DreamWorks School Holiday Adventures

8 09 2015

ArtScience Museum’s Dreamworks Animation: The Exhibition closes at the end of September (27 September), and this September school holiday season does perhaps give a last chance to bring the kids for a thoroughly enjoyable and immersive experience. Just for the holidays, the exhibition will feature a School Holiday Adventures programme that will allow the young ones to participate in activities such as feeding the dragon, using giant chopsticks Kung Fu Panda style, watch a movie or two and have one’s face painted. The school holiday programme will run from 4 to 13 September and more information can be found at the ArtScience Museum’s website.

DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition offers an immersive experience - especially for the young ones.

DreamWorks Animation: The Exhibition offers an immersive experience – especially for the young ones.

JeromeLim-1261

JeromeLim-1238


Some of the School Holiday Adventures on offer:

Games Station 2: Kung Fu Panda Speedy Sticks.

Games Station 2: Kung Fu Panda Speedy Sticks.

Station 2: Station 3: Shrek Hi-Striker.

Station 2: Station 3: Shrek Hi-Striker.

Four stars from the games stations will get your hands on that prized Gingy.

Four stars from the games stations will get your hands on that prized Gingy.

JeromeLim-1289





All at sea

24 07 2014

The launch on Saturday of Singapore HeritageFest 2014, bring us to focus on one of the key reasons for Singapore’s being, the sea. This year’s festival much of which revolves around a maritime based theme, “Our Islands, Our Home” has us looking at our maritime past as well as our present as a maritime nation.

HeritageFest 2014 opens a window to Singapore's island heritage.

HeritageFest 2014 opens a window to Singapore’s island heritage.

It is to raise the profile of this heritage, one that goes back to times well before the arrival of Raffles, that is in fact what the Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) and the National Heritage Board (NHB) hopes to achieve with the establishment of the S$500,000 Maritime Heritage Fund, which the two agencies will administer – for which a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by the two agencies at Saturday’s launch.

One of the highlights of this year's HeritageFest is a lighthouse trail that includes a stop on Pulau Satumu, Singapore's southernmost island, on top of which Raffles' Lighthouse is perched.

One of the highlights of this year’s HeritageFest is a lighthouse trail that includes a stop on Pulau Satumu, Singapore’s southernmost island, on top of which Raffles’ Lighthouse is perched.

Once a common scene in the waters off the Southern Islands. Boats such as the kolek on the right, are very much part of our maritime heritage (a similar kolek is on display at the Balik Pulau Exhibition at the National Museum).

Once a common scene in the waters off the Southern Islands. Boats such as the kolek on the right, are very much part of our maritime heritage (a similar kolek is on display at the Balik Pulau Exhibition at the National Museum).

The focus of the fund, which complements the NHB’s S$5 million Heritage Grant Scheme launched last year, will be on developing community-initiated projects related to Singapore’s maritime heritage that will promote a greater understanding and appreciation of Singapore’s maritime connections, as was touched on by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Community, Culture and Youth, in his speech at the festival’s launch.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Mr Ong Yew Huat, Chairman of NHB launching Singapore HeritageFest 2014.

Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Mr Ong Yew Huat, Chairman of NHB launching Singapore HeritageFest 2014.

Mr Wong also spoke of the transformation that will soon take place at the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), where the launch event was held. Besides a revamp of the museum with expanded galleries that will include a space allocated for the Tang Cargo and see new shops and dining outlets, the museum will be given a new entrance that will open it up to the river and give it a direct connection into the historic heart of Singapore.

Another lighthouse - the very pretty Sultan Shoal Lighthouse at the western extremities of Singapore's waters seen during the lighthouse trail as part of Singapore HeritageFest 2014.

Another lighthouse – the very pretty Sultan Shoal Lighthouse at the western extremities of Singapore’s waters seen during the lighthouse trail as part of Singapore HeritageFest 2014.

The revamp is part of the ongoing effort to develop a civic and cultural belt around Singapore’s colonial civic district (see: The Old Vic’s ticking again) that involves also the newly refurbished Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, and the conversion of the Old Supreme Court and City Hall into National Gallery – due for completion in 2015.

The Old Vic's definitely back!

The newly refurbished Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.

A cultural performance at the launch of Singapore HeritageFest2014.

A cultural performance at the launch of Singapore HeritageFest2014.

The launch also coincided with the first evening of a two-night series of programmes taking place around the ACM and the river, River Nights. The event, brought much life and colour to the river, and celebrated its changing identity over the years – in the same way the well received series of activities  for Singapore HeritageFest 2014 celebrates the islands.

