[Singapore] — Oct 3rd 2015 — An mobile application to discover sites of Sikh Heritage in Singapore is now available for iOS devices. This interactive medium has been created and launched by brownies Ishvinder Singh and Vithya Subramaniam, with funding support from the National Heritage Board’s Participation Grant. This mobile app is for those interested in exploring Singapore’s rich urban history in a new interactive and situated way, where one may revisit sites throughout the island while retracing the movements and lives of Singapore’s Sikh community.
Current trails feature the Sikh Guards of Bukit Brown Cemetery, and the Sepoy Lines of Outram. Whether the user follows these trails by foot or thumb, the app brings to life these sites through accessibly told histories and by situating them within a network of narratives that underscore the connections and nuances between spaces. Users are also encouraged to share their stories and memories of these sites towards building a collective archive of the Sikh community in Singapore (and later, Malaysia). This initial release will include the trails and sites within Singapore, with sites in Malaysia and other avenues for greater community interaction forthcoming. The android version is set to be released in March 2016.
Liberation 70 by All Things Bukit Brown
Publishers: Singapore Heritage Society and Ethos Books
Date Of Publication: 5 December, 2015
The Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) and All Things Bukit Brown (atBB) are pleased to announce their plans to publish a collection of essays and poems, mined mainly from oral history and family archives, which looks at the Second World War (1942-1945) and the impact in Singapore from the perspective of those interred at Bukit Brown Cemetery.
The book commemorates the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Singapore under Japanese Occupation (Sept 1945) by offering new material and insights into the human tragedy of war, which adds another layer to the already vast literature on WWII in Singapore.
“The stories have taken us to the Endau Settlement in Johor, to Taiping (Malaysia) and to the beaches of Normandy in ways so unexpected they took our breath away,” said Claire Leow and Catherine Lim, co-founders of All Things Bukit Brown, a group of volunteers who work to raise awareness of the municipal cemetery. “It is a slow and at times painful unravelling of family history, lost in memory but for the persistence of descendants. It has taken seven decades for some of these fragments to be pulled together, and we see this not as a one-off book but a first step in the difficult journey of re-discovery and re-membering. The narratives also re-affirm to us Singapore’s place in regional and global historical narratives.”
It is a known fact that many who lived through the horrors of war and Occupation barely spoke about those days. The 70th anniversary of the Liberation, coinciding with an outpouring of emotion as Singapore celebrated the Jubilee of independence (SG50), unlocked the memory vaults of strangers who entrusted the editorial team with intimate familial stories and memorabilia. The compilation will span across the immediate pre- war, occupation and post-war years for the people of Singapore. It will also feature a poem of lamentation for soldiers lost in the battle at Bukit Brown, juxtaposed against recently unearthed official archival material on the battle that was fought at Cemetery Hill aka Bukit Brown Cemetery, with anecdotes from the diaries of soldiers, the pastor who bore witness to the aftermath, as well as memories of surviving prisoners of war who lived in the nearby Sime Road POW Camp. Most of this will be new, unpublished material.
SHS is pleased to support this ground-up project, as an extension of the advocacy the society encourages and the Bukit Brown cause that SHS has backed since 2011, when the cemetery came under threat of development first through a highway and later, housing.
“Bukit Brown has unexpectedly turned out to be a touchstone about the loss of heritage – tangible and intangible – in a Singapore eager to modernise and develop,” Chua Ai Lin, President of SHS. “The book is an important evolution of the civil society movement to uphold Bukit Brown as a site of national significance, and illuminate one of its more fragile narrative threads. It brings together at once the strategic and personal importance of the site, and SHS is pleased to once again support All Things Bukit Brown, which has evolved from a volunteer base guiding weekly public tours and regular customised tours, to hosting exhibitions and participating in arts programmes to reach as broad a support base as possible to save what is left of the site.”
The book, which now has the working title “Liberation70”, is ultimately a tribute to those among us, civilians and soldiers who laid down their lives. In the Ode of Remembrance read at most war commemoration ceremonies worldwide, the public repeats the key line, “We will remember them.” This is our collective act of remembrance.
The book will be co-published by the Singapore Heritage Society and Ethos with a partial grant from the National Heritage Board, under its Heritage Participation Grant. All proceeds from the book will be channelled into future Bukit Brown projects.
