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Friday
Apr122013

Bring culture to the people

By Mallika Naguran

The dragon motif on the playground of Block 28 in Toa Payoh should be commended for bringing to life mythology in a public space. Photo: Alex WestcottSingapore 10 April. Nearly 50 years after peeling away from British hold and influence, Singapore is still trying to paint its own identity and sculpt its destiny in the arts. It is still experimenting with the right mix of matter and gravitas to capture the hearts of its people with culture.

To appreciate culture, we are often told to go back to our roots and explore the connections to the traditions and customs of the past. For that, we are asked to visit museums.

The Singapore way of administering culture has taken on a sadly cookie-cutter approach: Pick a historical building, call it a museum, bring in interesting relics and monuments, promote the concept, charge a fee and watch the people come in. Visitor and volunteer numbers plus participation in events become the performance indicators of how well-received such museums are.

Not enough numbers? Make entry free, then, for Singapore citizens and permanent residents. No excuses now for Singaporeans to ignore culture and the arts.

The built environment for culture and the arts is growing, with most museums and galleries concentrated in the city. It is also commendable that several heritage buildings are being conserved. And effort is being put into taking these into the heartlands, such as the Museum@Taman Jurong at Taman Jurong Community Club.

LIVING SPACES IN HDB ESTATES

As London compares the number of its museums and galleries with other cultural cities such as Paris, Berlin or Barcelona to benchmark its achievements, Singapore, too, can compete with other leading art and cultural meccas in Asia — but on a different tack.

I would argue that, for culture and the arts to thrive in Singapore, we should usher them to where we are.

Living spaces within housing estates and public spaces are devoid of cultural and artistic merit. The architecture of buildings, such as Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats, is mostly modern, non-themed and uninspiring. Apartment walls and void decks, playgrounds, bus stations, pedestrian pavements, canal embankments — these are places frequented by residents, and they provide ready canvasses for artistic elements.

Take the iconic structures along Boat Quay — the sculptures of the kuching, the leaping boys and the bullock cart. Why not have similar figurines in non-touristy areas?

Expose residents to genres ranging from classical European, Indian or Chinese to contemporary or pop art — Ketna Patel’s witty blend of old and modern Asian elements, for instance, could put a smile on Singaporeans’ faces and a surge of pride for their identity in their hearts.

In Kallang, a mature estate, communal spaces have been upgraded. A circular amphitheatre with a lofty, maritime-inspired roof once stood by the meandering Kallang Canal. It drew youths in dance practices, elders in tai-chi moves and ordinary folk yodelling with their instruments.

This iconic structure has now been replaced with a banal flat roof over a rectangular space with a stage, and unsheltered benches on the periphery. This new structure is impractical and uninspiring. It still serves a purpose, but is no longer a draw.

It also sits right in front of my HDB flat, but my neighbours and I were not asked what sort of design we would like, or how we would like to enjoy this public space.

DESIGN AS MEDIUM

Collaborative design of public spaces is important. Art need not always be the product or end-goal; it can be the medium through which culture is introduced, remembered and celebrated with citizen participation.

To this effect, the Government should look at optimising design in townships to popularise heritage and culture. Let design turn bus stops into cultural stops or playgrounds into play heritage. The dragon motif on the playground of Block 28 in Toa Payoh should be commended for bringing to life mythology in a public space, firing children’s imaginations.

More cultural landmarks are welcome, too, such as the Chinese and Japanese gardens and the gripping Haw Par Villa theme park. As a child, I benefited from visiting all these, even monkeying around at Toa Payoh’s playgrounds. Remember our heritage roads, hills, forests, parks and playgrounds, and use design to preserve precious values and identities.

Let us look to Seoul in South Korea, which is banking on design for sustainable urban growth. Since the devastation of the 1950s Korean War, the city has picked itself up with practical efficiency to become a leading Asian powerhouse. But in recent years, the focus has shifted to using design solutions to make the city healthier, more eco-friendly and enjoyable to live and work in — even as it becomes more populated. Seoul’s design strategy is culturally led, and its people are oriented with five principles: Airy, Integrated, Preserving, Collaborative and Sustainable.

Another way for Singapore to bring culture to the people is to open up streets and parks in housing estates to roadshows and festivals. Cultural street festivals need not be tied to special occasions nor be elaborate and expensive, such as the annual Chingay procession. Schools, interest groups and communities can come together to liven up sterile estates with Asian-themed song, dance, theatre, visual arts and food.

As a way of promoting understanding of other cultures, especially that of migrant workers here, we could have Filipino, Thai and Burmese fairs and festivals. This also presents excellent opportunities for interaction between foreign and local communities in Singapore towards greater social cohesion.

PRESERVE HABITATS

There are also natural environments such as rivers, canals, coastlines and mangrove swamps that imbue vestiges of culture. Fishing by the river and in mangrove swamps for shrimp and crab are age-old cultural and recreational activities.

Urban development often eradicates such nature-oriented activities. Even traditional human settlements like kampungs, with open spaces for fowl and foal, have made way for concrete housing developments. Many kampungs along our coasts have been demolished. Kampong Lorong Fatimah, for instance, was among the few northern coastal villages flattened in the early 1990s to make way for the Woodlands Checkpoint extension, but memories linger. Offerings are placed in the now-abandoned grounds to honour the departed.

A former kampung inhabitant, Ms Nurul Munirah Abdul Samad, laments this change, writing in the media: “My father has this saying: A kampung is a society, but living in an HDB flat made us become individuals.” She notes that, in relocating to Marsiling, the family benefited from better sanitation but at the expense of cultural loss and societal exclusion.

The only surviving village in mainland Singapore is Kampong Buangkok in Hougang, which draws nostalgic Singaporeans each week and has inspired the making of films and documentaries.

