Last Sunday. a friend posted on Facebook, At an Indian wedding, complete with lots of Tamil references [presumably in English as my friend doesn’t speak Tamil] and dancing, where the couple and families are Christian, and they just did a yam seng. Wonderful stuff.
Uniquely S’porean, my FB avatar commented.
Coincidentally, on 20th June, I had gone to Gillman Barracks to view “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia is the first touring exhibition of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, a multi-year collaboration that charts contemporary art practices in three major geographic regions: South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. Presenting recent works by artists from the region, No Country introduces audiences to some of the most challenging and inventive voices in South and Southeast Asia today.”
Two photographs by M’sian artist Vincent Leong had a lot of relevance to Siow Kum Hong’s comments on Facebook and S’poreans on-going rows on what is it to be S’porean, a country where a govt-linked organisation intervened to help FTs prevent locals from cooking curry: worse it was proud of the fact, until S’poreans objected.https://atans1.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/the-curry-thickens/
When the guide (very gd BTW in bringing to live the exhibition . Sorry, I was amiss in not asking her name, though I did thank her for a job well done) asked me what I tot of the photos, I said I found the photos weird. They were familiar yet strange. One was of an Indian family and the other of a large group of people of different races. Both were done in the style of imperial British photos but were of ordinary people*.
She explained that the large group were all members of an extended ethnic Chinese family, even if some didn’t look particulat Chinese ones. In both photos, she pointed out (silly me not to have noticed) that the ethnic Indian and Chinese families were wearing Malay dress: more formal in the Indian portrait, very casual in the other.
The artist it seems was trying to explore what it was to be a M’sian, a country where hardline elements, and the ruling elite of the majority ethnic community claim to be arbiters of who is a real M’sian.
This exploration has relevance here where the immigrant polices of the govt could lead to a revisiting of a situation that one LKY once called for action to remedy.
In 1959, LKY reported that only 270,00 out of the 600,000 voters were born here, adding ,”we must go about our task (of building up a nation) with urgency … of integrating our people now and quickly”.https://atans1.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/when-55-of-voters-were-fts/
And now after having built a core citizenry, the same PAP govt is returning us to the past? Nation-building was an “honest mistake? Or Mao’s doctrine of “perpetual revolution” in action? Or muddled thinking of third-rate minds?
*The guide later explained that the photos were modeled on a colonial era photo of Malay royalty. And that the recent photos were made to look and feel old. She showed us a copy of the original photo of the Malay royals. A constructive suggestion: while her paper visual aids were effective, maybe if there is the budget, the guides should be provided with tablets (large screes pls) as this is contemporary art. Unless of course, the use of paper in plastic folders is meant to jar. LOL