Singapore Heritage Society was founded in 1987 and is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation and registered charity with Institution of Public Character (IPC) status. It is Singapore’s leading organization dedicated to research, education and advocacy on Singapore’s history, heritage and identity. SHS is behind many significant publications on Singapore history including Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese, 1942-1945 (1992); Memories and the National Library: Between Forgetting and Remembering (2000); Spaces for the Dead: A Case from the Living (2011).
All Things Bukit Brown (atBB) is the banner for a community of volunteers who conduct independent research and guided walks on Bukit Brown Cemetery. Since they came together as a community in 2012, they have collectively organised public talks with partners such as the NUS Museum and Chui Huay Lim Club, two exhibitions and successfully nominated Bukit Brown Cemetery as the first site in Singapore to be placed on the World Monuments Fund Watch list 2014-2016. Claire Leow and Catherine Lim, co-founders of the blog, bukitbrown.com are the editors for the book, backed by a volunteer editorial team from within the community.
An update on this post as Jing Xiang has completed his Masters thesis
Abstract : Housed within Bukit Brown Cemetery are the many tombs of pre-independent Singapore pioneers with syncretic elements of a multicultural milieu. It remained a largely forgotten site except to families who visit the burial ground especially during the annual Qing Ming (tomb sweeping) festival.
In 2011, the state announced plans to redevelop Bukit Brown. Civil society groups, who saw the site as one rich in biodiversity and embedding an important historical past, contested the decision. This contestation rehearses a long-standing tension between heritage and progress in Singapore. This dissertation recasts Bukit Brown Cemetery as a highly charged site where notions of identity and belonging are latent.
The dissertation argues for an understanding of this forgotten landscape as integral to the Singaporean psyche of home and nation. Using Benedict Anderson’s concept of imagined communities and Henri Lefebvre’s spatial trilectics as its theoretical
frameworks, this paper outlines the spatial taxonomies present in Bukit Brown, and how identity is produced and anchored in those spaces. The inquiry unfolds on two scales: the first is a micro-territorial scale where the spatial practices of the individual and domestic unit are studied in relation to the tombs and myths found within and around Bukit Brown. The second one looks at Bukit Brown as macro-territory dotted with cultural anchors signifying collective histories.
Taken together, these two scalar frames reveal the complex structures of individual and collective identity, and how such structures are still actively forming/reforming at the Bukit Brown Cemetery.
His thesis can be found here
First Published on the blog on 20 August, 2014
Some elements in the drawing are all too familiar landmarks in the cemetery, while others suggest hidden secrets, or things that,as of the present moment, has disappeared due to the roadworks. The drawing straddles between what is real and what is imagined, what is there and what is not there, or ‘not there’ because we can’t see it (yet) like other intangible (forces or) values of Bukit Brown.
(please click to view and appreciate full image)
As a team of 6, Hock Chuan, Sumin, Yik Han, Cuifen, Hang Chong and Bianca, will be walking 50km on 5 Sep’15 as part of the Let’s Take a Walk (LTAW) event organised by Raleigh Society. This is a mental and physical challenge for us and we are doing this to raising funds for Hospice Care Association (HCA). So, we would like to get our friends, family and other supporters to pledge an amount to be donated to Hospice Care if at least 2 of our team make it to the 50km finish line.
Donate via this website:
More information on the walk and Raleigh Society here: http://www.letstakeawalk.sg/
For Singapore residents who donate to HCA, there is a tax benefit of 300% this year of the donated amount.
If you prefer to donate to Raleigh Society, this can only be done by cheque and there will be no tax benefits. Raleigh Society will then transfer the full paid amount to HCA.
Do let us know if you have donated an amount to HCA or Raleigh and how much, so that we can inform the total funds raised by our team to HCA.
The team of 6 Brownie Walkers are all volunteers who are active and met at Bukit Brown Cemetery, where we share our passion for heritage and nature with the public. We decided to come together and challenge ourselves to do this walk for a good cause. We are all not very experienced long distance walkers, so it is a challenge for all of us, both mentally and physically and we have learned to stimulate each other as a team.
The theme for this walk is Celebrate Life! and that’s we plan to do!
Thanks to all our supporters!
When the country is broken and families are upturned, fame and fortune mean nothing.
Although I am forced to wander, I am not yet lamenting that our cause is hopeless.
My eyes may be luckier than that of Lu You, for I may (live to) see the day when the righteous army sweeps north and pacifies the central plains
[i.e., when we have driven out the Japanese].
Meeting point, Bukit Brown gates at the end of Lorong Halwa.
In the event that the old main Gate has been closed, kindly wait / meet at the new connecting road which is after the old road.
