Dear Dearest…: Public Letter Writer


A public letter writer was an occupation in a time where literacy rates were low. In Greece, reading or writing were roles taken on by the priest. In Singapore, customers included illiterate migrants. Sometimes, requests extended to couplets or suicide notes. In Vietnam, the last public writer, Mr. Duong Van Ngo, wrote in Vietnamese, French, and English. Jagdish Sharma, the last letter writer in India, said, "I would hear their stories and then summarize it and write it in my own nice words.”

With increased literacy and assistive technology, much has been lost (and gained) as the letter writer has disappeared. Yet, the objectives remain the same: our expression, and accurate interpretation by the recipient. What do we want to express? How will it be decoded?


In the project Dear Dearest…, the customer can summarize and dictate the content, or request personalized letters. Examining trust, communication, and intimacy, Dear Dearest… also seeks to explore the relationship between the audience, taking on the role of the customer, and the Public Letter Writer.


Appointments for a letter and the writer can be made here




Joey Chin’s work is located at the intersection of text, narrative and visual art, staged through poetry, acts and modes of reading, and various disruptions. Her key focus is in the development of personal communications between the self, markings of territoriality, and the inner conversations between the two. She explores etymologies and language use of the Chinese and Greek language through the English lyric and prose. Joey holds an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from the City University of Hong Kong, and her work has received scholarships, grants, and awards from numerous organisations including Arthub Asia, the Asia Europe Foundation, the Royal Over-Seas League ARTS (United Kingdom), the Dorothy Cheung Foundation (Singapore), the National Arts Council (Singapore), the Run Run Shaw Library (Hong Kong), and the Society for Humanistic Anthropology (US).