How did this small yet formidable nation come to be? Do we have our own culture, and if so, what makes us so innately Singaporean? We all have question about our roots, but often, the answers given have left us wanting. Coincidentally, Singapore Heritage Festival begins tomorrow and will span across the next three weekends. The multitude of workshops and activities across the heritage areas might help you see what was oh-so-familiar with new eyes – here are some highlights to help you get started:
Art Street @ Campbell
Tangled in the beautiful mess that is Little India, Campbell Lane comes to live once again with the help of Lasalle College of the Arts. Inspired by the eclectic mix of textile shops in Little India, a visually breath-taking ‘Sea of Sarees’ will adorn the Indian Heritage Centre, together with multiple art installations and art works for the month of May. Wander along the kaleidoscopic tapestry of stylised sarees till you find a perfect spot for that #photooftheday. While you’re there, be sure to catch performances by dance, music, theatre and puppetry groups around the area.
Art Street @ Campbell happens 1 May – 14 May with Sea of Sarees on exhibition till 30 June, through festival hours at Campbell Lane, Little India, Singapore. Admission is Free.
Bukit Pasoh Street Party
Fancy a distraction from work? The Singapore Heritage Festival celebrations are extending to Bukit Pasoh next Wednesdsay so be there to shake off those midweek blues. Closed to traffic on that day, the street will be host to entertainment put up by the different clans and surrounding associations like lion dances, martial arts showcases, music performances, and a traditional puppetry show. If you happen to get lost, just follow the sound of clanging cymbals and you’ll be fine.
Bukit Basoh Street Party happens 10 May, Wednesday, from 4pm-9pm at Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore. Admission is Free.
Street Performances at Ann Siang
Running out of things to do on Saturday night? Hop down to Ann Siang for a night of rich (and often overlooked) Chinese culture with a series of outdoor traditional performances like puppetry, Chinese orchestral performance, and Hainanese opera. Taking place right on the streets for your viewing pleasure, admission is free so there’s really no reason to say no.
Street Performances at Ann Siang happens 6 May, Saturday, from 7pm-10pm at Ann Siang Road, Singapore. Admission is Free.
I Was Here: An Installation
Inspired by the Empress Place Food Centre, which was located in front of the former Empress Place Building turned Asian Civilizations Museum, I Was Here explores Singapore’s unique food heritage through shared experiences, stories, relationships, space and time. More than just food for thought, the installation piece will feature 10 modern interpretations of familiar hawker seating of the past, in hopes of engaging the audience and starting conversations about the food we love and the relationships that are moulded around them.
I Was Here happens 28 April- 14 May, daily, at the Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore. Admission is Free.
Former Empress Place Building: An Architecture Tour
Take a little trip down memory lane along the Singapore river via an architecture walk. The Asian Civilizations Museum wasn’t always so; with a little help of a guide and your friends, follow the journey of the building as it morphed from humble beginnings to the looming artifice that it is today. From an ordinary government office, the former Empress Place Building has been transformed into a vibrant cultural hub for all ages – join the tour to uncover each layer of this historic centre and discover how it became the Asian Civilizations Museum of today.
Architecture Tour: Former Empress Place Building runs 29 April, 6 May and 13 May, 10am-11am, at the Singapore River. Meeting point is at the main lobby of the Asian Civilizations Museum. For more details, visit the event page here.
A ‘Wayang Kulit’ Weekend
We all know the tale of Sang Nila Utama, but did you know that there are more where that came from? Perfect for the whole family, an interactive Wayang Kulit session featuring folk tales and little-known stories of Kampong Glam will be happening at Singapore’s Heritage Festival. A treat for the younger ones in particular, participants will have the chance to tell their own stories and design shadow puppets inspired by the performances. Bring your kids and allow your creative juices to start flowing at this educational and whimsical, behind the scenes, event.
Behind the Screen: A ‘Wayang Kulit’ Weekend runs 13 May-14 May, 2pm-5pm, at the Malay Heritage Centre Auditorium.
A Tour: Armenian and Jewish Quarters
We might know the neighbourhoods of Chinatown, Little India, and Kampong Glam like the back of our hand, but how much attention have you paid to the Armenian and Jewish communities in Singapore? The history goes back to the 19th century, when Armenian and Jewish traders and merchants started settling here, and thus, built places of worship. The tour through the Armenian Church of St. Gregory the Illuminator, the oldest Christian church in Singapore, and the Maghain Aboth Synagogue, the oldest Jewish synagogue in Southeast Asia, aims to provide insight into these minority groups who excelled through enterprise and hard work.
Diaspora: Armenians and Jews in Singapore happens 7 May, 4.30pm-6pm, at the Main Entrance of Armenian Church, Singapore. For more details, check out the event page here.
A Lighter Side of History
Let’s face it. History can be full of darkness and grief at times, so it’s great to have a festival special like A Lighter Side of History that celebrates the positive – in this case, Singapore’s diverse multicultural heritage. Yip Yew Chong painted several life-sized murals in heritage neighbourhoods such as Kampong Glam and Tiong Bahru. Hear stories from the artist himself and feast your eyes on a selection of his artwork presented as a multimedia installation in the Nation Museum of Singapore. Alternatively, listen as Charmaine Leung, author of 17A Keong Saik Road, shares her experiences growing up in a shop house along the red-light district, in the 1970s. A Lighter Side of History is designed for everyone, young and old, beginners or history enthusiasts.
A Lighter Side of History: Walls of Memories by Yip Yew Chong happens 29 April, 11am-12pm, at National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre. Admission is Free. A Lighter Side of History: Growing up in Keong Saik by Charmaine Leung happens 13 May, 11am-12pm, at National Museum of Singapore. Admission is Free.