Waaaay back then, my mom enrolled my sister and me into all sorts of extra-curricular classes – Art, Music, Dance – and the only lessons that I loved were those dance lessons I attended weekly.
Being Singaporeans of South Indian descent, I guess it was only natural that our lessons were in the classical South Indian Dance called Bharata Natyam. This dance form originated in Tamil Nadu, which is the southernmost state of India and its roots go all the way back to the Sangam age (the period between the 3rd century BC and 4th century AD) which is the classical period in South Indian history.
As you can see from the photograph, my attire consisted of a bright pink sari (very securely tied and pinned so that it wouldn’t unravel during the vigorous dance movements), some costume jewellery and a pair of anklets. My grandfather had purchased the anklets and jewellery specially from Tamil Nadu. You can’t see clearly from the photograph, but my short hair was pinned back into a tiny bun with a jasmine garland wound around it. I’d just performed my first ever dance, called the Alaripu, which is always the first dance performed as it is an invocation to the Gods to bless the ensuing performance. Usually when a dance school showcases its dancers, the youngest/beginners are the ones who do this dance. As you can see by my grin, I’m feeling quite exhilarated after my dance – if I recall that night correctly, I was on a high the rest of the night and well on to the next day!
I am standing on a platform erected specially for the dance performance by my dance school in the assembly hall of a Hindu temple. Temples usually invite such dance schools to perform during Hindu festivals, and the dance program lasts for at least an hour. This is probably a continuation of the tradition of Devdasis who were the original temple dancers and who spent their life in the service of the temples they were tied to. The performances are of course free for the public and temple devotees. This is a hall specifically used for dance and music performances, for you can see the Nataraja relief on the wall behind me. Lord Nataraja (who is a manifestation of Shiva) is worshipped as the Lord of Dance so it is only appropriate that he is present.
It’s been awhile since I’ve updated my posts here… So to end my neglect I’ve decided to start of my new wave of more regular posts with 2 of my favourite things – lists and travel 🙂
Here’s my continuation of my Singapore series with (more than) 10 Things to do in Singapore in June. Enjoy!
Dance & Drama
Adventures in Middle Earth, an Act3 International Drama Workshop. The workshop is catered for teens who will learn character work, learn staging and achieve a sense of mastery as they story tell, dramatise and perform before an audience. The workshop will be held from 2- 29 June.
Dance India Asia Pacific 2014 by Apsaras Arts at the Esplanade. From 6-13 June. This is a unique intensive professional dance training camp features 5 days of core training programmes and workshops offered in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak by top performers and teachers from India. This exciting programme will culminate with 2 days of showcase performances in the Esplanade.
LE NOIR @Marina Bay Sands. From 7-29 June. LE NOIR is an extraordinary evening of intimate cirque style entertainment with former stars of internationally renown Cirque du Soleil. A cast of world class acrobats, musicians, specialty acts and comedians are the centerpiece of this cutting edge production. With its 2013 performance in Singapore being a HUGE success, the troupe returns for another exciting season.
Extreme Live in Singapore on 5 June in The Coliseum @ Hard Rock Hotel, Resorts World Sentosa. The Band will be performing their highly successful second album Pornograffitti along with other big hits from other albums in their 25th year celebration World Tour.
Opera in the Park in Singapore Botanic Gardens on 7 June. Launched since June 2008 at Singapore Botanic Gardens, Opera in the Park is an outreach programme, which aims to expand the opera experience to a wider audience. This year, they will spotlight overtures from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, Bizet’s Carmen and excerpts from Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Puccini’s Tosca among others.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – Howard Shore’s Soundtrack performed LIVE. Only on 6 & 7 June at The Star Performing Arts Centre by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra. Relive the awesome experience of watching this second installment of the incomparable Trilogy with the full-length Academy Award-winning motion picture projected on a giant cinematic screen complete with original dialogue and sound effects, while Howard Shore’s iconic soundtrack score is performed live by the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra and the Vocal Associates Festival Chorus and Children’s Choir.
Roots: A Solo Exhibition by ND Chow. Come view images taken from a two-year journey around the world that started 15 years ago. Roots is Chow’s personal reflection on his search for identity and the origins of his creativity. 15 May – 14 June
Annie Leibovitz A Photographer’s Life 1990 – 2005.View close to 200 iconic images by Annie Leibovitz, one of America’s most celebrated photographers. An emotional journey into her life and a testimony of her work over a 15-year period, the critically acclaimed exhibition features photographs of famous public figures and personal photographs of family and friends.
