As usual, the story must begin with Food
I’m sitting at the ‘Food for Thought’ Cafe, my last stop after exploring every nook and corner of the National Museum of Singapore. My feet hurt, my neck hurts (I blame my stupid fashion choices) and my hand hurts from not having written for a while.
My red velvet cake has just arrived. It looks a pale, faded burgundy – not at all like the vivid red ones liberally doused with food colouring that I’m used to back home.
I just tasted it. Not completely blown away. Didn’t get the hit of cream cheese that I was expecting. The cake is moist but a little bit undercooked (intentional?). I don’t know. All I know that today has been a very fruitful day.
Of Kempeitai and Rock n’ Roll
I wish I had the patience and attention span to read through every exhibit information board. But this visit really gave me an overview of the Singaporean spirit.
It’s a nation that’s been through a lot, particularly after the Japanese invasion – with the Kempeitai – Japanese secret police doing all they could to break the Singaporean spirit. The stories of how people survived is so beautifully documented. Stories of rationing food, clothes, getting creative to make what they had last and never, ever losing the spirit of industriousness.
I loved the exhibits where they showed images of Singaporean culture and how much it has been influenced by Western Culture. Take for example the recreation of the famous Jurong Drive-In.
I feel like I was transported back in time. Oh and don’t get me started on the interactive exhibits. AMAYJING.
Rich Oral History
I listened to audio clips of an old man singing the Japanese national anthem that he was forced to learn as a boy. There was also one of an Englishwoman describing how she made school uniforms for her children out of her wedding dress because of a lack of supplies. I loved the human touch that was instilled in every exhibit.
What a Learning Experience!
Another thing I really enjoyed was seeing all the school kids enjoy the Museum visit. It was super hilarious when a little girl dropped some sample exhibit and shouted “What shit!” out loud. It was even more fun (for me) when I saw that they had to write a report on their visit. The nosy creep that I am peeped into one boy’s book. The report was titled “How have different cultures contributed to the growth of Singapore?”. I really wish we all had a project like this in school. Maybe we’d grow up more tolerant (lol)
I thought oh, interesting topic. Then I saw the kids taking pictures. I heard one boy panicking “We need THREE sources”. Sources? What?? When I was in school our only source was the Internet and no one even questioned it. I don’t think even I understood most of what I wrote. I didn’t even attempt analysing anything, because we were just told to give the info – and not make anything of it.
It was so refreshing to hear young kids actually take the effort to understand what was in front of them and not be passive consumers. They had endless questions and nothing could have been more musical to my ears at the moment.
They were also very lucky to have a space like this where the history of their families was so meticulously and creatively stored. I could make three more trips to the Museum and still feel like I didn’t take in enough.
The building is a strange amalgamation of plastic, brick, steel and glass. But the inside feels like a warm teacher who is willing to let you move at your own pace, let you find your own path and direction and even lets you get distracted – while gently guiding you through the convoluted maze that is a nation’s history. Above all the museum lays itself bare – giving up all its secrets for you. All so that you can touch, learn and experience.
Ok that sounded too sexual (!!) but all in all, great day!
Being alone in a Museum could get boring – mainly because you have no one to share gasps of wonder with. But I made the most of it with some SnapChat puns. Me he he enjaay.