Friday 20 March 2015

Past Forward: SG50 Memory Project to feature 74 works evoking Singapore’s past

By Matthias Tay, TODAY, 19 Mar 2015

From enjoying “kopi” at a pop-up coffee shop to watching films about forgotten islands, Singaporeans will have a chance to revisit the lesser-known slices of the nation’s past as part of the SG50 celebrations.

From April till August, the National Library Board’s Singapore Memory Project (SMP) will showcase Past Forward, comprising 74 projects of forgotten memories through various media, such as films, books, websites and 3D-printed installations.

Hands-on activities, including dialogue sessions and workshops, will also be featured, allowing visitors to participate in creating their own stories through the use of media such as lego bricks.

A preview of 20 of the projects was launched yesterday by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at the National Library building in Victoria Street.

The exhibition will be open to the public until tomorrow.

The people behind the 74 projects, who are funded by the irememberSG Fund, include film-makers and ordinary individuals.

The organisers said Past Forward was opened to anyone with ideas that meet its aim of presenting various stories and revealing aspects of Singapore’s past that are lesser known.

“This time around, we are saying anyone can be a memory maker, anyone can do documentation and do it in a way that is befitting to their community and to their story,” said SMP spokesman Yee Yeong Chong.

For artist Jahan Loh, his Singapore Kopi Culture project, one of the 20 featured at the National Library preview, provided him with an opportunity to preserve Singapore’s unique coffee-drinking culture.

Mr Loh, 38, described the traditional way of roasting coffee here as a “dying trade”. For his project, Mr Loh and his team interviewed Hainanese settlers who started Singapore’s first coffee shops to better understand the origins of the beverage.

The team’s efforts revealed interesting facts about the local “kopi” culture, including its “cosmopolitan” nature. For example, furniture for traditional coffee shops, such as wooden chairs, were imported from Europe, while the white marble tables came from Italy.

A book documenting the team’s findings will be launched at a pop-up stall during their exhibition at the National Library building on July 26.

Other teams involved in the showcase went for a more nostalgic touch. The artist behind Moving Home, Ms Alecia Neo, 29, said one reason the team decided to focus on the rituals that people associated with their homes is to better understand how people react when they have to leave their abode, which can be difficult for them especially if they had lived there for a long time.

“... I myself had moved home for about 12 times around the neighbourhood, to different estates, to different blocks, so the idea of moving home was quite special to me,” said Ms Neo.

Moving Home will hold its exhibition from April 3, also at the National Library building, with activities such as a dialogue session to engage participants in sharing what moving home means to them.

Most of the events will be held at the National Library and its branches across the island.

Project reunites islanders on St John's after 4 decades
Photographers set up homecoming to capture history not recorded in textbooks
By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 19 Mar 2015

LATE last year, 80 former island-dwellers returned to their home on St John's Island for their first reunion in four decades.

They spent a day swimming in its familiar waters and tracing the winding paths they once took to get to school. Many took their grandchildren along to give them a glimpse of kampung life, pointing out familiar sites along the way.

The islanders were reunited on the initiative of photographers Edwin Koo, 36, Zakaria Zainal, 30, and Juliana Tan, 25, for their project Island Nation, which documents life on 12 of Singapore's Southern Islands.

It took them almost four months to piece together the name list of St John's Island residents who now live on mainland Singapore.

Mr Koo said they had set out to "capture a part of history not recorded in textbooks and to reunite forgotten communities". The end result will be a multimedia website.

Their work is one of 74 irememberSG fund projects that will go on show from next month till August as part of the National Library Board (NLB) Singapore Memory Project's Past Forward event, launched yesterday by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim.

The fund offers each project up to $50,000 and projects can take the form of short films, photo exhibitions, publications, websites, digital games and animation. A preview of 20 projects, including Island Nation, is on at the National Library's plaza in Victoria Street until tomorrow.

NLB chief executive Elaine Ng said Past Forward showcases the curated stories of the man in the street.

"We hope the memory movement that the Singapore Memory Project helped to generate will inspire more Singaporeans to capture memories for posterity," she said.

Dr Yaacob said: "This year, as our nation celebrates SG50, it is timely to reflect on our past, appreciate the progress we have made, and look forward to the future with confidence."

Another project on show involves Singapore icons made of Lego bricks, including the Merlion, a conserved shophouse and a double-decker bus.

Dr Yaacob said his ministry, together with its statutory boards, has planned a series of events to mark Singapore's jubilee year. These include the Singapore Memory Project's film festival in May, screening of films from the 1940s to 1960s at the newly restored Capitol Theatre by the Media Development Authority in August, and the Infocomm Development Authority's festival of technology the following month.

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