A hundred and more steps to an unexplored heaven

2 11 2020

Have you ever wondered what lies behind Singapore’s most famous clock face, or what keeps the clock ticking?

Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall – and it famous clock tower, lies atthe heart of the civic district (photo: Arts House Limited).

The chance to discover all that comes with Trafalgar’s Near Not Far “Singapore’s Heritage Highlight” 2D1N staycation, which I am glad to say that I am involved in. For this I will introduce guests to two of the historic civic district’s iconic monuments — The Arts House, and Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall — and uncover some fascinating stories of the buildings and their spaces.

Inside Victoria Theatre, a venue for a key historical event in Singapore’s nation building (Photo: Arts House Limited).

The highlight of the tour will be a never-done-before visit to VTVCH’s clock tower — exclusive to Trafalgar’s guests. There I will enlighten guests about the clock, its history, and its connection to London’s Big Ben. One of the things that will also be apparent in the over 100 step climb up the tower is the sheer simplicity of the clock.

More information on the Trafalgar staycation package can be found below. Details can be obtained through the Trafalgar website at https://www.trafalgar.com/staycations.

See also:

Holidaying without your passport: Trafalgar’s new tour of Singapore makes local heritage more alive and kicking than it has any right to be (Business Times 30 Oct 2020).

Stairway to a strange heaven?
A highlight of the tour – a look at what lies inside the clock tower.
The Arts House chamber (photo : Arts House Limited)
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The ladies behind Avenue 1960s

21 02 2014

Meet Candy Tan Hui Shi (22), Koh Xin Yue Karen (22), Phang Su Hui (23), and Tan Huay Peng (22), the gang of four who are behind Avenue 1960s: Stories of Live, Laugh, Love in Singapore. Avenue 1960s is an initiative by the four undergraduates at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communications and Information at Nanayang Technological University to connect young Singaporeans with their heritage, as part of their final year project. The campaign, which runs from December 2013 to March 2014 and supervised by Associate Professor Dr Lee Chun Wah, seeks to reach out to some 10,000 youths to get them to develop an appreciation of where they did come from by encouraging conversations with their parents. 

Mr Hazawi Daipi and the four NTU undergraduates, taking a trip down the avenue to the 1960s.

Mr Hazawi Daipi and the four NTU undergraduates, taking a trip down the avenue to the 1960s.

How did the group get interested in heritage?

Between the four of us, we’re really interested in how Singapore was like in the past, and it never fails to amaze us. For example, Candy likes traditional toys, whereby Karen likes old photography and cameras, Huay Peng likes old maps and places, and Suhui thinks that kampong life was a very different experience.

What motivated the group to start this initiative?

It started from a group meeting that we had. Some of us were talking about how our parents came from the kampong, and Candy always thought that her dad lived in a HDB flat since young. But she later on found out that it wasn’t true! Although we laughed about it, it got us thinking whether young Singaporeans know about their parents’ stories, or even how Singapore was like in the past. So we started a heritage campaign that is focused on the youths, to help them know more about Singapore’s past and heritage by encouraging them to find out more through talking to their parents about it.

What do you hope to achieve through the effort?

As a youth-centric heritage campaign, we would say that our campaign is actually one of the first few times that heritage promotion is specially targeted at the younger Singaporeans.

Through this project, we hope to let more young Singaporeans know more about how life in the past was like and in the process, young Singaporeans would feel more connected towards our heritage.

With that, we hope to motivate them to start looking for more stories about Singapore heritage, starting from their closest and intimate source, their parents.

Why did you decide to focus on the 1960s to the 1980s?

We chose to focus on the 1960s because it was the nation-building years where, Singapore was in the midst of an important transition.

Also, our parents would find the 1960s familiar. They probably lived through the 1960s as young children, and they have seen how Singapore has changed, and now they’re in the best position to tell us about it.

How successful do you think you have been in meeting your objective of connecting youths with heritage thus far?

I guess the most useful indicator of our campaign’s success is really when we interact with young Singaporeans of our age during our outreach activities and our exhibition. We’ve heard good feedback from students saying that they really enjoyed our exhibits, and that they’ve actually learnt new things and have many takeaways from our campaigns.

Also, for those young Singaporeans who participated in our postcard competition (where they brought from postcards with several questions, which served as conversation starters to get them to ask about their parents’ childhood stories), the very interesting stories that we get from them also shows us that they actually did take the extra effort to find out more about Singapore back in the 1960s.

Our aim is to spark the curiousity of young Singaporeans towards Singapore’s past, and we feel satisfied with the positive responses we had thus far.

Singapore is evolving at a rapid pace and some say we shouldn’t dwell on the past but look towards the future. Who we are does evolve – for example the childhood games that my parents played are very different from me, and the same can be said for me and my children – and certain aspects of the past may not have a place in the future. What are your thoughts on this? 

