A new festival is honouring Singapore’s forgotten histories through art

With the Singapore Bicentennial shenanigans well under way, it’s natural to be apprehensive about what other government-endorsed Bicentennial programmes show up this 2019. The next one, however, is a complete 180 from the Sir Stamford Raffles gimmick. A brand new arts festival, The Future of Our Pasts Festival (TFOOPFest), hopes to bring Singapore’s micro-narratives to life, reimagining communities and places of the past and present through all forms of art.

Happening Feb 16-Mar 17, the month-long affair is the product of eleven projects from tertiary students and recent graduates here and abroad. Nothing is off the table; the festival will explore various facets of Singapore history—from more well-worn icons like the Sungei Road Thieves Market (exhibition Remembering Sungei), to lesser-known stories like the history of classical composition by Singaporean composers (Project Idiom). In the latter, a web documentary of interviews with these composers is complemented with an exhibition of manuscripts and artifacts, as well as a one-day concert performing the composers’ pieces.

Organised by Yale-NUS, TFOOPFest promises an immersive journey that’s both educational and enjoyable—and most importantly, sincere. Here are a few neglected stories worth checking out:

Orchard Road beyond its overpriced malls

Everyone knows Orchard Road is prime location, but what’s its real estate worth beyond its tourist foot traffic? Orchard: A Stroll Between Valleys takes a closer look at Orchard Road’s physicality—the architecture, natural landscape, and even history—in a public installation of water pipes and topography. Sign up for the walking tours on Mar 9 and 16 for a personal, in-depth trail around the central belt. Feb 19-Mar 14, outside Ngee Ann City

The ritual of remittance

We casually joke about the long remittance lines at banks, without ever taking into consideration the heart and devotion behind them. Well no longer; Intimacies presents an exhibition of remittance letters sent home by migrants in Singapore during the 20th Century. In exploring the historical value of these artefacts-in-their-own-right, the show digs into the socio-political and personal circumstances in which they were written. Feb 21-Mar 2, The Substation

Reclaiming SPGs

, A new festival is honouring Singapore’s forgotten histories through art

Hands up if you’ve ever made an SPG (Sarong Party Girl) jibe to a friend dating a Caucasian man. Fun fact: The term was first originated in the late 1940s to early 1950s when Singapore was still under British rule; local ladies invited to social functions wore a sarong. In music and mixed-media performance Sarong Party, they’re taking back the derogatory term and giving it new meaning—by expolring Singapore’s relationship with its colonial past. Look forward to an actual party of music, poetry and art around our colonial history. Feb 22-23, Lasalle

HDB’s hallowed histories

Before we were a thriving metropolis of skyscrapers and high-rise apartments, we were a literal low-level kampong. First Storeys investigates Singapore’s housing evolution beyond the usual awe-inspiring “kampong to metropolis” narrative, in a theatrical installation on the resettlement period from the ‘50s to ‘90s. Hear lesser-known stories of actual Resettlement Officers, challenges of resettlement, and initial reactions to the first HDB projects (we’ve got a feeling they won’t be pretty). Mar 1-10, 300 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee

Aside from installations and performances, TFOOPFest will also launch a handful of youth-produced publications and documentaries. Meantime, a zine of love stories from Singapore’s pasts, will revive the heartwarming tales of older couples who met in Singapore; graphic novel Boka di Stori brings to light the Kristang (Portugese-Eurasian) community in Singapore; and an interactive web documentary Merged should make former Tampines Junior College students nostalgic, in a multimedia exploration on Singapore’s largest school merger.

, A new festival is honouring Singapore’s forgotten histories through art

Want to get people invested in conversations about Singapore that don’t revolve around the British? Now that’s how you do it.

The Future of Our Pasts Festival happens Feb 16-Mar 17 at various locations. The full line-up and more information here.