Bay Market in Marina Bay Sands. You’ll be spoilt for choice with the wide variety of product ranging from handmade crafts, vintage and collectibles, F&B such as cupcakes, pastries, cake pops and lots more at the Bay Market. 31 May – 1 June
Republic of Singapore Navy Open House in Vivocity.Come aboard on one of the biggest ships in the Republic of Singapore Navy, the RSS Persistence and experience what its like to be in the Navy! 29 May – 1 June
Fond of Food
Singapore Food Expo 2014 in Singapore Expo. This year, SFE 2014 announced the participation of more than 100 exhibitors, showcasing a thousand different quality products. Food, glorious food! 29 May – 2 June
Beerfest Asia 2014 @Marina Promenade from 12-15 June. What began six years ago as a humble way to raise the profile of the beer industry has since then grown bigger each year as more and more enthusiasts and new converts unleash their passion for beer. With various talks and workshops, live music, a stand up comedy act, delicious culinary offerings to enjoy with the region’s best beers, there’s something for just about everyone at Beerfest Asia 2014.
Etc Etc Etc
National Vertical Marathon 2014 on 8 June – In other words, a unique sporting event for the fitness conscious who are bored with running on the flat ground.
French Faire Floral Display @Gardens by the Bay. 12 May – 22 June. Setting the Eiffel Tower as the horticultural centerpiece, feel like you’re in France as you take in the beauty and fragrance of blooms like lavender, lilac, jasmine and gardenia in the Flower Dome.
That’s all for now. See you again next month for the next installment of this Singapore series 🙂
This is the next installment of my monthly series of things to do in Singapore. Since it’s already the first week of February, this entry will feature (as the title states) both February and March activities. And so without further ado here’s what you can do in Singapore to occupy your time fabulously for 2 WHOLE MONTHS!
So much Drama!
fat pig by Neil LaBute is a unique romantic comedy. With its synopsis of “Cow. Slob. Pig. How many insults can you hear before you have to stand up and defend the woman you love?” it’s guaranteed laughs and some lessons to learn about love and acceptance. From 13 February – 2 March 2014 at the DBS Arts Centre.
Made in Singapore – An evening of 2 plays by the by the Singapore Repertory Theatre from 7 – 9 March 2014 at the DBS Arts Centre featuring the 2 plays – A Wedding, A Funeral & Lucky, the Fish and Stand Behind the Yellow Line. The unique feature of these plays is that they are a result of the SRTs playwright incubator programme to help aspiring writers with their scripts, with Tony Award-winning David Henry Hwang (of Madame Butterfly fame) mentoring the Singaporean playwrights. So these are stories by Singaporeans examining life in Singapore today.
The Huayi Chinese Festival of Arts 2014 is a 10-day long festival from 6-16 February 2014. It is one of three annual cultural festivals at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay celebrating Singapore’s multicultural heritage and showcases the works of outstanding Chinese artists of all genres over this period.
It’s time for the Mosaic Music Festival 2014 people! It’s the 10th edition of the annual festival and this year from 7 to 16 March 2014, there will be an “eclectic range of music genres including jazz, soul, pop, electronic, and rock over ten days of ticketed and free music presentations featuring internationally acclaimed musicians and budding artists” at the Esplanade.
History and Art
This year marks the 72nd anniversary of the Battle of Singapore. For those of you who weren’t aware, there was a fierce battle in Singapore between the Japanese invaders and the Allied stronghold in Singapore between 8-15 February 1942 (General Percival formally surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on 15 February 1942). The Museum Roundtable is commemorating the anniversary of the Battle and Fall of Singapore by featuring Heritage Tours throughout the island in key battle sites between 8-15 February this year. It’s completely free for any interested participant, and all you need to do is register your interest ahead of time with the NHB.
The Singapore Biennale 2013 is the much anticipated art event of the year. Organised by the Singapore Art Museum, the theme for this Biennale is “If The World Changed”. With a team of co-curators, made up of 27 art professionals with distinct knowledge of Southeast Asian art practices and showcasing the artwork of over 80 international artists (over 90% of whom are Southeast Asian), the exhibition is featured in various venues around the island. It’s been up since October 2013 so catch it before it ends on 16 February 2014.
