by Catherine Lim
Considered the foremost authority on Raffles, the National Library Board has acquired the collection of Dr. John Bastin’s more than 5000 materials. 38 of which have been curated for public viewing on the 13th floor.
The exhibits both showcases and makes accessible NLB’s existing Singapore and South East Asia Collection which “form an important nucleus of works on early Singapore. “ The rare materials collection is conventionally the preserve of academics, perhaps perceived as” high brow” located as such on the 13th floor.
But this collection is curated with ordinary Singaporeans in mind with both the personal – a hand written letter by Raffles to his cousin which more than hints at his displeasure with Farquhar – and the quaint – a book on Malay Poisons and Charm Cures – to the spiritual – an almost complete Malay translation of the the Anglican Common Book of Prayer.
But the highlight must surely be the leaflets which were air dropped in the 50s at the height of the communist insurgency in the jungles of Malaya, in an attempt to “persuade” – both by threats and propaganda – insurgents to surrender peacefully. These leaflets dropped by the thousands and commonplace then, have become rare. I have seen them once in a private collection. The NLB rare gallery showcases three pieces.
Exhibits on Java, Sawarak , Sumatra written by the “colonial masters ” stationed here, a reminder that Singapore was part of the “Straits Settlements”
Expressing Raffles passion for the biodiversity of the region.
And lets not forget, exhibits which clearly reminds us of the collector’s primary interest, Raffles himself.
Of interest for further study an exhibit of : a bill introduced to the British Parliament on 18 June 1824 to ratify the Anglo-Ducth Treaty of 1824 which concluded longstanding territorial and commercial disputes between Britain and Netherlands. A valuable source of information of how the two rival colonial and maritime powers decided on how to carve out their colonies in the region
As a collection, its importance is to give visitors a flavour of our past, providing historical context in print that covers different facets of political, social and community engagement at a personal level.
If there is anything more the NLB can do to get more Singaporeans to “embrace” the rare collections , is perhaps for this collection to serve as an inspiration for other activities which could revolve round art and story imagining of a past which helped defined who we are today.
Guided tours of this collection will be held monthly between July and December. Do check listings here
Catherine Lim is co-editor bukitbrown.com
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love
only what we understand; and we will understand only
what we are taught.” (Baba Dioum, 1968.)
A quote by the Guest of Honour Senior Minister Desmond Lee (National Development and Home Affairs) in his address , captured aptly the journey of the Bukit Brown community leading to another milestone in what has been dubbed ” a movement” with the launch on 16 April, 2016 of the book WWII@Bukit Brown – a collection of essays, poems and stories from the community of Brownies and descendants.
In his speech, Minister Lee recounted his first guided walk at Bukit Brown Cemetery with his constituents :
“During the visit three years ago, we learnt about the history and heritage of our pioneers from the stories shared by the Brownies.
Over the years, we have all been very impressed by the passion demonstrated by the Brownies, as they have contributed so much of their personal time, personal energy and expertise to research, document and share the history of Bukit Brown with the rest of us in Singapore.
They are an example of what the community can do to connect with, and to celebrate our history. But if we reflect on it, although Bukit Brown is a cemetery, their work is so much more than just about the past. It is also very much about our future.
The research that the Brownies did led descendants to approach them for help to identify their ancestors’ resting places, and from there, an opportunity to open up conversations about their personal and family stories, which they then shared for the benefit of posterity.
I understand that some of the descendants are here. Some of your stories and stories of your forefathers have made their way into this book. This book is a testament to the hard work and effort the Brownies had invested over the years.”
It was an occasion for connections and re-connections.
Jon, captivated the audience at the launch with his stories of the descendants and survivors of POW camps he had met in the course of his research (photos of Jon’s presentation by Lawrence Chong)
And finally a pictorial thanks to our sponsors in no particular order :
And as previously mentioned Tan Ean Kiam Foundation is one of the sponsors.
You can support funds for the book by purchasing a copy or more here
If you would like to bulk purchase books to donate to community organisations, drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org
And here’s a reminder of “who” this is all about:
To everyone who came, out heartfelt gratitude. To our official photographers, Lawrence Chong and Carolyn, thank you.
Look out for more stories about the launch and updates about the book in the blog under History : Books
Ethos Books and Singapore Heritage Society
Update: Snr Minister of State Desmond Lee (MND, MHA) will be the guest of honour and present books in appreciation to contributors after his address.
