Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Nation's journey shown in stamps

Stamps, postcards and 66 original artworks on display at Golden Jubilee exhibition
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 21 Jul 2015

The first stamp issued by the new Republic shows four men, one of them carrying a briefcase, against a backdrop of housing blocks and factories. It was released in 1966 to mark the first anniversary of Singapore's independence.

Stamps and related items showing Singapore's progress through the years are now on display at a new exhibition by the Singapore Philatelic Museum to celebrate the nation's Golden Jubilee.

Gallery opening, 20 July 2015
Posted by Singapore Philatelic Museum on Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Called The Singapore Journey: 50 Years Through Stamps, the exhibition is being held at the museum in Coleman Street from today to July 31 next year.

It was launched yesterday by Mr Sam Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth.

More than 240 philatelic items, including stamps, postcards and 66 original artworks featuring the designs of stamps, will be on display.

It is the largest showcase of Singapore stamps and other philatelic artefacts. Items on display include an original artwork of the first stamp issued by the Republic and a printing plate of the 1999 stamp that features Singapore's first president, Mr Yusof Ishak.

Most of the items on display are from the national and museum collections, while some are donated by private collectors.

Ms Tresnawati Prihadi, general manager of the Singapore Philatelic Museum, said: "Our stamps showcase what the country has gone through and what we have - our multiracial society, the food, the architecture and so on.

"We hope it will bring back fond memories for those who have gone through the years, and for our younger generation, to look at how far we have (come)."

Artist Don Low, 45, whose 2012 series of stamps titled Reservoirs of Singapore will be put on display, said: "It's quite overwhelming and I'm very excited to be part of a 50-year collection."

For stamp collector Alan Chong, 46, the exhibition reminds him of his childhood.

Mr Chong, a lecturer, said: "I've been collecting stamps since I was in Primary 2. I used to go from office to office during the weekends to ask for unwanted envelopes so I could collect the stamps.

"I hope the museum can also produce a book featuring the stamp collection to tell the Singapore story."

Admission to the exhibition is free for Singaporeans and permanent residents.

Singapore Post also launched a limited-edition commemorative folder of stamps in celebration of SG50. They are priced at $50, excluding GST, and available from today at all post offices and at

ITE student puts her stamp on contest with 'egg' characters
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2015

Racial harmony is a cornerstone of Singapore's society - and that forms the inspiration behind two limited edition stamps, designed by a teenager, to be launched nationwide this October.

They are conceptualised by Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central visual communications student Mavis Tan, who beat over 90 entries in a competition jointly organised by the People's Association, Singapore Post and the college.

The stamps feature egg-shaped characters that represent the four main races here, waving the Singapore flag.

The 18-year-old, whose designs were yesterday unveiled by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a ceremony held at Teck Ghee Community Club, said: "It was quite unexpected, but I'm happy for the opportunity for my work to be showcased to a wider public."

The Citizens’ Consultative Committees (CCCs) play a vital role at the grassroots. To celebrate the CCCs’ 50th...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, July 19, 2015

The contest was held to mark the 50th anniversary of the Citizens Consultative Committee (CCC).

PA chief executive director Ang Hak Seng said: "Since 1965, grassroots volunteers have helped to promote racial harmony and social cohesion, and connect the Government to our residents.

"We hope that through these stamps, the public would have a deeper appreciation of the CCCs' journey over the past 50 years and the important role they continue to play in nation-building."

SingPost chairman Lim Ho-Kee told The Straits Times the competition served to promote an inclusive society and to provide a platform for ITE students.

He also said in an address to about 600 grassroots volunteers, ITE staff and students, and SingPost employees of the need for innovation in the face of declining traditional mail volumes, saying SingPost is "on a burning platform".

As it moves towards e-commerce, however, he said stamps still play an important role - as "more than just the little adhesive labels one sticks on envelopes to pay for mail delivery. We also see them as an art form (that can) record significant events."

History comes alive: Santha Bhaskar is the Indian dancer in a 1968 postage stamp that was issued to promote racial harmony.
Posted by The Straits Times on Sunday, August 2, 2015

History comes alive: She's the Indian dancer in 1968 postage stamp
Found - Indian dancer in 1968 postage stamp in series issued to promote racial harmony
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2015

It looked like just another e-mail sent to Bhaskar's Arts Academy asking for a dancer to perform an Indian dance routine at the launch of an exhibition.

But when the academy's artistic director and choreographer, Mrs Santha Bhaskar, read the e-mail from the Singapore Philatelic Museum, she had a pleasant surprise.

The e-mail sent in June had requested the performer to don a costume in the same colours as the dancer in a 1968 stamp that would be featured in the exhibition.

As it turned out, Mrs Bhaskar, 75, was the dancer in the stamp, which was issued then to promote racial harmony.

"I never thought that it's going to come back now. Even when they asked for a dance item, I thought it was simply for an exhibition, and didn't think my stamp would be on display," she told The Straits Times.