The Safari Zoo Run is an annual event jointly organised by the Wildlife Reserves Singapore and Pink Apple Pte Ltd. This year it will be held on Sunday, 16 February in the morning. It’s a fun run which has categories for adults as well as kids so it’s great family fun (I mean come on! It’s a run in the zoo!!) and it’s for a good cause – Part of the proceeds from the event will also go towards the care of endangered animals at Night Safari and Singapore Zoo. Go ahead and register!
Ice Art 2013-2014 is an exhibition that takes its cue (and support from) the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Located at the Sheares Link and Bay Front avenue the exhibition occupies some 50,280 sq feet of space and uses a total of 450 tons of crystal-clear and coloured ice blocks. The exhibition is only up until the end of February so here’s a heads-up to all families!
SAVOUR is back ya’ll!! And this time SAVOUR 2014 will be at the Marina Bay from 6-9 March 2014. What’s SAVOUR? you ask. Well.. let me tell you my clueless friend – It’s only the “relentless pursuit to unite the best in food and drink with a wide range of unique activities that is accessible to all” – hello, foodie paradise! Over those few days, you get to partake in the menu of over 50 signature dishes from award winning chefs and restaurants from all over the world!But wait! That’s not all – you also get to peruse the wares of a “gourmet market showcasing a plethora of food and drink exhibitors, celebrity chef masterclasses, a hands-on cooking studio, wine workshops and other themed areas.” Phew! That’s quite the lineup of activities for a foodie, isn’t it? 🙂
That’s all for now. See you again next month for the next installment 🙂
A couple on months back I’d written about the exhibitions at the Asian Civilisations Museum (incidentally, my favourite museum in Singapore). I’ve seen their permanent collection on display a few times since I ALWAYS make it a point to visit the museum every year (sort of like an annual pilgrimage). More recently though, I went there with the express purpose of viewing the current exhibitions, namely Devotion & Desire: Cross-Cultural Art in Asia and “A Way of Life” Photographs from the Leica Collection. Being a history affectionado as well as a photography enthusiast I was practically salivating at the thought of viewing the works on display.
First up, here’s a look at the Asian Civilisations Museum facade with a bit of history on the museum itself-
The Asian Civilisations Museum is located at the newly restored Empress Place Building situated along the Singapore River just opposite the banks from the Fullerton. For much of its history, the building functioned as a government office – functioning as the Immigration Department and Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in its time. It was re-named the Empress Place Building at the beginning of the 20th century, in honor of Queen Victoria while we were still under colonial rule.
It is a really beautiful example of neo-Palladian architectural style on the outside, and on the inside houses over 1,300 artefacts from civilisations of China, Southeast Asia, South Asia and West Asia from the Museum’s permanent collection in its 11 galleries since it was renovated and opened to public in 2003. From time to time, the museum also features temporary or special exhibits in its temporary galleries. I for one have been in love with this museum since I first recall stepping into its gorgeous lobby, and have stayed in love ever since.
When I visited the museum on a Saturday afternoon (waaay back in December), I the first thing I noticed was the lack of visitors there. It was a Saturday afternoon and apart from myself and two other visitors, the lobby was empty (save for the museum receptionists of course!). It was a marked contrast to the almost suffocating crowd at the Art Science Museum I’d visited back in October. So basically, I had the run of the museum with no queue and no jostling to see the exhibits. Which was fine with me (but just a tad disappointing in the lack of interest in this wonderful museum, but I digress). Since the Leica Collection exhibit was on the ground floor, I visited the gallery first.
The exhibition itself was small and the photographs showcased in a modest space. This gave the viewer (myself) the experience of being in an intimate, almost personal gallery with an unimpeded view of the stunning original prints by actual photography legends. The icing on the cake (for me especially) were the 10 Henri-Cartier Bresson original prints that he’d given to Leica Camera, two of which are among my favourite images of his works. As I had the whole room to myself the entire time, I blissfully lost track of the time I spent in that modest room, immersed completely in the works displayed before me. Of course I eventually emerged from my reverie as I still had more to see elsewhere!
So I made my way upstairs to the Permanent Galleries (3rd floor) and made my way to the main exhibition by wandering through the Lacquer Across Asia exhibition first.
I’ve been a fan of lacquer works since I first came across Vietnamese lacquer paintings a few years earlier. So this exhibition was particularly delightful for me as I got the chance to see truly beautiful works from all over Southeast Asia and China. As objects of wealth and prestige, lacquer works have been prized across Asia for centuries.