A dragon dance performance at the start of River Nights at the ACM's front lawn.

A dragon dance performance at the start of River Nights at the ACM’s front lawn.

More information on the Maritime Heritage Fund, Singapore HeritageFest 2014, River Nights and on Balik Pulau: Stories from Singapore’s Islands (an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore held in conjunction with HeritageFest 2014) can be found in the following links:





A Bangsawan revival by the river

16 04 2012

The Singapore River has played a vital role in the settlement and early development of Singapore, long-serving as a gateway for the arrival of influences which has given Singapore its rich cultural diversity. While that role has since been minimised by the shift in the means by which people arrive to our shores as well as with the cutting-off of the river from the sea, it is nice to see that it still, as a venue, has a role to play in keeping the traditions that it previously played a role in bringing in, alive with an initiative ‘Regenerating Communities at Empress Place’. The initiative, conceived by The Old Parliament House Limited which runs The Arts House at Empress Place saw a three-instalment programme curated by Jeremiah Choy that featured performances of fading performing art-forms which were once common on our streets. This included a Chinese puppet theatre show and in its third and last instalment, a very rare Bangsawan performance by Singapore’s last exclusive Bangsawan troupe, Sri Anggerik Bangsawan at the ACM Green.

The third instalment of the first series of the 'Regenerating Communities at Empress Place' initiative saw a rare performance of Bangsawan or Malay Opera.

The first series of 'Regenerating Communities at Empress Place' was curated by Jeremiah Choy who is seen introducing Noor Azhar Mohamed of the Sri Anggerik Bangsawan troupe.

A Bangsawan performer before the performance.

Bangsawan or Malay Opera, is an art form that has its origins in commercial 19th Century Parsi theatre, arriving first in Penang at the end of the 19th Century via travelling troupes coming from Bombay. The name ‘Bangsawan’ is a combination of two words, ‘bangsa’ which means ‘race’ or ‘a group of people’ in Malay, and ‘wan’ which is a reference to ‘stature’. Being performed purely for entertainment, Bangsawan was always an evolving form that adapted very much to the taste of the audiences it attracted and at the height of its popularity in the 1920s and 1930s, drew audiences which included those from the other races across society. The typical Bangsawan performance would include both dialogue and song and dance segments which incorporates influences across several cultures and involves very elaborate stage sets, make-up and costumes, making the performances a very colourful and musical experience.

Bangsawan involves very elaborate stage sets as well as make-up and costumes - and requires quite a fair bit of preparation prior to each performance.

A performer having her make-up applied.

The clasped hands of a performer waiting for her make-up to be done.

The performance over two evenings over the weekend was of an excerpt from Dang Anum, the retelling of a touching tale which revolves around the unfortunate Dang Anum, the daughter of Sang Rajuna Tapa – a Minister in the court of Sultan Iskandar Shah (who ruled Singapore from 1399 to 1402). The performance was a special one for the troupe, Sri Anggerik Bangsawan, which traces its origins to 1986, when its founder, the late Haji Hamid Ahmad, formed it with the aim of preserving what was already then a vanishing art form. The performance of the excerpt represents a comeback for the troupe which took a two-year break due to Pak Haji Hamid’s(as he is affectionately known) illness and eventual passing last year. The performance, though brief, required much love and effort to put together, was one that the troupe dedicated as a tribute to their late founder.

Performers in full costume.

On the evidence of the thoroughly enjoyable performance, it would be certainly be a wonderful experience to be able to see a full performance of Dang Anum, which the troupe has previously performed twice – once in the early 2000s and a second time as part of a larger performance in 2007. The troupe which does not have any immediate plans to stage a full performance, does hope to be in a position to put what must be an ambitious attempt at a large scale in one to two years. It one we are told that which will be very elaborate, featuring a Javanese epic tale that was written by Pak Haji Hamid, and one on which the troupe certainly would require support of various bodies and groups supporting the performing arts, as well as sponsors on.

The opening of the performance.

Scenes from the performance.

More scenes from the performance.

The audience was captivated by the performance.





A lifelong passion pulling strings – the portrait of a master puppeteer

28 02 2012

Living in a world which seems to have little place for practices of a past that it seems to want to forget, it is often comforting to discover that there are some traditions, out-of-place in the modern world as they may seem, that have refused to vanish. One discovery is the Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe (新和平加礼戏班), a very traditional Heng Hwa puppet troupe which dates back to the 1930s which owes its continued existence to the devotion of its troupe leader and master puppeteer, Mr. Yang Lai Hao. The troupe made a recent appearance at the ACM Green with a two evening performance as part of a series of events that are being held as part of the Regenerating Communities @ Empress Place initiative at which Mr. Yang was kind enough to take questions from the audience.

