by Raymond Ang

We visited Bukit Brown on a warm Saturday morning on June 7th , to find that the usual scene to the cemetery gates changed. There are now fences leading all the way to the gates. Clearly the construction for the highway has started.

I had brought my students from the Jakarta Nanyang School here to Bukit Brown to learn more about the links between Indonesia and Singapore. The students sweltered in the humidity. I had two groups and one group had lost their way. They had set off from Nanyang Girls’ High School and one of them took a wrong bus.

Beng from the heritage group for Bukit Brown arrived on his bicycle dressed in green cargo pants and wellies. He wore “the” plastic Casio digital watch – the one I wore growing up in Secondary school. He had jerry rigged a plastic bottle to act as a mud guard for the rear wheel of his bicycle. I knew I was going to like him already.

Just as Claire arrived in a taxi, the group that was lost called me on the phone. They were still trying to figure out where they are. Their teacher was from Jakarta too and didn’t know her way around. We decided to start the walk with the one group of students first.

Claire led the way and started to draw connections between the pioneers’ lives, history and culture in Singapore and Indonesia for the students. The tombstones started to mean more than just a random collection of stone, concrete and tiles. The Japanese attack and occupation of Singapore was a large theme – Mr Tay Koh Yat had fled to Batavia on the second last day of the fall of Singapore.

JNV Students with Claire Leow at Tay Koh Yat(photo Raymond Ng)

JNY Students with Claire Leow at Tay Koh Yat (photo Raymond Ng)

Mr Lee Kuan Yew had family ties in Indonesia. Though bothered by mosquitoes and the heat, the students trudged on. Beng brought out his insect repellant and sprayed the students down. I had told the students to bring some repellent yesterday, but I guess no one did.

We found out that the other group were on the other side of the hill – Mount Pleasant. Beng offered to go get them and dashed off on his bicycle. Claire drew the connections between saga seed and karats for diamonds; between colourful European tiles, Japanese innovation and adaptation and the Ming Chinese influence on Dutch kitchen tiles.

We visited Ong Sam Leong’s tomb and learned about fengshui and distinctive role of Sikhs in Singapore’s colonial history. This is the Nanyang style. One of my students asked me what would happen when the highway gets built. I replied that all this would disappear eventually – she didn’t seem to quite understand. “But it is interesting”, she said. “Yes I agree. I don’t think there is anything else quite like it in the world.” She frowns. “So it would all be gone?”. I nodded. It was sweltering hot. Some of the students were running low on water. Beng pulls out his canteen and starts topping up bottles. I feel very grateful and touched, but wasn’t sure how to express that. So I just smiled and made a mental note.

JNY Students with Beng Tang _photo Raymond Ng

JNY Students with Beng Tang (photo Raymond )

We ended the tour with a visit to Mr Tan Chor Nam’s tomb. It is simple and distinctively modern. A rectangular plot with a black rectangular headstone. No angels nor lions here. Herein lies one of the founders of Nanyang Girls’ High School. I asked the students to observe the differences between this tomb and the others we have visited in the morning – they could clearly see the difference. The principle of Nanyang Girls High (Singapore), Mdm Heng had told me once that Mr Tan Chor Nam had died a simple man – apparently he had dedicated a large part of his fortune in setting up the school. I tried to draw the connections between Nanyang Girls’ High School and the sister school in Jakarta, and asked the students to maybe think about how they would like to be remembered in the future.

For me Bukit Brown is a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of giants who have come before us, and shaped the environment in which we have grown and “become”. “What would your legacy be?” I asked? The students looked back at me without speaking. It was a serious question. Maybe too serious. I smiled and said, “alright, you don’t have to tell me. Just think about it.” I hope they do.

****

Raymond Ang, a Singaporean, is the Head of Experiential Education Centre at the JNY, the Jakarta Nanyang School. He requested a visit to Bukit Brown when his students were on a week long learning journey to Singapore. Brownies Claire Leow and Beng Tang, who stepped up to the plate, despite the late notice, were very impressed with how engaged the students were and their independence as they had to find their own way to Bukit Brown.

