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.

13 Comments:

Blogger oceanskies79 said...

I have yet to catch that film even though I have been to the Singapore History Museum at Clarke Quay area for more than five times. Somehow I always missed the showtimes. How could I get to know the showtimes?

Sorry that I am not replying to the email group of the heritage blog. Not too sure what to contribute, and was agreeable to most of the suggestions anyway.

6:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi!

I think it plays every hour, on the hour.

7:00 AM  
Blogger oceanskies79 said...

ok. thanks.

8:27 AM  
Blogger projectm said...

PY, can link you in the editor's list at yesterday.sg?

7:09 PM  
Blogger oceanskies79 said...

that looks fine, i hvae registered already.

6:24 AM  
Blogger 草莓 said...

Lucky to u........................................

5:18 AM  
Blogger lettyrburrage said...

人要先學會做一隻駱駝,然後才能做一隻獅子..................................................

12:00 AM  
Blogger 愛的理由 said...

Every why has a wherefore.........................................

11:19 PM  
Blogger 三八 said...

very popular to u!..............................

12:29 AM  
Blogger 過分 said...

thank u........................................

5:02 AM  
Anonymous What women want said...

Nice Blog ! Sad to see you aren't updating it anymore...

11:38 AM  
Anonymous roof painting said...

Nice photos. Amazing! I am loving it! I will come back again. I am taking you feeds also, Thanks.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous chicago electronic cigarettes said...

What a good bit of information you've shared here about Singapore history. I'm sure the little ones have a lot to learn about this. Keep posting!

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