Mr. Yang Lai Hao of the Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe.

Various forms of puppetry were once commonplace all over much of the Far East and in the Indian Sub-continent, performing an important social function in the passing down of social and religious values through the retelling of traditional tales and folklore, besides providing the evening’s entertainment. This is seen throughout much of the Hindu influenced world where many different forms of puppetry have been effective in passing down the stories from the Hindu epics through the ages and is still relatively commonplace in many parts of South East Asia. Even in Singapore, which does by itself not much of tradition in puppetry, puppet shows were once a common sight – with several troupes entertaining those on the streets with forms of puppetry which had been imported by the many immigrants from Southern China arriving at her shores. Puppet shows in Singapore served to entertain the young, in the same way various forms of Chinese Opera entertained the older folks and they made an appearance during temple festivals and were also sometimes seen at Chinese weddings. At their height, which was before the war, a newspaper report had as many as 25 troupes that were active – the same report in the Straits Times in 1957 also touched on the decline of the tradition – even then. Today, there are but a few of these that have survived the onslaught of modern society – with Sin Hoe Ping being the only surviving Heng Hwa puppet troupe in Singapore.

The retelling of the Journey to the West by the Sin Hoe Ping Puppet Troupe at ACM Green.

Different forms of puppetry has existed in much of Asia and has performed an important social function.

It was in fact in 1957 that the dedicated Mr. Yang, began his active involvement in the art which he had developed a fascination for watching his grandfather, who brought the troupe over from Putian in Fujian Province in China in the 1930s, perform. He started first with playing the luo – the Chinese gong before learning the ropes first from his grandfather, and with his grandfather’s passing, from the other members of the troupe learning most of what was needed by the time he turned 15. Mr. Yang put his continued interest in the art form in the early years to the monetary rewards it offered – he recalled being paid 50 cents for a performance – what he felt was a handsome sum then as all it took was 5 to 10 cents to feed a person. Mr. Yang reckons that it was only at 25 that he eventually mastered all the elements of puppetry including what was needed to support performances front and back stage and also in the setting up of the stage.

Mr. Yang's active involvement with the art form started with him playing the gong in his grandfather's troupe at the age of 7.

Mr. Yang describing the beginnings of his involvement in puppetry as a child, as Mr. Jeremiah Choy - Creative Director of Regenerating Communities @ Empress Place, looks on.

Mr Yang, who is currently 62, is one who exudes passion for the art, having the boundless energy required to keep the troupe running. Although he has had thoughts of leaving puppetry, he says that it is something he can’t really contemplate until he is able to find a successor to continue with the tradition and says he asks of his god to allow him to live to 88 to enable him the time to find and train a successor. He is still actively involved in every aspect of running the troupe – from recruiting and training new members, making new puppets to replace old and worn ones, scriptwriting and even in setting up the stage. Finding it difficult to find willing accomplices locally – especially with the Heng Hwa dialect which the performances are in fast dying out, the troupe now features three puppeteers who have been recruited from Putian. The complexity of puppetry – especially in the manipulation of the string puppets or marionettes whilst singing or speaking at the same time makes it difficult to master the art and Mr. Yang feels it takes up to 10 years to master this. Learning to make the puppets is also necessary to support the art and this is also difficult to master.

Mr. Yang - who at 62, still exudes passion for the art, hopes to find a successor to lead the troupe and continue the tradition.

The three puppeteers performing with Mr. Yang have been recruited from Putian, China.

The art of manipulating the puppet and singing at the same time is one that is difficult to master.

It takes up to 10 years to master manipulating the strings of the puppets.

While the odds are certainly stacked against Mr. Yang in his quest to find a successor, especially where continued interest in the art form is threatened not just by the modern society’s lack of desire to keep traditions alive and by the advent of the multimedia age, but also in a society that has abandoned the linguistic traditions of our forefathers for a common language, there is hope. Mr. Yang may find this in his closer to home – his daughter, Ms. Yang Shi Qin, has shown some interest in the art form – although Mr. Yang is yet sure whether that will be enough for her to take over from him. With that there is hope – hope that a tradition that may otherwise be forgotten do not go the way of many others we have lost and a hope that there still are a few reminders of who we are and where we had come from.

The Sin Hoe Ping Troupe's stage at ACM Green dwarfed by the towering edifices of modern Singapore in the background. The role of traditional practices and art forms have been minimised by the arrival of the modern world to Singapore.

