The Lost Cities Exhibition: A Meeting of Historical Kampong Traditions and Present-day Perspectives
For those in Singapore between 18 August and 1 October, immerse yourself in this cultural reimagining melding the island-city’s past and present.
By Sidney Yuen
“Kampong spirit” has long been a part of Singapore’s history, stemming from the period before Dutch and Portuguese traders landed on the island’s shores. Kampong translates to “village” in Bahasa Melayu, Singapore’s national language as well as one of the oldest known and most commonly spoken language native to the Malay archipelago. Kampong spirit is a resultant cultural collocation coined to describe positive communal attitude and solidarity between a multi-ethnocultural people, though a common consensus has formed amongst Singaporeans in recent times that kampong spirit has been slowly chipped away at, mostly owing to how the island city experienced a rapid restructuring of its social compact when it skyrocketed from small fishing port under colonial rule to its current standing as one of Asia’s most developed economies in just 58 years since its independence.
The story of the island’s humble beginnings as village fishing and trading port may be common knowledge, but less is known about the way of life native islanders shared with each other further along its busy shores.
What did community life look like on the island before the rapid growth and blooming of the city-state known as Singapore, and what does a meaningful interaction between its past and present look like? That is precisely what the Oval Partnership sought to investigate in the Lost Cities exhibition.