Though the use of lacquer has been documented in China for a few thousand years, the works in this exhibition span from the 15th century onwards, where their use spread across Southeast Asia. In Southeast Asia, most prized lacquer works were also donated as offerings to the Buddhist temples in this region. Other works would also feature themes from the Ramayana and Jataka tales which had entered into the Southeast Asian collective consciousness by this time.
I wound my way around the exhibition, which in turn led me to the main exhibition Devotion and Desire: Cross-Cultural Art in Asia – featuring the new acquisitions of ACM.
Clearly, the folks over at the Asian Civilisations Museum had quite the shopping spree. The exhibition was packed with artifacts from all over Asia, and there were so many of them that I think the curators just gave up trying to have a coherent curatorial approach and so decided on broad themes instead. The overarching curatorial concept was on the subject of trade in terms of religion, ideas and traditions and the artistic results of that. Here’s some of the highlights from each theme –
Here we see artifacts from the ancient kingdom of Gandhara – present-day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. The unique location of this ancient kingdom meant that it was right at the crossroads between the East and West. The artifacts all show a beautiful blending of Buddhism ( the religion of the East) with realistically sculptured artforms such as those in Greece and Rome (the aesthetics of the West).
Cabinet of Wonders
When merchants and other travelers from Europe returned from the exotic East, they brought home objects unique to the regions they visited – to be displayed and admired by those not fortunate enough to have gone on these journeys of course!
The love for all things from the exotic Orient and mystical South Asia by Renaissance Europe meant that trading of objects from these destinations was a highly profitable enterprise.
It is a well-known fact that royal patronage has encouraged many a fine art form. Artists produced their very finest work for the rulers of the realm, who in turn sponsored their creative visions. Some of the exceptional works of art even made their way across land and sea to foreign lands as gifts or tribute – and these fine creations were admired and at times even imitated by the artists in the foreign lands who were inspired by their beauty and skill. Thus we have cultural syncretism of the best kind.
My journey through the museum ended with Beginning of the Becoming: Batak Sculpture From Northern Sumatra. Viewing the works here brought back nostalgia for my childhood. I’d visited Lake Toba way back… hmm… let me think…almost.. two decades ago! Wow! Ok. That was definitely awhile back. I still remember the trip quite vividly, since that was the first time I had sole possession of the family camera. Well.. for a couple of days at least; until my parents realized to their horror that I was taking ‘artistic’ shots of the Batak cemetery and multiple shots of the Batak sculptures. It was a film camera you see, and they felt I was wasting film (and their hard-earned money) on my so-called artistic shots instead of taking photographs of the family with the beautiful scenery. But that really was the moment I actually caught the photography ‘bug’ and it never left me. I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d decided to pursue a career in photography from that point. I’m hoping it’s not too late to begin my photography career now. Ah well… decisions, decisions.
So anyway, back to the exhibition. The Batak people are from the region around Lake Toba, an immense volcanic lake (It is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world) that formed in the volcanic crater after a massive supervolcanic eruption (yes, there is such a thing as a supervolcanic eruption. I know, it’s so cool right?!) tens of thousands of years ago. This eruption was so massive that it had a worldwide impact, changing the global climate and affecting the human population. The flora and fauna in this area is practically endemic and the Batak people are unique in their traditions. Their beliefs are largely influenced by the various Tamil, Arab and Javanese traders as well as the Christian missionaries who settled there – so it’s a whole religious mish-mesh going on in this region, which produces delightful religious sculpture and art such as those exhibited in this gallery.
It was really quite uncanny the sheer volume of memories it dredged up in me when I saw the sculptures – and the precise details I recalled. I’m glad that this was the last gallery I saw before leaving the museum as it left me with a feeling of nostalgia and reflection.
How to get there:
Nearest MRT station – Raffles Place
Exit at Battery Road and walk across the Cavenagh Bridge to the opposite side of the Singapore River.
Daily: 10am – 7pm
Fridays: 10am – 9pm*
Free for Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents (you’ll have to produce your identity card at the reception counter to enjoy this privilege)
Regular ticket prices are $8 for adults and $4 for students.* On Fridays, tickets are half-price after 7pm
There are also joint tickets for the ACM and the Peranakan Museum which you can enquire about at the reception counter.
A visit to the permanent galleries are a must. Seriously guys, the museum has an AMAZING collection of artifacts from across Asia
There are currently 2 special exhibitions that I’d highly recommend
The ACM is a family-friendly museum, so go ahead and bring your kids. They do offer a number of educational guides and activities to keep the little ones interested. There are also special museum activities during museum open-house days that fall during the public holidays – you get free entries + fun activities which is great!
