Month-long Future of Our Pasts Festival launched to mark Singapore's bicentennial

SINGAPORE – History is far from boring – as organisers of The Future of Our Pasts Festival are aiming to prove with their month-long line-up of 11 multidisciplinary projects exploring lesser known stories of Singapore’s past.

The festival, by Yale-NUS College in support of the Singapore Bicentennial Office, will feature an interactive theatrical installation, films and graphic novels.

There will also be music performances called Sarong Party which features a performance reflecting on Singapore’s colonial legacy; trivia nights testing knowledge on Singapore’s history such as the various communities of the Straits Settlements; and a board game night where participants can fight for the favour of the Temenggong and discover treasures as an 1800s trader.

Other highlights of the festival include documentary films on Tampines Junior College before it merged with Meridian Junior College this year, and life as a young mixed race couple – a Malaysian Ceylonese Tamil male and a Chinese American female.

The festival, which was developed with a pool of young artists and cultural advocates, was launched at Golden Mile Tower’s The Projector on Saturday (Feb 16).

It was officiated by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung, who said he had approached Yale-NUS president, Professor Tan Tai Yong, to find ways to encourage youth to engage with Singapore’s history in personal, fresh and creative ways as part of the island’s bicentennial commemoration.

“Through the festival, the young creators are making history more relatable and accessible. This is an important endeavour as we try to connect with our past, gain a better understanding of our history, and better understand the soul of our nation and people,” said Mr Ong.

Prof Tan said open calls for proposals for the festival started in 2017. He said they were looking to support projects by young people that explore historical narratives that resonate with them. The creators then developed their projects over the past 18 months.

Said Prof Tan: “As a historian, I know full well that my subject of study is often seen as overly academic, textbook-based, even ‘boring’.

“Admittedly, it can sometimes be challenging for people to relate to a broad, national historical narrative on any deep personal level. The Future of Our Pasts Festival seeks to change that perception of history.”

Other projects include a magazine called Meantime, which features a collection of love stories from yesteryear. The magazine carries old photographs such as of a couple’s first date at a cinema in the 1950s, a wedding shoot at a studio in the 1960s and a family day out at the amusement park in the 1970s.

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