JNY Students at Ong Sam Leong (photo All Things Bukit Brown)

JNY Students at Ong Sam Leong (photo All Things Bukit Brown)

3rd June 2014

Tomb Measurement 2-Day Workshop with Dr. Lai Chee Kien

NB: There has been a change in starting time for Session one at NLB from 1 pm to 1.15pm.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(photo Lai Chee Kien)

Places available: :30

Session One  : 1.15pm -4pm, Saturday 14 June 2014

Location: Imagination Room, 5th floor, National Library, Victoria Street

 Session Two  3.30pm- 6.30pm, Saturday  21 June 2014,

Location: Bukit Brown Cemetery Gate (meeting point)

1)  Description:

From 2011-2013, several architecture students supervised Dr Lai Chee Kien have measured tombs at the former Bukit Brown Municipal Cemetery as an attempt to record the historical and unique types and hybrids found in the cemetery, now under threat of road development. This workshop aims to share the basics of measuring objects and buildings, but with a focus on the experiences of measuring tombs at Bukit Brown. It is hoped that design students and members of the public can learn the basics of tomb measurement, and in future volunteer to record other significant tombs, or those of deceased relatives. These will serve as archival records in the future for all.

2) Scope

14 June 2014 (Theory session)

(a) Introduction to measuring objects and buildings

(b) Methods, tools, and practices

(c) Tomb types and features

(d) Inhouse practice session

21 June 2014 (Practical session at Bukit Brown)

(e) Introduction to Bukit Brown

(f) Groupwork: measuring a small tomb

3. Things to bring (theory session)

(a) A4 clipboard

(b) Measuring tape (5m or more)

(c) Pen or pencil (paper will be provided)

[Items for practical will be discussed at theory session]

4. Pre-requisites

(a) Participants who have attended guided tours of Bukit Brown cemetery would be appreciated.

(b) Participants who have prior 3D drawing knowledge (architects, designers, architectural and design students) would have an advantage.

(c) Participants are required to attend both the theory and practical sessions.

Disclaimer: By agreeing to participate in the practical session held at 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.

To register, please email latest Wednesday 11   June’2014 to : a.t.bukitbrown@gmail.com
with Subject; Registration for Tomb Measurement Workshop.Participants to indicate name, IC, contact number, email and relevant interest/experience as stated in 4 (a) and (b). Successful applicants will be informed by email. 

About Dr. Lai Chee Kien:

Dr Lai is a registered architect, and graduated from the National University of Singapore with an M Arch. by research [1996], and then a PhD in History of Architecture & Urban Design from the University of California, Berkeley [2005]. He researches on histories of art, architecture, settlements, urbanism and landscapes in Southeast Asia

Lai Chee Kien of the documentation team (photo: Claire Leow)                 Dr.  Lai Chee Kien of the documentation team (photo: Claire Leow)

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take walking tours  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) Useful info here: Getting There/游览信息

Sun 8 June’14 9am – 11.30am  Meeting place: At the Lor Halwa Main gates at Bukit Brown

Sikh guards are a unique part of Singapore history, and the Sikh guards of Bukit Brown are our unique heritage. They were favored by the British and the Chinese alike and provided a snapshot of how the Chinese community evolved to adopt other local cultures, thus becoming more Singaporean. Join Peter Pak and Ishvinder Singh as they take you on a visit of a Major, a tomb with a Sikh guard engulfed by a tree, the Sikh guards protecting the largest tomb in BB, the iconic Sikh guards of Chew Geok Leong and other Sikh guards that we may stumble upon as we get “lost” in Hill 3. If you have a FB account please register here. No worries if you don’t, just turn up. Your Guides: Listen to Ish in  Search of a Shared Heritage: Ishvinder Singh at TEDxYouth@Singapore http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LxxT00CtBo Read about Sikh Guards of Bukit Brown by Peter Pak. Further reading on Sikh Guards : Reputation: The Guardians of the Spirit World Bukit Brown-

The Sikh Guards at Chew Geok Leong (photo Peter Pak)

The Sikh Guards at Chew Geok Leong (photo Peter Pak)

 

 

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take walking tours  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)

Useful info here: Getting There/游览信息

Sat 24 May, 4pm – 6.30pm  Meeting place: At the Lor Halwa Main gates at Bukit Brown

Join Claire Leow and Bianca Polak for a guided walk to introduce you to the pioneers of Bukit Brown, rites and rituals and tomb culture.