10 am – 12.30pm with Keng Kiat covering Hill 3. Please register on peatix which has details here
4pm – 7 pm with Darren Koh : An Introduction to Bukit Brown. Please register here
Disclaimer: By agreeing to take this walking tour of Bukit Brown Cemetery, I understand and accept that I must be physically fit and able to do so.To the extent permissible by law, I agree to assume any and all risk of injury or bodily harm to myself and persons in my care (including child or ward)
By Zhang Jiayi
In the early afternoon last Sunday (2 August, 2015) I dreaded my decision to go for a guided walk around Bukit Brown cemetery. However, I have promised my friends that I will turn up, so grudgingly, I made my way to the meeting point for the walking tour. Three hours and a lot of mosquito bites later, it is a decision that I did not regret.
Tombstones don’t lie. All aspects of the tombs – from the layout, the materials used, the carvings and statues around the tomb – give us snippets of information about the individuals and the Chinese immigrant community in early Singapore. The tour shed light on the stories of the individuals; after the tour, the occupants of Bukit Brown turned from random people to dignified individuals who made a difference to the social reality we experience today. Our history and social studies curriculum doesn’t do justice to the various individuals who made a difference to Singapore. While we know a significant bit about Tan Tock Seng, we overlooked the contributions of his eldest son, Tan Kim Ching, who is also buried in Bukit Brown. Tan Kim Ching not only participated actively in philanthropy, just like how Tan Tock Seng did, he also had a close relationship with the royal family of Siam (known as Thailand now), and played an important role in diplomatic relations between the Straits Settlements and Siam. It is also to my surprise that the 72nd generation of Confucius also set foot in Singapore, and is also buried in Bukit Brown cemetery *.
The diversity of the ‘residents’ of Bukit Brown was jaw dropping. Tombs of Hokkiens, Teochews, Cantonese, men, women, the rich and the poor can be found in Bukit Brown cemetery. A range of calendars was used in the inscriptions of headstones in documenting the time of birth and death of individuals. Some Chinese pledged allegiance to the Ming dynasty of China and at their time of death dreaded the fact that they would be buried in a foreign land, while others were content to call Singapore home and to be buried here. I saw for myself the intricate Peranakan tiles laying some of the tombs of wealthy Peranakan Chinese, who chose to be buried in Bukit Brown as they did not identify with their Chinese dialect clans. It was also fascinating to gain an insight on how the early Chinese viewed death – many of them viewed their tombs as their homes in afterlife, and the layout of the tombs resembled the layout of homes. Much thought was put into the building of tombs; some tombs had carvings transmitting values like filial piety, some had intricate statues symbolizing prosperity, fertility and abundance, while other had inscriptions revealing how they felt when they were buried in Singapore. The trip was especially meaningful for me, as a female.
I learned more about the contributions of early Chinese women to the cause of gender equality we have today. Ms Lee Choo Neo, the founder of a Chinese Ladies Association, lobbied for the right of females to live a more enriching life. The Association taught domestic skills, supported education for females, and sponsored a rescue home for women. She was in her teens when she started these big projects. She can be rightfully known as, according to my understanding, the grandmother of the civil society in Singapore. The experience exposed how much I didn’t know about the history of Singapore, beyond what was taught in our social studies and history textbooks. I was deeply humbled by the number of times I widened my eyes in surprise as the volunteer guides (Brownies) dropped nuggets of trivia about prominent early Chinese immigrants. There is just so much the cemetery revealed about who we are as Singaporeans before Singapore’s independence, and the place unjustified the sweeping claims about how Singapore is ‘cultureless’.
As we celebrate 50 years of Singapore’s independence, let us remember, as the guides rightly pointed out, that it is also our 70th year of liberation from the Japanese Occupation, and almost a century from the time we were first part of the Straits Settlements. It is my hope that the stories told during the tour are documented and made available to a wider audience, lest our social history be like those resting in Bukit Brown cemetery – buried six feet underground, never to be seen or heard by the future generations of Singaporeans.
*Editors Clarification: The 72nd direct descendant of Confucius had prepared his grave with the intention of being buried beside this wife who passed away before him, but he was buried at Bidadari instead. We thank Jiayi for taking time to pen her thoughts on her first visit to Bukit Brown and invite anyone who would like to contribute a blog post to write to firstname.lastname@example.org. For information on guided walks please visit bukitbrown.com for weekly updates.
About Jiayi: Jiayi is a young Singaporean still in search of what makes her Singaporean. She is interested in issues relating to the Singaporean society as a whole, including social stratification, education and national identity.
