Saturday, February 11, 2006

More than history

Rivertales at the Singapore History Museum recreates the everyday life that ebbed and flowed along with the Singapore River. And what an everyday life! A complex "ecosystem" of its own, all linked and interdependent upon the existence of another. There were merchants, boatmen, coolies, cart drivers, night watchmen and rickshaw pullers.

There were also letter writers, storytellers, and snake charmers, all of whom based their livelihood upon the leisure needs of man.

It is hard to imagine how our forefathers lived when they first arrived on the banks of the Singapore River. Most of them stayed in what was called a coolie 'keng' (below), which gives new meaning to the word 'dormitory'.

The exhibition recreates the tumultous scenes of strife and struggle that took place around the river itself. How would you have guessed that once upon a time, the Hokkien and Teochew clans were at loggerheads with each other? Some of the fighting that took place between these two clans were extremely violent. You can hear the audio recordings of men in both Teochew and Hokkien, relating these street clashes. Below is a ghostly depiction of the 'samseng' (professional thug) - one of the identities that thrived during a time of social unrest.

One shudders while hearing stories of those who lived to tell the tale of the "The Sook Ching" during the Japanese Occupation in 1942-1945. The model below depicts how the Japanese would screen all Chinese males to kill all those who were thought to be anti-Japanese.

I was fascinated by Royston Tan's 12-minute short film "The Old Man and the River", narrated in Hokkien by 78-year-old ex-coolie/road sweeper Chia Tiong Guan, sharing a lyrical and touching reminiscence of his old days and of life around the river.

Singapore History Museum is more than a walk down memory lane; it is about understanding how Singapore as a country developed from a riotous past to the stable present. More than nostalgia, what you'll leave with is actually an appreciation of life in the now.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Reflections at Bukit Chandu is 4!

To celebrate their 4th anniversary and to commemorate Total Defence Day, they are having an Open House on Wed, 15th Feb. Yup, that means FREE admission from 9am - 5pm.

Watch out for this special animation.

And DO take photos with the iconic RBC bronze sculpture:
Image hosted by

Read what RBC visitors had to say:

Monday, February 06, 2006

Something for the weekend:

Battle of Pasir Panjang Commemorative Walk
Sunday, 12 Feb 2006: 7am - 11am

Don’t miss this annual trek to commemorate the Malay Regiment's defense of the ridge. Guides will share stories about the Battle of Pasir Panjang as well as the geography, flora and fauna of the region.

More info at Habitat News