Art What! Arts National Gallery Singapore Visual Art

The National Museum of Singapore and the Maybank Foundation celebrate the diverse intangible cultural heritage of Singapore and Southeast Asia with new series of commissioned videos

From food to performing arts, Southeast Asia’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is an important link to our past and intrinsic to our rich cultural identity. To pay homage to the time-honoured traditions and living expressions that define and connect us across the region, the National Museum of Singapore and the Maybank Foundation will be presenting a series of four original video artworks on the Museum’s LED Wall that showcase creative contemporary responses to the theme of intangible cultural heritage (ICH). 

Titled Spinning Connections: Creative Takes on Intangible Cultural Heritage, the commissioned artworks were selected from entries submitted through an Open Call exercise held between April to May last year, to foster collaboration with the artistic community to engage audiences on important contemporary issues. Each artwork highlights an aspect of ICH, namely food, dance, martial arts and storytelling, while drawing connections to the National Museum’s collection. The artworks bring contemporary resonance to the past and invite visitors to understand the present in different ways. 

While ICH evolves over generations, it is also facing contemporary challenges such as rapidly changing lifestyles. These videos utilise a mix of artistic styles to inspire reflections on the enduring importance and relevance of ICH today. The four video artworks are:

  • Gestures of One by Biome Entertainment that explores Singaporean cultural heritage and its global outreach through cinematic language. Referencing Chinese, Malay and Indian dance forms as an act of communication, dialogue and interaction with one another and the space, this artwork is suggestive of an interconnected heritage and seeks to welcome audiences into a dream-like experience of what unites us, with the intention to inspire harmony, solidarity and hope.
  • Highlighting the importance of food as the universal ‘language’ embraced by all, Addpetizer’s Re(union) surveys the ways in which rice is used as a central ingredient across a selection of local and regional dishes. The unifying quality of the humble crop symbolises the coming together of cultures through food heritage, giving rise to a variety of dishes that form part of Singapore’s hawker and food heritage. 
  • Kilat Kan Silat by Paradise Pictures is driven by the desire to celebrate and bring awareness to the power and beauty of the martial art Silat Tua, which has deep roots in the culture and traditions of Southeast Asia. Inspired by the etymology of the word ‘kilat’, which could be variously read as ‘lightning’, ‘bright’ or ‘shining’, the film showcases Silat Tua as a contemporary art form and endeavours to bring the practice into the spotlight, to inspire others to appreciate and celebrate the cultural richness of Singapore and the Nusantara region.
  • Meaning ‘honey’ in Malay, Madu by Studio 1914 is a retelling of a fairytale from traditional Southeast Asian honey hunters, which attempts to rejuvenate our connection between our cultural heritage and nature by uncovering living linkages. The synthesised images of Madu were developed by training an artificial intelligence (AI) model on selected datasets from the National Museum of Singapore’s William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings.

Chung May Khuen, Director of the National Museum of Singapore, said, “While Singapore has come a long way to become the global city that we know and love today, we hold dear to us our roots and traditions that tie us back to the larger, culturally rich Southeast Asia region. Through this meaningful partnership with the Maybank Foundation, we were able to engage with our regional artists and creatives to continue exploring the region’s multifaceted ICH and co-create new works that will refresh and enhance our understanding of our heritage. In a rapidly changing world, we hope that these video artworks will spark conversations and discussions on the value of ICH, as Singapore and the region balance the need to preserve our heritage with growing modernity.”

Ms Izlyn Ramli, Chief Executive Officer of Maybank Foundation adds, “Southeast Asia is a rich wellspring with the region’s diverse cultures. We are excited to be supporting the National Museum of Singapore in the second Open Call series, to provide an opportunity for artists in this region to showcase their interpretations of our diverse ICH through relevant and familiar ways. We hope this collaboration will continue to encourage more Southeast Asian artists to reflect on how their art can empower and inspire their communities to preserve the region’s ICH.”

Photo Credit: National Museum Singapore

Spinning Connections is on display until 6th August 2023. More information about the showcase can be found at

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