"I'm very surprised. Even now, I still can't believe it. My grandchildren have no idea that there was a stamp with their grandmother."

The stamp is now being shown at the exhibition titled The Singapore Journey: 50 Years Through Stamps, which was launched two weeks ago. It features stamps and related items showing Singapore's progress through the years, to celebrate the nation's Golden Jubilee.

Mrs Bhaskar said: "I've lost the stamps over the years, so to see it in public now, I'm very happy and honoured."

A Cultural Medallion recipient for dance, Mrs Bhaskar was born in Kerala, India, and came to Singapore in 1955 after an arranged marriage with Mr K.P. Bhaskar, founder of Bhaskar's Arts Academy.

She became a Singapore citizen in 1960, and the couple have three children and four grandchildren. Mr Bhaskar died two years ago from a heart-related illness.

How did Mrs Bhaskar become the model for a stamp?

In 1968, Mr Bala Subramanion, Singapore's first Postmaster General, had asked Mr Bhaskar for a picture of an Indian dancer for use in a series of stamps titled Masks and Dances Definitives, which depicted the traditional performance arts of the Chinese, Indians and Malays.

Mr Bhaskar gave him a picture of his wife. Mr Subramanion, now 98, said: "Singapore experienced its most serious race riots in July and September of 1964, shortly after joining Malaysia. It is no wonder that racial harmony is a priority for Singapore." He had contacted Bhaskar's Arts Academy, as it was a "pioneer in Indian dance".

For Mrs Bhaskar, it was a proud moment. "I used them to send letters to our family and relatives in India," she said.

She added that stamps had more impact then because people used to write letters to each other more often, unlike now, when messages are sent using technology.

The 1968 series of stamps also proved that the arts was flourishing in Singapore in the 1960s.

"It didn't just promote racial harmony. People thought that at that time, Singapore didn't have any art, it was a cultural desert. But it's not true. The only thing was that there was no funding available, but there was art, theatre, music, dance."

Indian dance is still relevant today, she said. "In any art form, you find your roots. You'd know where your grandparents came from."

While Mrs Bhaskar turns 76 in October, she still maintains an active lifestyle by conducting classes at least once a week at Bhaskar's Arts Academy and at the National University of Singapore's Centre For the Arts. She also does yoga.

"I don't think about my age so I'm as normal and energetic as I can be, still exploring things," she said.

Stamping his mark on a changing postal landscape
By Cheryl Faith Wee, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2015

It was a breeze for Mr Woo Keng Leong to remember all 28 postal districts here back in the 1980s when he was working for SingPost's predecessor. But this has since expanded to around 83 postal sectors and Mr Woo, 59, now head of SingPost's postal services, can no longer name all of them from memory.

He joined the Postal Services Department in 1980 and his responsibilities included planning delivery and collection routes for postmen.

"My history is very similar to SingPost's history. I started out as a civil servant. Those days, the key thing was to make sure that we provided good service to the public, now we are a listed company with many stakeholders," he said.

In 1982, two years after Mr Woo joined the civil service, the department became part of the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore, a statutory board.

SingPost was listed on Singapore Exchange in 2003.

With electronic mail more prevalent globally these days, SingPost's mail volume has been declining.

Mail made up nearly 60 per cent of SingPost's revenue for the financial year 2010 to 2011 but fell to about half for this and last year.

SingPost has been ramping up its business towards e-commerce and the online shopping boom. Last week, it said it had invested $75.6 million into expanding its e-commerce logistics and postal services.

Its revenue from logistics, which includes its e-commerce logistics business operations, rose by 43.6 per cent for the first quarter of the financial year 2015-2016 compared with the last financial year.

Postage stamps do not have a role to play in e-commerce, admits Mr Woo. "If I said there was synergy between stamps and e-commerce, I would be lying."

These days, stamps appeal more to collectors, said Mr Woo. Around 15,000 people collect local stamps and are mainly from Singapore.

In line with Singapore's Golden Jubilee celebrations, SingPost has released limited-edition stamps, including a sheet of 50 depicting designs from the past five decades.

Mr Woo himself is not a collector, but he is a member of the Stamp Advisory Committee, which advises the local authorities on philatelic matters such as appropriate themes and designs for stamps.

"When I first joined the Postal Services Department, the postmaster told me that I could not collect stamps because there would be a conflict of interest," said Mr Woo, who buys only collectors' edition stamps occasionally for keepsakes. Over the years, he has collected at least 100 of them. Stamps serve as a record of a nation's past, he added.

One which brings back memories for him depicts Changi Airport's control tower. It is part of the 50 designs depicted in the new limited edition sheet released last month.

"I remember this stamp because it was launched when the airport opened in 1981. I still remember the area's four-digit postal code back then - 1781. It has changed now. Stamps are really like a history book," he said.

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