If you have a FB account please register here. No worries if you don’t, just turn up.

Beauty shots  5 (photo public domain)

 

 

 

Date: Saturday, 7 June’14, 2 pm – 4 pm

“As part of Post-Museum’s participation in the group exhibition Unearthed, Woon Tien Wei will speak about our efforts regarding Bukit Brown, as well as our artwork on show (The Bukit Brown Index).

Peter Chen will also be speaking at the same session, on his photography work about Bukit Brown and Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

The talk is free and will be held in the Glass Hall at the Singapore Art Museum.
Please register with Singapore Art Museum at http://www.eventbrite.sg/e/unearthed-conversations-post-museum-peter-chen-tickets-11328544983.

About the exhibition :

Post-Museum will be exhibiting 8 works from The Bukit Brown Index in Unearthed.

Mar 21 – 6 Jul : 10am – 7 pm

Unearthed seeks to investigate our relationship with Earth and the natural world, and charts SAM’s ( Singappore Art Museum) new direction in encompassing and presenting projects and practices where art intersects with other disciplines and modalities. Drawing on works from SAM’s permanent collection as well as private collections, the exhibition at SAM offers an insight on how artists in Singapore view and respond to the natural world, coming from and living in such an urban and built-up environment.

The other artists who are in the exhibition include Lucy Davis, Debbie Ding, Ho Tzu Nyen, Donna Ong, Ezzam Rahman, Robert Zhao Renhui, and Twardzik Ching Chor Leng.

Bukit Brown Index Post Museum

[Image: Installation view of Bukit Brown Index #98: List of Names of the Deceased to be Exhumed to Make Way for the New 8-Lane Road through Bukit Brown and Seh Ong Cemeteries (Unclaimed Tombs as of 1 March 2013) Handwritten by Members of the Public]

 

 

 

By Perry Tan, Standard Chartered Bank

On a misty Saturday morning, 33 volunteers from Standard Chartered Bank congregated at a most unlikely venue – Bukit Brown Cemetery.

Cleaning Tombs 2_Perry Tan

(photo montage by Perry Tan)

This is no ordinary cemetery. Home to 100,000 tombs, Bukit Brown  which opened in 1922  as a municipal cemetery  is part of a complex of older adjoining clan cemeteries. The complex is  the biggest outside of China. Its historical significance is substantial, and  include  tombs that date back to the last days of the Qing dynasty from  the 1840s which were relocated from private burial grounds and clan cemeteries which had to make way for development.  Bukit Brown is listed on the World Monuments Watch list 2014 as a heritage site threatened by the development of an 8 lane highway.

Armed with water bottles, shovels, saws, garden shears and other equipment, we were ready to explore the cemetery and clean up some of the tombs.

We were joined by seven Brownies, veteran citizen volunteers who dedicate their time and expertise to preserving Bukit Brown. The Brownies were our tour guides and provided cleaning work supervision, while we played tourists before offering our helping hands in tomb cleaning.

We started with the Brownies taking us on a walking tour that educated us on the history, culture, and heritage of the cemetery, as well as the rich stories of the men and women who were laid to rest. Bukit Brown is the final resting place for many famous pioneers of Singapore. We walked through the dirt tracks, stopped by prominent tombs and listened to numerous stories of many pioneers of Singapore – educators, scholars, doctors, businessmen, bankers, philanthropists, and the common men who built up the city state during its early days. Many of the names, like Chew Joo Chiat, Chew Boon Lay and Gan Eng Seng, were names that were not unfamiliar to us.

Next, we literally rolled up our sleeves and split into groups. Supervised by the Brownies, we proceeded to clean up several tombs that had been covered with vegetation, roots and dirt, restoring dignity to the pioneers resting below. We pulled weeds and shrubs, chopped at overgrown roots and dangling branches, scraped and removed algae, swept away fallen leaves, and wiped grime off the tomb stones. It was a good solid three hours of sweaty and grubby hard work, but the sense of satisfaction was immeasurable when we inspected our handiwork at the end of the session, knowing that we made a contribution towards the preservation of a heritage site of such significance.