On 11 November 1918″At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month”, the cessation of hostilities for World War I was recorded and signed in the Armistice. The Armistice, or Armistice of Compiègne as it is also referred to was signed between the Allied forces and Germany at Compiègne, France. It marked the agreement to end the fighting at the Western Front of the War. The Armistice was actually signed at 5.10am on 11 November, but to allow for the news to reach the Western Front, they timed the ceasefire to start at 11am. World War I would officially end with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919 in the Palace of Versailles, but Armistice Day is the day that is generally regarded as the day that the Great War ended and it is the day that is commemorated all over the world. Armistice Day is also referred to as Remembrance Day (by the Commonwealth countries) and Veterans Day (by the United States) and it has come to represent the memorial day for all members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty since World War I. In some countries such as the United States, Poland, France, Belgium and several other countries it is a national holiday.
You may have observed some people wearing a poppy brooch on or around Remembrance Day. This is because the poppy has come to symbolise this day since 1920, inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, a World War I poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. The first two stanzas of the poem go thus –
In Flanders fields the poppies grow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
And so, the red poppy became the symbol for all soldiers who have died in conflict.
In Singapore, a memorial ceremony is held on the Sunday before Remembrance Day in the Kranji War Memorial. A two minute silence is observed and poppy wreaths both official and private are laid upon the Memorial itself. This year, Remembrance Sunday fell on 10 November.
I was hoping to be able to actually witness the ceremony, but ended up sleeping through the alarm (yea I know, I should be ashamed). So when I finally got there, the ceremony had ended. 😦
Nevertheless, since this was the first time I’d come here since I was a teenager (the only other time I’d been here as a Secondary 1 student for a school trip on Singapore history) I decided to stay and take a look around. I still recall vividly my first trip here, and the profound sadness that gripped me as I walked around the cemetery, seeing the graves of so many (and so young). And as I wandered around the place on Sunday, that same sadness washed over me; but this time there was also admiration and overwhelming gratitude for the brave and selfless soldiers who had died doing their duty.
The Kranji Cemetery is also the resting place of 250 troops killed in action in British Malaya; a Cremation Memorial for the soldiers of the Indian Army who died and were cremated in accordance to Hindu rites for the dead; Singapore Civil General Hospital Grave Memorial for the British and Commonwealth servicemen and civilian families who died whilst in captivity; and a Memorial for the 69 Chinese members of the British Commonwealth Forces who perished in captivity in February 1942, when Singapore fell to the Japanese army.
Walking through the grounds of the cemetery and reading the inscriptions on the Memorial walls and the names carved on the hundreds of tombstones took me the better part of two hours. I had previously planned on visiting this Memorial with a friend, but ended up alone as she was unable to come at the last minute. In a way, I am almost glad that she couldn’t accompany me because this place begs for solitude and introspection. Or perhaps that’s just me, because I saw a few families and quite a number of couples walking hand-in-hand around the grounds, pausing here and there to read the inscriptions more carefully. Even then, there was hardly any conversation; people were lost in their own thoughts and respectful of the place and what it stood for. It was a beautifully lit day, and the place looked especially lovely as we made our way through the meticulously kept grounds, content to reflect in the poignancy of our surroundings.
If like me, you love anything to do with history then I’d highly recommend this place. It is quite a distance from town; but in Singapore everything is conveniently located near an MRT station anyway, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting there.
If you want to attend the next Remembrance Ceremony, it will be on Sunday, 9 November 2014. The ceremony begins at 7.30am, and if you stick around after the ceremony, there will be a guided tour by the staff of the Changi Museum.
How to get there:
Nearest MRT station – Kranji MRT station (on the North-South line)
Take any bus service (160, 170, 178, 960, 961) from the Kranji interchange (which is at the Kranji MRT station) and get down 2 bus stops later (bus stop number #45119) along Woodlands Road
Then walk in the lane from Woodlands Road (there is a signboard that points the way in). It takes about 10 minutes to walk in.
Or, you can just walk along Woodlands Road since it’s quite near the Kranji MRT station – it’s about a 20 minute walk.
Singapore is a tropical country and there’s hardly any shade in the Memorial, so I’d suggest you invest in some sunscreen for the Sun/heat and take an umbrella because there’s bound to be a sudden downpour at any time of the day (our weather is bipolar like that).
Pets are NOT ALLOWED in the Kranji War Memorial and Cemetery, so please don’t bring any.