Portraits of Sin Hoe Ping’s Puppeteers





From one river to another: Faces of the Congo

8 04 2011

I took the opportunity to visit the Congo River, Arts of Central Africa exhibition during one of the free admission weekends to the Asian Civilisations Museum, to look at something that has fascinated me since my younger days, masks … Masks of course feature quite a fair bit even in the cultures that surround us, being used widely in the retelling of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, in its various forms across South East Asia. It was not so much in the stories of the Ramayana, in which my experiences related mainly to the retelling of it in the form of shadow puppetry, but in the many occasions during which I accompanied my grandmother to the street operas in Singapore that first fed that fascination I have had with masks – the toy vendor who sold masks and mock paper swords being a popular stop for me. What helped to further feed that fascination could of course be those plastic masks that made us children think we could be those characters on the television that we were so taken with – Ultraman being one of the more popular ones in my time. My father himself had been one that often made masks to keep my sister and me entertained, crafting simple ones out of pieces of cardboard boxes and sometimes having a hand at the more elaborate ones with paper-mâché.

Fascinating masks from the Congo River ... on display at the ACM up till 10 April 2011.

The collection includes an array of masks from the different areas through which the Congo River passes through.

Enough about rambling on on the origins of my fascination. What is really interesting about the masks from the Congo River area is that they are all carved or sculptured out of naturally occurring materials available to the many communities along the river who through the connection with the river, share similar traditions and beliefs – many for the purpose of rituals, and besides having an visual quality, also takes on a spiritual quality. The collection on display also includes funerary and reliquary figures and all have a similarly haunting look about them … there is a little section that is also devoted to the inspiration that African sculpture provided to European artists with a focus on the works of Pablo Picasso who, if I may quote from the exhibition brochure, “was strongly influenced very much by African art as he developed his Modernist style”. The exhibition is certainly one not to be missed … and as it ends this weekend … be sure to catch it!

... as well as Reliquary figures ....





The Mughals, a treasury of the world

1 02 2010

The Asian Civilisations Museum will be holding the “Treasury of the World: Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals” exhibition from 12 Feb to 27 Jun 2010. Please go to the section at the end of this post for details.


History lessons in school were one of those things that most of us would dread. For me, it didn’t help that it was delivered with what seemed like an endless drone of the teacher reciting passages out of the textbook. What we lacked then was maybe the opportunity to see history come alive in the way that many of the exhibitions in the museums in Singapore bring to us these days. The Asian Civilisations Museum, housed in the Empress Place Building of which I have fond memories of, runs a series of exhibitions and activities which brings history out of the textbooks which can perhaps make the subject more interesting and better appreciated.

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir, son of the great Akbar, reigned from 1605 - 1627 (Source: ACM)

Despite the uninspiring lessons on history, there were the bits and pieces which did have enough intrigue to keep me interested in the subject. I certainly was enthralled by the story of the Mughals, who ruled India for over 300 years between 1526 and 1858. The term “Mughal” immediately evokes in me impressions of grandeur and splendour that graced the Mughal court, of art and poetry, and of tales of love and romance. It would also be difficult not to be impressed by Akbar the Great, who besides being known for his role in expanding the Mughal empire, had a significant influence on art and culture, which has allowed the Mughals to leave a magnificent legacy for India as a nation and as a cultural entity to inherit. There are wonderful examples of this legacy in the buildings that the Mughals have left behind – a constant reminder of the pinnacle that the Mughals achieved in architecture, many of which have been very well preserved and are listed as UNESCO heritage sites. There is of course the magical Taj Mahal and with it a romantic tale of eternal love, which serves as a magnificent icon for India. There are the many forts the Mughals have left behind, a reminder of the warring nature of the Moghuls: the Red Fort in Dehli, and the forts in Agra and Lahore. And there is the “ghost town” of Fatehpur Sikri, a city constructed from the ground over a period of fifteen years by the great Akbar to serve as the capital of his empire, only to be abandoned after some fourteen years later when it became clear that its water supply could not meet the demands of the growing population of the city.

The magical Taj Mahal rising over the Yamuna River (Source: David Castor on Wikipedia).

