20
February
2019
|
10:01
Europe/Amsterdam

Young artists reimagine Singapore history

Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung speaking to Year 4 Yale-NUS College student Sean Cham about his theatrical installation First Storeys

Pang Wei Han, a Year 4 History student at Yale-NUS College (Yale-NUS), grew up listening to his mother’s stories about her life as a factory worker. However it was only when his girlfriend Lee Xin Run, a Year 4 Environmental Studies student at Yale-NUS, shared with him a story about another former factory worker she met at a community garden that Wei Han realised there was a whole community of female factory workers from the 1970s and 1980s whose contributions to Singapore’s economic success are often overlooked. Inspired by their stories, Wei Han and Xin Run gathered a team of like-minded schoolmates and embarked on a project to record the oral history of female factory workers, providing them a platform to remember, reminisce and reflect about their experience with factory work that culminated in a documentary film called Factory (Super)Women.

The short film will be screened as part of The Future of Our Pasts Festival (TFOOPFest), a month-long event organised by Yale-NUS in support of the Singapore Bicentennial, that explores lesser-known stories of communities and places in Singapore’s past and present, reimagined through artistic mediums.

The festival showcases eleven projects by students and recent graduates from different tertiary institutions in Singapore and abroad who have investigated lesser explored micro-narratives of Singapore’s history and presented them via creative or artistic mediums such as music and art installations. Each project centres on different themes — space, architecture, communities, language, race, relationships and the arts — and hopes to take audiences on an emotive and immersive journey through time, and encourage them to think about their own histories.

“To many, history is seen as static or textbook-based, but there is a vibrancy to it. It can be understood in different ways — each individual has a unique interpretation of an event or a memory. TFOOPFest’s projects provide entry points for us to discover and engage with Singapore’s history from different perspectives, be it personally or as part of a larger narrative on identity and belonging to country and society,” said Professor Tan Tai Yong, President and Professor of Humanities (History) at Yale-NUS College, and a member of the Singapore Bicentennial Advisory Panel and chair of the Steering Committee for TFOOPFest.

To many, history is seen as static or textbook-based, but there is a vibrancy to it. It can be understood in different ways — each individual has a unique interpretation of an event or a memory. TFOOPFest’s projects provide entry points for us to discover and engage with Singapore’s history from different perspectives, be it personally or as part of a larger narrative on identity and belonging to country and society.

At the festival’s opening ceremony on 16 February, Minister for Education Mr Ong Ye Kung commended the young artists on their projects, the result of 18 months of research and execution. In keeping with the spirit of the event, Mr Ong looked back on his own history and candidly shared how broader events such as World War II and Singapore’s post-independence growth policies affected him personally, from his grandparents’ emigration from China to losing the family farm to a housing development.

Mr Ong encouraged youth to continue to delve into and discover more about Singapore’s history. “Keep this exploration going beyond 2019 because there’s actually so much for us to find out about Singapore, and as you do so, some things may not make sense to you…some structures may not make sense, but this is the negotiation between past and future that we all have to do,” he said.

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Mr Ong (first row 3rd from left), NUS President Prof Tan Eng Chye (second row 3rd from right) and Prof Tan Tai Yong (second row 1st from left) with artists from the festival

Besides the Factory (Super)Women documentary and its suite of complementary events — panel discussions, an exhibition, a sewing session and appreciation dinner for former factory women — other projects that take novel approaches to contend with Singapore’s history await the guests at this festival. One such project is Sarong Party, an immersive music and mixed-media “listening party” experience organised by The MadHatter Project, a local band made up mainly of NUS History alumni, that hopes to encourage guests to explore how Singapore has contended with or co-opted the legacies left by the British with music, poetry and art. Another project, First Storeys by Sean Cham, a Year 4 Urban Studies student at Yale-NUS, is a speculative interactive theatrical installation that investigates the large-scale resettlement that took place in Singapore between the 1950s and 1990s.

TFOOPFest will run from 16 February to 17 March at various locations around Singapore.