Sunday, September 11, 2005

Hello again, old friend

The idyllic seaside locale Singaporeans know as Changi is home to a beautiful museum which tells of tragic yet inspirational stories of World War Two (WWII) Prisoners-of-War (POWs) who were interned in Changi Prison.

I was fortunate to be at the launch of the revamped Changi Museum, one of the activities happening over
Memorial Weekend.

Prior to the launch of the revamped Changi Museum, there was a short observance ceremony, which comprised of a reading, wreath laying by dignitaries and war veterans and their families,

as well as an observance of a minutes silence.

At 11.25 am, Guest of Honour Dr Balaji Sadasivan symbolically unlocked the chains which shackled the entrance of the museum, to launch the revamped Changi Museum.

I've always had fond memories of Changi Museum since visiting it as part of history lessons in secondary school. Then, even with its sparten layout and presentation of artefacts, the museum managed to articulate the contrasting emotions of despair and hope explicitly. I clearly remember the beautiful
Changi Murals painted by Stanley Warren.

I'd strongly recommend picking up this book from the Changi Museum Gift Shop.

You'll discover the inspirational stories behind Stanley Warren's Murals

Why Jesus' eyes were always closed in his paintings

As well as why this painting is 'unfinished'

With the new museum promising to have more comprehensive artefacts, panels and new interactive displays, I was pretty hyped up about the tour they had lined up for us.

While waiting outside the entrance of the museum, the diorama freak (
SHM still has the best IMHO) in me just had to get pix of replicas of:

Changi Chapel in Singapore

and Australia

On to the exhibition proper. Click
here for an idea of the the museum's layout.

The general presentation format was black and white photo montages accompanied with artefacts.

Examples of vegetables grown by POWs

You'll pick up interesting tidbits (heh) including the existence of a snail farm in the prison where snails were a source of protein for the POWs. Vegetables were grown on available land, discarded tins and containers.

Medicine bottle, container used to grow vegetables and ration card.

The extent of food shortage? This quote enlightens.

"In Singapore, I was told there were some 210,000 ration cards that relied on the distribution of rice by the government. One ration card was issued to at least two persons. On the average, some ration cards might even be for four or five persons."

Always in gloom, a glimmer of hope. I was particularly fascinated with 'Innovation in times of distress' themes which was testement to how the human spirit triumphed over adversity.

I was amazed at how dire circumstances brought out the resourcefulness and creativity in the POWs. They had ingenious ways of making objects they needed. Artefacts featured include a razor made of tooth brush, plastic and metal from a Japanese Zero fighter plane, a badge, tobacco box and copper tooling.

Activities POWs engaged in during their internment

Lining the walls of the replication of St Luke's Chapel were the murals mentioned earlier on. I'm glad they didn't change this section of the museum too much, as its appeal lay in its simplicity.

Artefacts from the original St Luke's Chapel



Original Altar Cloth

Actual Elements of Changi Prison

Brick from Changi Prison

Changi Cell Door

Tributes to those who fell in World War II

Changi Quilt - embroided by female POWs at Changi

Letters from POWs' loved ones

I had to pay a visit to the Changi Chapel before leaving. A comforting abode to seek respite, the Chapel was a beacon of hope to the POWs who's only wished to survive the ordeal and be reunited with their loved ones.

The most lasting impressions from this visit?

1) The contrast of the victor's pride

With their humble surrender

2)The quote which accompanied the following picture was particularly sad

"Some of the girls told me, with tears running down their cheeks, that they were asked in some restaurants for the Japanese in Singapore. However, in this island (Blakang Mati or the present Sentosa), they were forced to become prostitutes for the Japanese Army."

3) The Corporal and His Pal

A heartwrenching poem which most emphatic line (for me, at least) was

"Grant unto me this last request
That's in your power to give
For myself I ask no mercy
But let my comrade live"

It was great to see you again, old friend. Looking better than ever!


Blogger Dave said...

In Changi jail upon death row
Breathe live corpses, unjust woe.
No darker space condemned to die,
Where Time, still barely etching by,
Weeps words amid the bleak sorrow.

Compassion's Dead, gone long ago.
They tried, went wrong; felt hatred grow,
Loved and are loved, they should not die,
In Changi jail.

A wake for them, who cannot show,
To you their failing hearts let go.
And on their eve when death is nigh,
Nary lose faith with those who die.
For know, down deep, injustice flows
In Changi jail.

5:11 AM  

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