****Please note change in programme and we appreciate punctuality in attendance. Audience to be seated in Auditorium by 2.55pm.
Dress code: Casual
Saturday 9 April 2.30pm – 5.30 pm @ The URA Centre, 5th Floor Auditorium. 45 Maxwell Road, 069118.
Please register here: http://peatix.com/event/159461
2.30pm : Registration
3pm to 4 pm: Launch Programme:
Welcome Address: Editors
Presentation by Jon Cooper, War Archeologist : Stories Behind Battle at Cemetery Hill and The Adam Park Project
Slide Presentation of WWII @ Bukit Brown
Minister Desmond Lee Address, followed by Presentation of Book to Contributors and Sponsors
4pm-4.30 pm: Refreshments
4.35 pm – 5.45 pm Presentations on Panel Discussion
“The Role of Community Engagement — Shared Experiences”
Dr Chua Ai Lin, president Singapore Heritage Society : The Multiple Spaces of Bukit Brown (based on a paper with Dr Terence Chong)
Kok Heng Leun : “Socially-Engaged Art: Bukit Brown” – Key Note address by the Artistic Director of Drama Box and recently-appointed Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP). At the 2015 Singapore International Arts Festival, Heng Leun conceptualised an ambitious triple-bill production on Bukit Brown and the contestation over land use entitled ‘It Won’t Be Too Long’. In particular, the part called ‘The Lesson’ was a forum theatre piece around the construction of a fictional MRT station, and was performed in Drama Box’s inflatable Goli Theatre to audiences in Toa Payoh Central. ‘It Won’t Be Too Long’ received rave reviews and was one of ST Life’s Best Theatre productions of the year.
Following Heng Leun’s presentation, Chua Ai Lin and Jon Cooper will each respond briefly before the discussion is opened to the floor.”
Moderator: Assoc Prof Darren Koh, Head -Master of Taxation Programme, School of Law, UniSIM. Special interests, Chinese cemetery practices and culture
5.45 pm: Ends
The Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) and Ethos Books with All Things Bukit Brown (atBB) will launch WWII @ Bukit Brown on Saturday April 9, 2016 – a collection of stories, essays and poems which looks at the Japanese Occupation in the Second World War (1942-1945) and the impact on Singapore from the perspective of those interred at Bukit Brown Cemetery.
The highlight of the book is stories shared by descendants from family oral archives and albums of their ancestors who survived or perished in the darkest chapters of Singapore’s history.
Bukit Brown remains the largest cemetery in Singapore for the war dead in situ, and buried with them are many untold stories of bravery, resilience, tragedy, survival and amid the darkness, hope. The book offers new material and insights into the human tragedy of war as an act of commemoration, adding 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 battlefields of Europe in ways so unexpected they took our breath away,” said Claire Leow and Catherine Lim, the co editors of the book. “It is a slow and at times painful unraveling 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. We hope it serves as a curtain raiser to 2017, the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. ”
The stories are nested around essays – which provide context and background – written by the community of volunteers, who have come to be known as brownies under the banner of All Things Bukit Brown. They are neither historians nor academics but the editorial team conduct regular guided walks on site which in themselves are learning journeys as they expand on their body of knowledge from engaging with descendants and a myriad web of networks including academics and historians.
“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 illuminates 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 has been made possible with a grant from National Heritage Board and the help of generous contributions to the Singapore Heritage Society from its members and other well wishers.
The Editorial Team behind WWII@Bukit Brown, acknowledges in gratitude the support and encouragement of a community too many to name, and in recognition of this support have gifted the copyright for the book to the Singapore Heritage Society for the work they have done in heritage education and advocacy and Ethos Books for their support of home grown writing.
Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) was founded in 1987 and is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation and registered charity with Institution of Public Character (IPC) status. It 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 of the Dead: A Case from the Living (2011).
The Ethos Books imprint was founded in 1997 by Pagesetters Services Pte Ltd. The imprint focuses on publishing works by Singapore writers. The main genres are poetry, literary fiction, creative non-fiction, memoirs, and Heritage books. It has worked with the SHS before in jointly publishing “Spaces of the Dead. A Case from the Living”. Other heritage books published include “Faith in Architecture”; “Teo Eng Seng: Art and Thoughts”; “Memoirs of a Migrant”; and “The Politics of Defeat”.
