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Preview: LumiNation 2020 by The Arts House


Singapore comes together in August to celebrate its independence. This National Day, The Arts House explores the lesser-known narratives that have shaped the country with LumiNation, the annual season celebrating the hidden histories and untold stories of Singapore’s communities. Returning for its third edition in 2020, this year’s festival will be held from 1st to 30th August as a virtual event with digital talks and video projects held across the month.

Themed “The Migration Edition”, LumiNation 2020 takes a timely look into how the intricate fabric of nationhood has been woven by the many communities that have found a home in Singapore. Through the illuminating lenses of individuals, authors, and academics, explore how the global phenomenon of migration is deeply connected with our individual sense of identity.

The Arts House has historically been a space for debate and discussion through its many identities as a court house and Singapore’s first Parliament House. LumiNation continues this legacy through its current role as Singapore’s national literary arts centre, programming talks and workshops that foster discourse and conversations about the nation.

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Shridar Mani, Programmer of LumiNation, shares: “LumiNation has always been about taking a step back from the image of Singapore that we all know and digging deep into the hidden histories that have been forgotten or left behind. This year, “The Migration Edition” reminds us of how Singapore’s narrative is made up of the stories of immigrants both past and present, people who have played an important role throughout the country’s history. Through this year’s programming, we hope to capture a greater sense of Singapore’s diversity and get people more acquainted with these communities”.

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Imagining Migration and Migrants in Singapore

Discover how migrants’ views of Singapore have evolved prior to and after their arrival in Singapore, through Imagining Migration and Migrants in Singapore. In this talk by Anju Mary Paul, she explores the power of imagination in constructing the identity of migrants in our society.

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Little Things We Cherish

This narrative continues on today as the nation is co-supported by an ecosystem of migrant workers, the focus of ethnomusicologist Tan Shzr Eee’s work. While the image of their labour can be ubiquitously seen across Singapore in neat residential estates and manicured urban landscapes, Tan urges us to listen instead to the Sounds of Precarious Labour: Transient Workers, Hidden Musicians as she shares more about her work excavating the soundscapes of a migrant worker’s day to reveal their unseen private lives. Further acquainting us with the members of this community is migrant worker poet Shivaji Das who offers a more intimate look into the people behind Singapore’s progress towards urbanisation. In this 15-minute video project titled Little Things We Cherish, hear migrant workers share candidly about themselves and get to know the individuals of this vibrant community.

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Orang Phebien Webisode #1: From ‘Merantau’ to ‘Menetap’

As a city of immigrants, Singapore’s national narrative is intertwined with the histories of various diasporas. Delve into the origins and stories of these communities through a series of programmes that reveal more about the journey of migration and the relationship between cultural heritage and a shifting sense of home. In collaboration with the Peranakan Association LumiNation presents Peranakan Communitya sharing about the history and movement of Peranakan communities across the Malay Archipelago. Spread across Penang, Melaka, and Singapore, find out about the distinct identities that have emerged as cultures interact.

As we celebrate Hari Raya Haji, also take a closer look at the Baweanese community in Singapore, a significant stop for Muslims on their Hajj pilgrimage to the Mecca. Through a series of short webisodes entitled Orang Phebien: The Baweanese in Singapore, explore their history, cultural practices, and perspectives from second and third-generation Baweanese living in Singapore.

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The Shape of Home Abodes in Colonial Singapore 

Urban architecture academic Imran Tajudeen also examines the importance of places within the concept of migration. Join him in The Shape of Home Abodes in Colonial Singapore as he talks about the intrinsic neighbourhoods that have formed through the arrival of the smaller migrant communities to Singapore. Examining the Chulia, Javanese, and Southern Chinese coolies of the 19th Century, Tajudeen traces the marks that they have etched on Singapore’s landscape—traces that can still be seen in the city’s streets today.

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Imperial Creatures

Finally, historian Timothy Barnard shifts our attention to a different kind of movement. In Imperial Creatures: Humans and Other Animals in Singapore, Barnard explores how the British colonial administration not only introduced a new status quo to society, but also foreign flora and fauna species that left an indelible effect on the indigenous populations which fundamentally altered Singapore’s ecosystem.

LumiNation 2020 runs from 1st to 30th August 2020 online. For more information, visit their website here

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