Singapore needs to hang on to its natural and built environments instead of wiping them out in the name of progress. Traditional human settlements hold heritage and cultural elements and values that no amount of money or re-enactments in museums or showcase villages can replace.

Let us not promote museums, but culture at the heart of living spaces.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mallika Naguran was born in Toa Payoh and lives in Kallang as an independent researcher and sustainability consultant. She is also the founder of Gaia Discovery.

Source: TODAY 

 

Saturday
Mar022013

Techung's West Coast Tour Fundraiser 2013

A Personal Appeal By Techung

Tashi Delek!

Techung tours the US East Coast in his station wagon.Last year with seed money from a close friend, my band and I managed to tour four cities on the East Coast including New York City. I was so proud to bring Tibetan authentic music live to the US communities and friends.

We drove over 3,000 miles in my old station wagon with the trailer, doing what we are passionate about, playing music and inspiring people.  We were happy that we managed this tour within our budget.

Please read more about the tour on my website.

This year I am organising another concert tour with my band: Michel Tyabji, Rinzing Wangyal, Kito Rodriquez and a sound man to the West Coast and the Midwest and I need your help. I created a Kickstarter Campaign or online fundraising campaign and  I am asking you to make a contribution so that we can reach our goal of $ 7,000 as seed money.

Please visit the Kickstarter Campaign page to make your donation. Any amount will be appreciated. Thank you and I appreciate your continued support for my work to preserve Tibetan Music.

Techung preserves the threatened Tibetan culture in music.

 Visit Techung's website to learn of his efforts for peace in Tibet.

Read a related article in Gaia Discovery. Editor Mallika Naguran met the wonderful Tashi Dhondup Sharzur who is better known as Techung at Penang World Music Festival 2008 to hear his awesome voice and urgent need to keep the Tibetan music alive.  

Techung's music can be ordered from 
cdbaby.com/all/techung.

Techung's ringtones can be ordered from 
www.myxer.com/TECHUNG.

Sunday
Feb192012

Linking Art to Sustainability and the Environment

"Linking the Arts to Environment and Sustainable Development Issues” explores connections between culture, the arts and pressing environmental issues like climate change. Twenty projects in nine countries across Asia, we take a look at examples from India and Thailand.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jan062012

Bone Museum for the Philippines 

Blatchley calls himself the bone collector. He has been featured in several national television programs like Balitang K, Jessica Soho Reports, and Born to be Wild. “My museum has bones from all over the world,” says Blatchley, who has to travel in various parts of the world to collect the bones and skeletons.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jan132011

Mati Eco-Tourists Challenge Locals in Dahican Beach Skimboard Challenge – and Fail to Score…

Three friends visited Mati, Philippines for the Sambuokan Festival, but end up playing on the waves at nearby Dahican Beach on the latest surf craze - skimboards.

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Tuesday
Nov232010

Green Computing and Energy Consumption

Here’s an idea – let’s all stay at home do a bit of telecommuting, save on petrol and save the planet. Right? Sadly, it isn’t necessarily so. Because staying at home demands two key things: 1) a computer at home, and b) a supporting external network (the internet). And you probably weren’t aware but on average a home PC will guzzle up more in a year than your shower heater.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Nov232010

Conserving Electrical Energy At Home, From Kettles to Washing Machines

Buying electrical and electronic products with energy rating is the first smart move to make. Well done! Next, there are ways to trim just that extra bit of power when using these products, simply by the way we use them.

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Tuesday
Nov232010

Tips to Reduce Energy Consumption 

Following the huge success with Earth Hour, the WWF is calling on people and companies to continue with progressive environmental commitments that help reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint.

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Monday
Oct182010

Environmentally Friendly? Or Is It Ecologically Friendly?

Are you environmentally friendly? Do you protect the ecology? No matter what you say, my guess is that you do neither. By George H Croy author of The Energy Trail – Where Is It Leading?

Click to read more ...

Monday
Oct112010

Get Real With The 10Rs of True Eco Living

There is a lot more to being considerate towards the environment than just the 3Rs. This includes mindset, attitude and pro-active behaviour and can be applied at work, home, parties, functions and vacation. To help us get there we should consider adopting the 10Rs for true eco living: Responsible, Resist, Reduce, Return, Repair, Reuse, Recycle, Restore, Respect and Reach Out.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct012010

Cut Down Personal Carbon Emissions, Join 10:10 With These Ten Tenets

10:10 is a Global Campaign for Anyone to Start Cutting Down Carbon Emissions in the Year 2010. Here are the key Principles Underlying 10:10

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov152009

Green and Ethical Fashion Tips

Consumers have the power to stop fashion industry’s animal testing, human rights abuse and environment destruction. Choose to buy only brands that have minimal impact - from cultivation, production to supply chain.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Nov152009

Green Party Ideas, From Disposables to Food Preparation

Too much waste is generated from parties, big or small, yet party products are billion-dollar industries. Kids’ fascination with party poppers, plastic whistles and paper hats lasts for minutes, leaving pollution to deal with for the next generation. Here are tips on organising green parties.

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Thursday
Dec042008

Switching Off TV Saves 10 Percent of Power Bill

Simple things like switching off your TV and computers, instead of keeping them on standby, can help save 10 percent of your electricity bill.

Click to read more ...

Monday
May192008

Green Home Tips - Food and Cooking

Here are tips on saving energy, cutting down carbon emissions and preventing further global warming.

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Monday
May192008

Green Home Tips - Electrical Appliances

Here are tips on saving energy, cutting down carbon emissions and preventing further global warming.

Click to read more ...

Monday
May192008

Green Home Tips - Lighting

Here are tips on saving energy, cutting down carbon emissions and preventing further global warming.

Click to read more ...