The Oval Partnership, a Patron of the Singapore Night Festival 2023, presents a journey to Kampong Port Cities of the 14th Century through an exhibition, artists interpretation and a panel discussion.
SINGAPORE 11 August 2023 – DORMANT stories of our land from 700 years ago — a woman village leader, sustainable kampung life, and street dancing — will be reawakened at the Singapore Night Festival 2023 (SNF).
Through the magic of multimedia storytelling, visitors to “Singapore, the Great Port City” at SNF will be transformed into denizens of a “kampung city”, to experience life in a pre-colonial era. The immersive journey upturns the narrative of this island’s past as a sleepy fishing village, highlighting exemplary practices that continue to influence today’s modern nation.
Before it became Singapore, the island 700 years ago, was always part of Malay seafaring and trading. Its significance as a port came later, about 200 years ago, when the British restored power to the Sultans.
The Oval Partnership’s findings revealed the bustling port and trading cities in 14th Century Southeast Asia functioned as “decentralised kingdoms” in the region, even before the Dutch and Portuguese arrived in the 15th Century. Discoveries include traits about Malay culture prior to Singapore’s modern identity, and how kampung living thrived across Melaka, and other parts of Malaysia and Indonesia.
Reigniting nuances of heritage reduced to social media sound bites is critical to inspiring creative thought about the future, said Mr Chris Law, Founding Director of The Oval Partnership and visionary behind the exhibition.
“This event recreates the experience of a bygone age, and enables attendees to explore how life was lived then,” he said. “Now we have a clearer sight of where we came from, and how we were shaped. It deepens our understanding of the giants whose shoulders we stand on, so we can build a better world for the generations that come after us.”
BUILDING A CULTURE OF CO-CREATION
The Oval Partnership collaborated with Singapore Management University (SMU) students, as well as Singapore Institute of Technology’s (SIT) research group, to revisit cultural elements indicating sustainable practices, gender equality and cultural modernity.
The Oval Partnership organized research workshops and visits to Kampong Lorong Buangkok and Pulau Ubin, where participants documented oral histories of villagers. The students then created their own artworks based on their experiences and responses, which will be displayed in Zone B (Present) as part of an exhibition.
In addition, Oval invited a research group from SIT to present their project works and a published book titled “Project Kampong Lorong Buangkok.” The exhibition of their works and book will also be featured in Zone B (Present). The SIT research group was led by Dr. Intan Azura Mokhtar, who is an Associate Professor and Deputy Director of the Community Leadership and Social Innovation Centre (CLASIC) at SIT. The group included Dr. Jawn Lim Tze-Hin, Dr. Charles Carroll, and Dr. Agnes Xue Lishan from SIT’s Business, Communication, and Design Cluster.
Works from SMU students who went for the site visit will also be presented at the exhibition’s Zone B (Present).
This initiative is just the beginning. The Oval Partnership’s ongoing research collaborations with leading institutions of higher learning (IHLs), and co-creating with communities where it has a presence, reflects its mission to study and preserve the region’s natural history.
Working as a heritage ally to more IHLs and individuals with a stake in the pre-colonial history of Southeast Asia, it aims to restore fresh perspectives about the region, such as its position as a hub of constant activity including trading, deal-making, and an exchange of ideas.
The Oval Partnership hopes to extend its work into Thai and Vietnamese cultures, and invites those interested in these cultures to participate by emailing Audrene Lam at email@example.com.
ENTER A WORLD OF “LOST CITIES”
Audiences stepping into the extraordinary world of the “Lost Cities Exhibition” will embark on an immersive journey into the Kampong Cities of 14th-century Southeast Asia — a progressive culture.
Seven hundred years ago this region was already an international trading zone, where traders came with exquisite items that represented material wealth as much as knowledge—from Japan, China, India, Burma, the Arabian Gulf, and Venice. In this egalitarian setting, women had as many rights as men in most aspects.
As SMU students documented stories about the last two kampungs in Singapore — Pulau Ubin and Kampong Lorong Buangkok — they further discovered their sustainable practices and ways of living.
Over several months of fieldwork at Kampong Lorong Buangkok, they shaped the story of the exhibition’s fictional protagonist, a village leader, on the captivating story of its landlady, Ms Sng Mui Hong. The daughter of the kampung’s founder and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, Mr Sng Teow Koon, continues to have daily interactions with other residents. Working with them, she helps to resolve conflict, and encourage purpose.
The exhibition is further enriched by intricate details about kampung living in precolonial port cities, providing insights into a previously little-known world.
REVISITING A GREAT PORT CITY
In addition to SMU, The Oval Partnership also worked with SIT to transport audiences to a re-imagined village at the Bras Basah.Bugis (BBB) precinct from 700 years ago.
“Singapore, the Great Port City” recalls the country’s critical position in the region.
As a pearl in a vibrant network of global maritime trade, it was already prosperous. Even back then, the region was a centre of economic, social and governance innovation. It shared the dynamic and interconnected culture of port cities along the Straits of Melaka including Aceh, Kedah, and Malacca.
SNF returns to its full scale with an emphasis on post-pandemic themes such as sustainable living and climate action, which have become more compelling to global audiences since 2020.
This year’s exhibition uncovers Singapore’s relationship to its neighbours along the Melaka Straits, diving deeper into the port-city heritage. It has a strong focus on restoration and preservation, centred on the following themes:
* Heritage refers to bringing back and reinstating lost practices.
* Sustainability looks at from the House to the City – the Best Sustainability Development and Practices in the Kampong Port Cities in terms of Environmental, Social and Governance.
* Community refers to rediscovering Vestiges of Kampong Heritage, centered on studies of Kampong Lorong Buangkok and Pulau Ubin.
Aligned with The Oval Partnership’s renowned commitment to preserving heritage and sustainability while designing tomorrow’s built environment, the group is proud to be Patron of SNF.
DON’T MISS A GOLDEN ERA
Date: August 18 to October 1, 2023
Weekdays: 10am to 6pm
Weekends: 10am to 10pm
Venue: Fort Canning Centre
Journey through Singapore’s golden era from 18 August to 1 October at Fort Canning Centre. Join us on this immersive expedition into the captivating realm of kampung culture, to uncover a history going back nearly a millennium, legacy remains in modern-day Singapore. Experience the unique perspective of a fictional tale led by a visionary female kampung chief and embark on an exploration of this society in harmony with the natural world.
JOIN OUR PANEL DISCUSSION
Date: August 16, 2023
Venue: Fort Canning Centre/ Online
Time: 7pm to 8pm
Register here: https://www.ovalpartnership.com/en/exhibition-panel-discussionrsvp
It is about the sustainability model of the kampung port cities during the pre-colonial era, given our current model based on fossil fuel energy and its collateral effect on our society and environment. Featuring Chris Law (Foundering Director of The Oval Partnership), Dr. Johannes Widodo (the Director of the Graduate Programmes in Architectural Conservation, and Tun Tan Cheng Lock Centre for Asian Architectural and Urban Heritage in Melaka of the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore), Dr. Barnabas Calder (the Head of the History of Architecture Research Cluster, University of Liverpool), and Mr. Clement Onn, (the Principal Curator at Asian Civilisations Museum).
Kampong Port Cities of the Pre-colonial Era Exhibition will take place at Fort Canning Centre. For more details, please visit: https://www.ovalpartnership.com/en/news/kampong-port-cities-of-the-pre-colonial-era-exhibition