Director's Note (Jul-Sep 2021)
I believe my first encounter with public art was at the old Plaza Singapura – “Wealth” and “Contentment”, two sculptures by local artist Ng Eng Teng. I remember being awed by the voluminous female figures soaring above me (both sculptures have since been relocated to a spot outside the University Cultural Centre).
Today, one can encounter public art everywhere around Singapore, whether in the form of sculptures and murals, or something more ephemeral like a performance. This issue’s cover story focuses on the murals at the former Paya Lebar Airport. Once iconic emblems of an iconic building, they are barely remembered today and are in danger of being completely lost. Dahlia Shamsuddin’s poignant piece reminds us to stop, look, and reflect on the artworks around us as these may not be here tomorrow.
In the past, getting vaccinated meant scratching an inoculated person’s arm and transferring bodily fluids onto the scratched arm of the person to be immunised. Thank goodness we have progressed since. Ong Eng Chuan’s essay on the history of vaccination in Singapore is a fascinating look at how vaccination as a public health strategy dates back to 1819.
Everything changes. What we view as traditional today must have been new once. Asrina Tanuri and Nadya Suradi’s dive into Malay wedding customs shows how these traditions have evolved, even within the short space of a few decades.
The time-honoured tale of Mulan, available in the National Library’s Asian Children’s Literature Collection, is examined by Goh Yu Mei, who uncovers different interpretations to this 1,500-year-old story reflecting changes over time and context. Also found in the same collection are other Asian tales espousing similar values of love and sacrifice. Michelle Heng shares some of these stories with us.
Gracie Lee’s comprehensive overview of the history of printing in the Philippines amply demonstrates the impact of technological change on printing methods – from woodblock to moveable type. Zoe Yeo’s story of Jurong Bird Park’s fledgling years provides a backdrop to the exciting changes that will happen in 2022 as it relocates to Mandai.
These are just some of the highlights of this issue, which also looks at the origins of Straits-born cuisine by Lee Geok Boi, the history of the Banjar people in Singapore by Zinnurain Nasir and Nasri Shah, Julian Davison’s account of architectural firm Swan & Maclaren in propagating the idea of apartment living here, and Lee Chor Lin’s piece on Chinese graphic artists in pre-war Singapore.
Clearly, one thing that does not change is our commitment to bringing you great reads. Enjoy this issue and stay safe!
P.S.: If you have photographs of the murals that Dahlia writes about, please let us know.