This exhibition invites viewers to take a stroll with artists through Selat, to explore different perspectives of being and becoming Singaporean through the lens of traditional Chinese arts. ‘Selat’, as an old name for Singapore, was later transliterated by early Chinese immigrants and became a popular colloquial name for the island, appearing in media ranging from classical poetry to everyday place-names.
The etymological excavation of this term ‘Selat’ inspires this exhibition. Taking phrases, objects, and experiences that shape our experiences of Singapore, we delve deeper into what they mean as cultural icons and find that they contain within them myriad influences, as diverse as Singapore’s history.
Through the art forms of seal carving, painting, and calligraphy, we will expressing our diverse heritage, whether linguistic, gastronomic, or literary. This exhibition will feature seal carvings inscribed with colloquial phrases, ink paintings featuring our food culture as intangible cultural heritage, and calligraphy expressing thoughts and emotions regarding Selat. By using artforms that are often perceived as archaic, we hope to subvert the presumed rigidity of Chinese culture and show how it is malleable and amenable to Singaporean experiences.
Image Credits: Dr Yew Tong Wei, 'Heng ah! Ong ah! Huat ah!', 2021. Courtesy of Siaw Tao Chinese Seal Carving, Calligraphy and Painting Society