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.
We are grateful to the Urban Redevelopment Authority URA for sponsorship of venue for the launch.
Information on our regular free guided weekend walks and public holidays under All Things Bukit Brown and registration is recommended is now available on Peatix. Please click on this link to register.
The guided walks usually begin at 9am and end at 12 pm, although there are sometimes walks in the afternoons from 4pm to 6.30pm and night walks. They are organised based on the availability of volunteers with the exception of the first weekend of every month, where there are guided walks available on a Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon, should you want to plan ahead.
The Battlefield Guided Walk conducted by Jon Cooper is available every last Sunday of the month.
Please take note of the new access routes and meeting points and check where the meeting point for your guided walks is on the event page.
If you are interested in organising a private guided walk for a minimum of 15 pax, please email email@example.com. As we all volunteers, weekends are easier to arrange then weekdays, weekdays means volunteers will need to take time of from work.
Useful information on guided walks and Directions to Bukit Brown
Our guided walks about two and half hours to three hours duration
Brownie Code: We guide rain or shine.
Please take note:
1. We will be walking through the undergrowth so dress appropriately, especially your footwear.
2. Wear light breathable clothing. Long pants and long sleeves if you are prone to insect bites or sunburn. Bring sunblock and natural insect repellent.
3. Wear comfortable non-slip shoes as safety is important. Walking sticks are recommended.
4. Do read up on Bukit Brown before going so you have a better understanding of the place
5. Do bring water, light snacks, poncho/umbrella, sunhat and waterproof your electronics.
6. Please go to the toilet before coming. There are NO facilities anywhere there or nearby.
How to get there by MRT / Bus:
Bus services available: 52, 74, 93, 157, 165, 852, 855.
From North: Go to Marymount MRT and walk to bus-stop #53019 along Upper Thomson Road. Take Buses 52, 74, 165, 852, 855
Alight 6 stops later at bus-stop, #41149, opposite Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Walk towards Sime Road in the direction of Kheam Hock Road until you see Lorong Halwa.
From South: Go to Farrer Road MRT and walk to bus-stop #11111 at Farrer Road, in front of Blocks 2 & 3. Take Buses 93, 165, 852, 855. Alight 5 stops later at bus-stop, #41141, just before Singapore Island Country Club (SICC), Adam Road. Cross the bridge, walk towards Sime Road, follow the road until you see Lorong Halwa.
Turn in from Lornie Road, to Sime Road. Then, turn left into Lorong Halwa, where parking is limited. Try to use public transport to get there.
Due to the road constructions, there are new access roads into Bukit Brown cemetery and the former entrance is closed and inaccessible.
As there are two roads going in, we have two new meeting points depending on which part of the cemetery the guided walk will cover. So, please check which meeting point is assigned to your tour to avoid confusion!
MEETING POINT A – Hill 2 & 5
The first meeting point is following the new access road to hill 2 & 5 and meet at the end of the access road. For photos of the location and parking info, see below.
MEETING POINT B – Hill 1, 3 & 4
The second meeting point is following the new access road to hill 1, 3 & 4 and meet at the platform at hill 1. For photos of the location and parking info, see below.
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)
“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:
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 :
The Battlefield tour
Sunday 19 July ’15, 9.30am – 11.30 am
Meeting point is at the pedestrian bridge on Sime Road entering Bukit Brown, opposite the SICC traffic light.
Please bring umbrella or poncho / sun block / mosquito repellent.
Please wear covered footwear.
Please register for a free tickets and more important information Here
Join Keng Kiat for a walk around the North-Western wedge of Bukit Brown, soon to be seperated from the main part of the cemetery due to the building of the highway … and hear him share stories of pioneers who are buried there, such as Tay Koh Yat, Cheong Koon Seng (of Koon Seng Road) and the Neo Tiew Family.
This guided walk starts at 4.30pm and ends at 7.00pm
Meeting Point: Bukit Brown entrance gates at Lorong Halwa. In the event that the old main Gate has been closed, kindly wait / meet at the new connecting road which is before the old road.
Difficulty: Average, some trekking required
Please bring umbrella or poncho / sun block / mosquito repellent.
Please wear covered footwear.
Please note: 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)
Please register at Peatix.