Cleaning Tombs_Perry Tan

(photo montage Perry Tan)

The day culminated in a finale where we trekked to the magnificent tomb of Ong Sam Leong, where we were treated to a top-of-a-hill view and stories of the biggest tomb in Bukit Brown.

At the end of the day, we shook hands to express mutual appreciation with the Brownies. Something tells us that this would not be the last community activity at Bukit Brown as several volunteers have expressed their desire to be back for more.

Shaking Hands_Perry Tan

(photo montage Perry Tan)

***

Stanchart Cleanup _Claire Leow

Brownie Khoo Ee Hoon briefing Stanchart volunteers (photo Claire Leow)

The Standard Chartered Clean-up took place on  Saturday 26 April 2014

The Brownies will be conducting 2 special walks as part of the urban community movement called Jane’s walk. There are other walks at various parts of the city as well and you will need to sign up at the website for the Jane’s walk of your interest.

Here is the link to all the Jane’s walks that will be conducted in the weekend of Fri 2 May’14 till Sun 4 May’14.

To sign up follow the link on the Jane’s walk page or go there directly here.
An Evening Stroll into the Past (Sat 3rd May’14 @7.00pm)

Lorong Halwa gates (photo: Theresa Teng)

Lorong Halwa gates (photo: Theresa Teng)

Andrew & Beng will throw a light on the lives and times of the Pioneers at the turn of 20th century Singapore in this special dusk to dark stroll from Bukit Brown Cemetery to McRitchie carpark. Listen to stories of the pioneers that helped build Singapore, while looking out for night birds such as night jars and owls during a leisurely stroll through the cemetery. Please note, to bring your own torch lights for this guided walk.
We will end the walk at the McRitchie carpark.
…. read more

Heritage Walk Botanic Gardens to Bukit Brown (Sun 4th May’14 @8.00am)

Bukit Brown (photo: Bianca Polak)

Bukit Brown (photo: Bianca Polak)

Join Claire and Bianca on a tour starting at the Botanic Gardens MRT from where we’ll walk to Jacob Ballas garden carpark (for those who drive they can join us there). We’ll pass by the old Command House along Kheam Hock Road, and into the trail at Bukit Brown, exploring the remnants of a kampung after which we’ll cross over into the cemetery. Along the way we’ll share stories of the WWII war heroes and stories, tales of the kampung, and some of Singapore’s prominent pioneers and an introduction into Chinese tomb designs. We encourage participants to share their personal stories along the way as well.

 

Useful info here: Getting There/游览信息

 

 

Disclaimer: By agreeing to take walking tours  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)

Useful info here: Getting There/游览信息

Friday 18 April, 9am – 11.30am.  Meeting place: At the Lor Halwa Main gates at Bukit Brown

Fabian and Steven will be guiding a tour on the Straits Settlement and life in the early days in Singapore. Get enriched by their stories of how pioneers, revolutionaries, missionaries and merchants alike  settled in Singapore.

If you have a facebook account please register  here . This is to help us keep track of numbers turning up

Sunday 20 April, 9am – 11.30am.  MEETING POINT: Junction of Lorong Halwa, Kheam Hock Road and Sime Road

What makes Bukit Brown so fascinating is the many layers of history academics and amateurs alike have uncovered. This is where Chinese pioneers were buried between 1922 and 1973. Their lives – prosperous and paupers – paint a society that blossomed after Stamford Raffles landed and made this part of the Straits Settlements, a gem in the British empire in the Far East. The links to Penang, Malacca and Johor speak of the colonial empire. The links to Java and Sumatra tell of the maritime empires under the British and the Dutch. The lives of the revolutionaries and reformists speak of a struggle for identity with the fall of Imperial China.

In the 1940s, this was site of fierce battles involving British (4th Suffolks) and Indian (Royal Deccan Horses) forces, near a village of Chinese and Malay civilians had lived.

Your guides are Claire, Ish  and Yik Han.  Together they will help piece together the importance of our multifaceted history laid bare in a cemetery. We welcome anyone with knowledge of personal stories to share them with us on the trail.

