Indigoism’s Facebook page at www.facebook. com/weareindigoism.

But be ready to negotiate if you do not have what the vendors want, says Ms Lo. “Think of something you feel is invaluable and offer that, such as personal stories that artists can use as inspiration for their next work; books or art materials… it’s all a human bonding experience.”

Mr Huang has taken part in four Barter Markets and has this advice for first-timers: “Go with an open mind. Don’t think of it as a place to get free stuff. Go with the idea that you have more to offer than your money, and have fun.”

•Barter Market will be held on Aug 5, from 12.30pm to 3.30pm, 4.30pm to 6.30pm, at Singapore Coffee Festival 2017 at Marina Bay Cruise Centre.


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