“Remembrance” : NDP 2015@Bukit Brown
Time: Between 8am and 7.30pm
Meeting Point: Various.
Remembrance Ceremony : 6.30 pm to 7.30pm @Block 1, as you enter on your right of new access road, you can’t miss us. We have flags!
This NDP 2015 @Bukit Brown, we remember and pay tribute to the space that embraces the touch stones of our memory, 100,000 tombstones. 100,000 lives; from Coolies to Community leaders, Paupers to Poets, Social Reformers to Socialites with a cause.
Bukit Brown is a microcosm of life at the turn of the 20 century – a collective narrative of hardship, struggle and triumph against the odds. So come celebrate Remembrance and lest we forget, we will remember the victims of war and our war heroes in this, the 70th anniversary of Liberation from Occupation with 2 walks from outside Bukit Brown leading to Bukit Brown. There will also be 2 guided walks within Bukit Brown starting in the late afternoon.
There have been drastic physical changes to the landscape since we started commemorating our Nations Deceased Pioneers (NDP) @ Bukit Brown in 2012. We lost the roundabout, then the ‘ole raintree and by 9th August 2015, the old road to Bukit Brown will be closed and a new road a few meters away is slated to open. But we endure and we will remember.
So join us for a simple commemoration, simple food, but rich stories. Look out for registration details for 3 walks on peatix which will be forthcoming at the end of this week 25/26 July, 2015. But available now for registration is:
1) NDP Guided Walk : Former Rail Corridor to Bukit Brown
Please register here
Facebook page here
Starting 8am – eta @Bukit Brown 4pm Meeting point is Kranji MRT station
“Join us as we start walking from Kranji MRT, down the former rail corridor, past Rail Mall, along Rifle Range Road, into MacRitchie Reservoir, and finally into Bukit Brown.
There will be a toilet break at Ten Mile Junction (approx 7km Walk)
There will be a lunch break at Rail Mall (approx 10Km Walk)
There will be activities planned in Bukit Brown as we celebrate National Day in a unique way.
As the entire walking distance is about 20km, participants are advised to:
– wear comfortable clothes, and walking shoes
– bring a cap / hat, in case of sun
– bring an umbrella / raincoat, in case of rain
– bring insect repellent / spray, in case of bites
– snacks, in case you go hungry …
– WATER WATER WATER
Looking forward to seeing you all on National Day!” From Keng Kiat and Beng Tang, your volunteer guides on this long walk.
2) NDP Guided Walk : Heritage Walk: From Singapore Botanic Gardens to Bukit Brown Cemetery
Join Simone and Bianca on a walk through the heritage lane, starting from the Botanic Gardens to Bukit Brown Cemetery. The Brownie ladies will share stories of WW2 heroes and prominent personalities at heritage landmarks, including the Jacob Ballas garden, the old Raffles College and the old Command House. The trail continues into Bukit Brown cemetery while we explore remnants and stories of the ‘kampung’ life that was once there
This guided walk starts at 3.30pm at Botanic Gardens MRT and we will end the walk near the entrance of Bukit Brown Cemetery, in time for the Remembrance Ceremony at 6.30pm. http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=10040
Meeting Point: Botanic Gardens MRT Exit at ground level (near Cluny Court). We will be holding a sign to identify ourselves.
We’ll be walking on paved roads as well as trekking through the jungle so make sure you wear proper outfit for a light jungle trek. There are no bathrooms along the way and no places to buy water, so make sure you bring some snacks and drinks along and visit the bathroom before we start. And apply the mosquito repellent!
Sign up on Peatix:
3) “Founding Fathers” Guided Walk with Fabian Tee @ 4pm
Join Fabian as he shares stories on the lives and times of :Founding Fathers” of revolution and reform, in honour and humility. and #lestweforget those who perished in WW2.
Please register on peatix here
4) Mandarin Guided Walk with Yik Han @ 4pm
3) and 4) guided walks start at 4.00pm and ends at 6.30 pm at Block 1.
Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance at new access road parallel to former entrance at Lorong Halwa
All participants to NDP 2015@ Bukit Brown will receive a World Monument Fund watch day bag while stocks last, and light snacks and water will be provided at the Remembrance ceremony.Watch this space for details of the other walks! Please register when its up, to help us prepare enough food and drink and minimise wastage. Our pioneers do would not approve of wastage!