NOTE: A documentary film crew will also be attending the tour and filming. By agreeing to the tour, you agree to be on film.  We thank you for your understanding as we agreed to the filming as part of the outreach to raise awareness of this historic site.

If you have a facebook account please register here

“We guide rain or shine or exhumations.” – we urge you to wear sensible shoes, carry a bottle of water, put on insect repellent, and come with an open mind as we explore together. We share and talk as we walk, and learn from each other. Our walking tours are meant to be learning journeys, for both participants and guides. We believe in building communities and growing organically.

Sunday 20th April, 9am – 12pm Mandarin Guided Walk with Walter Lim

武吉布朗中文导览
丘菽园是家喻户晓的诗人报人,他创办天南与振南两份报刊,晚年为星洲日报编辑,并先后创设丽泽社、乐群文社、道南文社等诗社。冯蕉衣因为被郁达夫赏识,在他去世的时候写了一篇追悼文章,因此许多人曾经听闻这位潮州诗人的名字,但是关于他的诗集以及个人事迹流传不多。康研秋是和邱菽园同一年代的福州诗人,经常和邱菽园等人在报章发表诗词,但作品却未曾整理成诗集。梅泉宝接办南洋新总汇报,身为东主,他精通中英,写的一手好文章,但较深为人知的却是明珍庐(晚晴园)的原主人。另外还有陈楚楠,他和张永福先后创办总汇报和中兴报,而林镜秋却以三民主义的文章闻名,但他们却被视为革命家多过文人。我们可以看到当时的新加坡人材辈出,但文化绿洲何以成为文化沙漠?

 

PLEASE NOTE: These are the last guided walks before a 2 week break for QingMing. Guided walks will resume on the weekend of April 19th.

Meeting Point for all  guided walks is at the main gates entrance at the end of Lorong Halwa

Getting There/游览信息

If you have a facebook account, please register on the FB event page to give us an idea of numbers. If you don’t, no worries, just turn up at the gates.

Friday 21 Mar, 6.30 pm – 8.30pm : A stroll into the past with Andrew Lim

Andrew will throw a light on the lives and times of the Pioneers at the turn of 20th century Singapore in this special dusk to dark stroll. Please note, to bring your own torch lights for this guided walk.

FB registration here

Sat 22 Mar, 9am -11.30am :  Morning stroll of Hills 1 & 3 with Bianca Polak and Mil Phuah

They will be sharing stories of the past, tomb designs, and simply enjoying the walk in the greenery.

FB registration here

Sun 23 Mar, 9am-11.30am : Mandarin Guided Walk : 武吉布朗华语导览

一个小岛国的城市绿洲,武吉布朗,历史与丛林交汇的世外桃源!

武吉布朗导览义工 Fabien Tee和Yik Han 将为大家介绍安葬于武吉布朗墓园的新加坡开埠先驱及达官显要,这些先贤在二十世纪上半叶为新加坡作出了巨大的贡献.

我们也将探讨他们当时所处的历史背景。

在亲身瞻仰这些先贤的坟墓之余,大家也有机会认识墓碑和坟墓的不同设计及相关风水,以及了解华人的殡葬习俗。

陆路交通管理局授权的工程公司已经准备动工挖掘与迁坟,再过不久,4153座先贤的坟墓与遗骸将被发掘殆尽,道路工程也会开始,新加坡仅存的值得保留的历史遗迹也将被铲除。时间所剩不多,要了解武吉布朗的历史与文化价值就要赶紧参加我们的导览团。

Facebook registration here

 

 

 

 

 

Meeting Point for all  guided walks is at the main gates entrance at the end of Lorong Halwa

If you have a facebook account, please register on the FB event page to give us an idea of numbers. If you don’t, no worries, just turn up at the gates.

Sat 15  March 2014 :  9am -11.30am – Introduction to Bukit Brown with Zhi Hao

FB registration here

Sun 16 March 2014 : 9 pm -11.3oam -  Heritage Walk with Fabian and Simone

Facebook registration here

The Brownies will shine a light on pioneers and  introduce you to tomb culture.

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)

For information on how to get to Bukit Brown : http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=7250

For safety tips http://bukitbrown.com/main/?p=1347

 

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