Singapore honour pioneers of arts, heritage in glitzy event

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong chatting with Singaporean writer Stella Kon, author of Emily of Emerald Hill, during the Arts and Heritage Pioneer Generation Tribute 2015 yesterday. — TODAY pic
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong chatting with Singaporean writer Stella Kon, author of Emily of Emerald Hill, during the Arts and Heritage Pioneer Generation Tribute 2015 yesterday. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Jan 28 — She was inspired by the belief that culture and art can bring people together after she watched a father explain art to his son at a museum in London back in 1970.

To help nurture such bonds in Singapore, Mrs Tan Shook Fong decided to become a volunteer museum guide after she retired as the Health Ministry’s chief pharmacist in 2003.

“It was something that was missing here, because back then museums were very dark and had no themes, so nobody wanted to visit them,” said Mrs Tan, 74, referring to the lack of choices in the arts and culture scene in Singapore in the 1970s.

Mrs Tan, who has been a guide for museums under the National Heritage Board (NHB) for over a decade, was among 160 people honoured yesterday at the Arts and Heritage Pioneer Generation Tribute 2015.

Organised by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) as part of the SG50 celebrations, the event held at Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall (VTVCH) was a tribute to artists, patrons, advocates and volunteers who had contributed to Singapore’s arts, heritage and culture.

The event also saw the launch of A Monument To Our History, a heritage gallery located on Level 3 of the VTVCH. The gallery features paraphernalia such as posters, booklets, photos and oral history recordings, as well as footage of past performances contributed by arts groups, schools and members of the public.

Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong said: “Our pioneer artists have served in many ways. They used their craft and talents to bring communities together to build our nation ... inspiring a younger generation and passing on their experiences and values.”

Mrs Tan said today’s youth have started to show more interest in museums here. “(Museums) nowadays are very high-tech and very interactive, so many students whom I guided were more interested and even wanted to go back with their parents.”

Another person honoured yesterday was Ms Chng Seok Tin, 68, who is recognised as a pioneer of the modern printmaking practice in Singapore.

Ms Chng, who specialises in sculpturing and printmaking, lost 80 per cent of her sight in her right eye after surgery to remove a brain abscess in 1988.

Though her damaged eyesight proved to be a hindrance in her work, she continued to push on due to her passion in art.

“I have to hire helpers, and they don’t come cheap because they charge at least S$100 (RM260) a day,” said Ms Chng in Mandarin. “But I want to continue doing this to inspire the artists here.”

When asked what could be done to enhance the local art scene, Ms Chng said: “I think the Government can start to endorse local artworks here more often, and stop bringing oeuvres from overseas. If you want to see art from overseas, then go overseas.” — TODAY

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