Finding myself in Dehli with a free day while on a working trip in 1997, before I was to catch an evening flight out, I could not pass the opportunity up to visit the Taj Mahal, even when it meant a four hour journey there and a five hour one back, through half constructed highways which were notorious for slowdowns caused by the numerous bullock carts using parts of the 200 km route. The sight of the magnificent white marbled edifice rising over the Yamuna river proved that it was all worth it, as did the forty minutes that I spent, first, gazing in awe over the reflecting pools in the forecourt and then in the cool shadows of the Taj, mesmerised by the sheer scale, splendour and beauty of what is a mausoleum inspired by the romantic tale of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. What struck me then was the intricacy and fine work involved in many of the motifs, colourfully inlaid with gemstones, that beautifully decorate the white of the marble structure.

Inlay on Taj Mahal (Source: Wikipedia)

The Mughals, having at their disposal, the rich gem deposits that the sub-continent had been blessed with, certainly had large appetite for gemstones, not just in decorating their monuments by also by adorning themselves and the implements of their daily lives expansively with the colourful stones. In doing so, the Mughals perfected the art of inlaid work, jewellery making, and in the crafting of wonderful treasures. The reaction of a 17th century British Ambassador, Thomas Roe, so astounded on seeing Emperor Jahangir adorned in all his finery, that he described Jahangir as being “the treasury of the world”, leaves us an appreciation of the taste that the Mughals had for finery and gemstones.

Having been left with the lingering taste of the splendorous Mughal legacy, I certainly have a desire to see more examples of it. The exhibition to be held at the ACM would provide an excellent opportunity for me to do this without having to venture far and I will be looking forward to a visit to the exhibition.


A sneak peak at the Treasury of the World
Jewelled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals
An exhibition to be held at the ACM from 12 Feb to 27 Jun 2010

5 pairs of passes to be given away (courtesy of the ACM)

The upcoming exhibition that the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) is holding, the “Treasury of the World: Jeweled Arts of India in the Age of the Mughals”, which is on from 12 February to 27 June 2010 provides a wonderful opportunity to see the splendour of the Mughals first hand. The exhibition has been organised by The al-Sabah Collection, National Council for Culture, Arts & Letters, Kuwait in collaboration with the ACM, and will provide visitors with a chance to be dazzled by the magnificence on display, where the visitor can also learn about life in the Mughal court, from leisure pursuits to food and weaponry of the royal family. The exhibition also offers a fascinating insight to the diverse techniques in the jewellery arts used by artisans and craftsmen during the period.

Featuring gem stones and other precious objects from The al-Sabah Collection, this blockbuster exhibition has been shown in prestigious venues such as the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Louvre Museum in Paris. It makes its Asian debut at the ACM in Singapore.


Details of Exhibition

Date: 12 February to 27 June 2010

Venue: Special Exhibitions Gallery, Asian Civilisations Museum 1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555

Website: http://www.acm.org.sg

Enquiries: 6332 7798 / nhb_acm_vs@nhb.gov.sg

Admission charges: $8 (adults) / $4 (concession); Family package at $20 for up to 5 pax. Free admission for children aged 6 and below and seniors aged 60 and above every day (locals and PRs only). 50% off for foreigners aged 60 and above. 50% discount every Friday, 7-9pm

Opening hours: Mon, 1pm-7pm; Tues to Sun: 9am – 7pm (to 9pm on Fri) How to get there: By MRT – Raffles Place; By Bus – 100, 107, 130, 131, 167, 608


A sneak peak at the some of the exhibits that will be on display at the exhibition:

Dagger with Scabbard (LNS 25 J). Image courtesy of © The al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait.

Turban Ornament (LNS 1767 J). Image courtesy of © The al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait.

Royal Spinel (LNS 1660 J). Image courtesy of © The al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait.

Small bottle set with rubies, emeralds and diamond crystals (LNS 959 J). Image courtesy of © The al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait.

Pendant with Cameo of Shah Jahan (LNS 43 J). Image courtesy of © The al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait.

Bangle set with rubies, diamonds and chrysoberyl cat’s eye (LNS 2219 J). Image courtesy of © The al-Sabah Collection, Dar al-Athar al-Islamiyyah, Kuwait.


Details of the exhibition ticket giveaway (courtesy of the ACM):

The first five entries to correctly name who is described as the “treasury of the world” will each receive a pair of tickets to the exhibition. Entries need to be sent by email by noon on Sunday 7 Feb 2010 and the winning entries would be announced on this blog on 8 Feb 2010.


Congratulations to the 5 recipients of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) “Treasury of the World” exhibition ticket giveaway, who will each receive a pair of tickets to the exhibition:

1. Agnes Gan

2. James Tan

3. Novella Tan

4. L. H. Tan

5. Alyssa Wong

Winners may collect the tickets at the ACM front desk at any time during the exhibition.