It is true that with each coming generation, the stories of how life was like changes – but what my team is concerned about, is a seemingly lack of oral tradition between the parents/grandparents and the young Singaporeans of this generation. Knowing what happened in the past helps us understand that there was more that happened before we were born, and by knowing our parents’ stories, we think that this would also help us bond better as a family.

Why do you think it is necessary or important to connect with our heritage?

​We also strongly feel that our knowledge of Singapore’s past should not solely consist of history (significant dates, milestones, events), but also heritage – it is the Singaporean way of life, culture, food, etc.

To find out more on Avenue 1960s, do visit www.avenue1960.sg  or www.facebook.com/avenue1960s.

Down an avenue to the 1960s

20 02 2014

It all started with a conversation four NTU undergraduates had about the kampungs (villages) their parents came from. That prompted a desire to find out more about their parents lives in their kampungs which was to lead to a wonderful initiative the four have undertaken to connect young Singaporeans with their heritage through a series of roadshows and other activities and through encouraging the young to have conversations with their parents.

Mr Hazawi Daipi and the four NTU undergraduates, taking a trip down the avenue to the 1960s.

Mr Hazawi Daipi and the four NTU undergraduates, taking a trip down the avenue to the 1960s. The four undergraduates are (L-R): Candy Tan Hui Shi, Koh Xin Yue Karen, Phang Su Hui and Tan Huay Peng.

Some of their efforts can now be see at an exhibition “Avenue 1960s: Stories of Live, Laugh, Love in Singapore”, which was opened by Mr Hazawi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Manpower at The Arts House yesterday. The exhibition, which runs until 23 February 2014, gives the take of the four with the help of five apsiring artists, on the lives of the generation of their parents during the nation-building years.

Mr Hazawi Daipi opening the exhibition.

Mr Hazawi Daipi opening the exhibition.

The exhibition also features the works of five aspiring artists.

The exhibition also features the works of five aspiring artists.

An exhibition panel on transport in the 1960s.

An exhibition panel on transport in the 1960s.

Together with the opening a forum, jointly organised with REACH, was also held last evening with the aim to stimulate further discussion on Singapore’s heritage among the youths. Chaired by Mr Hawazi Daipi and Dr Chua Ai Lin, President of Singapore Heritage Society, the forum saw the opinions of both young and old being shared in a lively discussion that started with an attempt to define what the term ‘heritage” should mean.

Mr Hazawi Daipi and Ms Chua Ai Lin chairing last evening's forum.

Mr Hazawi Daipi and Dr Chua Ai Lin chairing last evening’s forum.

About Avenue 1960s:

Organised by four undergraduates of the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, the
exhibition is an outreach event for “Avenue 1960s”, a social campaign that aims to connecting young Singaporeans aged 17 to 25 with their heritage.

To find out what their peers think about the Singapore heritage, the organisers conducted heritage roadshows in four polytechnics and university campuses to reach out to these students. They were encouraged to find out about their parents’ childhood stories through a series of postcards that were distributed. These postcards, along with written Post-it notes that contain what young Singaporeans love most about the 1960s, would be on display at the exhibition itself.

Also featured in the exhibition are seven artworks created by five local aspiring youth artists. Inspired by Singapore’s social scene and life back in the
1960s, these artworks collectively illustrate youths’ interpretation of how life was like back then.

Exhibition Details

Dates: 19 February 2014, 6pm (Official Launch)
20 – 23 February 2014, 10am – 9pm
Venue: The Arts House, The Gallery
1 Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429

Programme Highlights

‘Avenue 1960s’ at The Arts House is a week-long exhibition, which provides a sneak peek into life in Singapore in the 1960s. Featuring “Live Town”, “Laugh Lane” and “Love Way”, the differently themed information panels aim to explore the poignant aspects of kampong life, such as common traditional games and the “kampong spirit”. Supported by various collectors, the exhibition includes a display of artefacts – basic necessities of Singaporeans back then.

Postcards as well as dedications from youths will be installed at the exhibition, where visitors can look at youths’ opinions of Singapore heritage. Artefacts of daily household items that belonged to a kampong kitchen will be in the exhibition. Lastly, artworks produced by five aspiring youth artists will also be showcased. These artworks bear special meaning as they illustrate how young Singaporeans’ interpret life back in the 1960s.

There will be a traditional kite-making workshop on 22 Feb (Sat), where participants will get a chance to make kites from scratch, just like how children from kampongs of the past used easily available materials such as rattan and recyclable plastic bags.

To find out more, visit www.avenue1960.sg  or www.facebook.com/avenue1960s.

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.