The Little Prince: a legend visits Singapore

The Little Prince (le Petit Prince) is one of the most successful children’s books ever, written by pioneer aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. A brand new exhibition illustrating his work and life is due to arrive soon in Singapore.

The Little Prince finds himself on a strange, bare, remote planet

The Little Prince finds himself on a strange, bare, remote planet

Singapore, March 2015. One of the most popular books ever in French literature, Le Petit Prince is about a Prince (obviously) who finds himself on a strange remote planet. It has always had strong appeal to children, but has been analysed by innumerable academics about its implications and social comment at an adult level.

Its author, French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, never completely explained what it was about – but there is no doubt it has lessons for us all about caring for the world we live in. As long as we don’t all get gobbled up by nasty, voracious baobab trees, as the Prince tries to avoid in the book by caring for his rose.

"It is a question of discipline," the little prince explains. "When you've finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work," the little prince added, "but very easy."

Environmental message

Which all seems to establish a basic tenet that it’s a good idea to look after our environment – something Saint-Exupéry was particularly aware of, having crashed his aircraft in the desert when flying some of the first ever airmail routes in North Africa. Saint-Exupéry disappeared over the Mediterranean during his last reconnaissance mission aboard a Lockheed P-38 Lightning in July 1944, but the circumstances of his disappearance remain a mystery. After the war, the French government named him a national hero.

The Fullerton exhibition is being staged courtesy of the St. Exupery Foundation

The Fullerton exhibition is being staged courtesy of the St. Exupery Foundation

In April, the Paris-based Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Foundation will stage a unique exhibition at the Fullerton Hotel that features rare original manuscripts and drawings by Saint-Exupéry, the author. The displays, on loan from Aristophil - Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris, will be complemented by a series of historical photographs and also a series of writings and letters by Saint-Exupéry from the private collection of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry Estate.

The display will highlight Saint-Exupéry as a pioneer of aviation from when he worked for the original Compagnie Générale Aéropostale – the first French transatlantic airmail carrier founded in 1918 with old WWI aircraft - and then the first French airmail company (known as Aéropostale) in the 1920s flying over deserts and mountains. 

The exhibition will also show a series of three-dimensional hand-painted sculptures of the Little Prince by Asian artist Arnaud Nazare-Aga. The sculptures will represent the major scenes straight out of The Little Prince book.

St. Exupery's iconic characters will be shown in the flesh

St. Exupery's iconic characters will be shown in the flesh

The exhibition opening will also offer a chance to meet Olivier d’Agay, great-nephew of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and Delegate General of the Saint Exupéry Youth Foundation. The French astronaut Claudie Haigneré (the first European woman in space) will also attend.

As the Prince himself might have said, it is worth taking a look at what lies behind the story – something this exhibition will undoubtedly help with.

“What makes the desert beautiful,' said the little Prince, 'is that somewhere it hides a well...”  

Details from the Fullerton Hotel –

Exhibition opens from May 2, 2015 as part of the "Voilah!" French Cultural Festival organised by the French Embassy and Institut Français de Singapour.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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 asTechung 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

Techung's ringtones can be ordered from

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.

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.

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.