The Way We Were:
By Sally Hall
The Amazing Health Benefits of a Walk, Run or Romantic Stroll through Bukit Brown Cemetery
Those who visit the Bukit Brown Cemetery often have very different, personal reasons for their attachment to this serene area. For some, it is all about connecting with others and discovering their roots; for others, it is about visiting a loved one and recalling the importance of those who have gone; still for others, Bukit Brown offers a unique escape into a paradisiacal area filled with heritage trees, a plethora of ecosystems and lush greenery, which instils a sense of peace and spiritual connection. If you find that every visit to this Cemetery leaves you feeling invigorated and renewed, there are documented reasons why this is the case. Time spent in Nature is more than a pastime; recent studies indicate that it is a necessary part of our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. These are just some of the reasons why visiting Bukit Brown Cemetery affords surprising benefits that will help you live a longer, healthier life:
Time spent in Nature boosts our immunity: A fascinating study carried out at Kyoto University, Japan, showed that those who regularly head for the Great Outdoors to walk, garden or perform yoga and meditation, have a stronger immunity and a better quality of life. In the study, participants took part in these activities weekly for four months, with results showing that these therapies combatted fatigue, improved mood, and enhanced function and immunity.
Nature battles stress: Chronic stress has been proven to be a causative factor for disease such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, yet owing to the competing demands most of us have to face in daily life, it is vital to find ways to release anxiety and stress. Studies have shown that simply contemplating a beautiful natural scene in a photograph, can lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol, as well as lessen levels of aggression and post-operative anxiety. When we add more senses into the equation (by touching, listening to and using our sense of smell), these benefits are heightened. It is interesting to note that many of us try to protect our health by taking out health insurance, or following a healthy diet, yet we pay little heed to the negative effects stress can cause in our life. In addition to affecting us physiologically, chronic stress can also lead to anxiety, the most common mental condition in the world today.
Being in nature imparts important physiological benefits:In Japan, the simple yet enjoyable process of shinrin-yoku (or forest bathing) has grown exponentially in popularity, because of the many documented physiological benefits, including the lowering of blood pressure, the breathing rate and heart rate. To take part in shinrin-yoku at Bukit Brown, simply walk through the verdant areas in a mindful manner, trying to be as aware as possible of the trees and wildlife around you and using controlled breathing techniques to instill a profound sense of calm.
Nature improves the way our brain works:In many centers for the elderly and those suffering from anxiety, therapists are using horticultural therapy to connect patients with Nature and improve symptoms of anxiety, depression and dementia. This type of therapy has been found to increase cognitive and psycho-social functioning of elderly persons battling dementia, which is no surprise, since other studies have shown that simply working in an environment containing plants and flowers boosts creativity and enhances problem solving abilities. It comes as no surprise that so many Fortune 500 companies in the US are taking to filling their work spaces with plants.
Exercise is more effective in Nature:An important study carried out by researchers at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in the US found that compared to indoor exercise, physical activity in the Great Outdoors gives us a heightened sense of vitality and positive engagement; to put it simply, we enjoy ourselves more when we are brisk walking or running in the midst of beautiful natural surrounds, than when we work out on a treadmill within the four walls of a gym. All these studies show that human beings have an inexorable link to Nature which should be fostered if we are to achieve a state of greater health and happiness. Fortunately, Bukit Brown Cemetery is accessible to so many people who wish to experience the majesty of Nature in a uniquely beautiful setting.
Quotezone.co.uk, Health insurance, accessed April, 2015.
Naturelearning.org, Benefits of Connecting Children with Nature, accessed April, 2015.
Childrenandnature.org, Health Benefits to Children from Contact with the Outdoors and Nature, accessed April, 2015.
A Taylor et al, Views of Nature and Self-Discipline: Evidence from Inner City Children, Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2001. doi:10.1006/jevp.2001.0241
Sciencedaily.com, Benefits of outdoor exercise confirmed, accessed April, 2015.
Brighthubeducation.com, Managing Your ADHD Students: Taking It Outdoors For Nature Therapy, accessed April, 2014.
About Sally Hall
“Sally Hall worked for many years in the travel sector – firstly in hospitality and latterly on cruise ships. She met and married her now husband and they settled down to family life with their two children, although she has, for the present moment, given up globetrotting, she hopes when her kids are old enough she can get them as enthused about traveling as she is. Sally is now a writer and editor and works from home”
Join Darren on Saturday 18 July @9.00 am as he introduces you to Bukit Brown, and some of what lies within it! Hear him share stories of people who came across the seas as well as those who were born here – people who are pioneers of Singapore.
More info and register for a free ticket here :