The trade of traditional crafts once enlivened the social and economic fields of old Singapore. When our ancestors came to Singapore from the south-eastern coast of China in the provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, and Hainan, the Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, and the Indian subcontinent, Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, and Puducherry during the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, they brought along their values as well as their livelihoods. These livelihoods include various forms of traditional crafts, including songkok, Indian jewellery, and paper dragon boats, which have largely enriched Singapore’s rich cultural heritage.
This book documents 28 traditional craft trades of Singapore. Many of these invaluable trades have vanished or will vanish in the next 20 years. Nevertheless, some of these traditional trades such as rattan weaving, textile dyeing, and candle making have laid the foundation for the rise of modern craftsmen. Several traditional tradespeople have adapted and upgraded their crafts and businesses with the help of new technologies, such as laser engraving techniques for wood carving and blade-sharpening machines for improving the quality of grinding. In this modern Singapore, traditional crafts and trades have slowly dwindled due to the radically shifting cultural scene. But with the craftspersons’ continued ingenuity and perseverance, the crafts trade will continue to evolve and survive regardless of the changing landscape.
The book is fully embossed to signify the vanishing of Singapore’s traditional trades and crafts. Only we humans can help conserve, support, and bring attention to the significance of this intangible cultural heritage of Singapore. The attached pastel chalk is for you to shade the pages and discover the lost arts of our ancestors.
Dr Jesvin Yeo is an enthusiast committed to preserving cultural heritage and traditional crafts related to Singapore. She studies 100-year-old buildings, cultural artefacts and interacts with traditional artisans to explore design innovations and sustainable social initiatives. She shared her knowledge of Singapore’s traditional crafts and art forms globally and locally through international seminars and exhibitions in London, Berlin, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Venice and Cheongju. Jesvin is currently Associate Professor of Design Art at Nanyang Technological University and author of Forgotten Heritage: Uncovering Singapore’s Traditional Chinese Puppets, Vanishing crafts, and Architectural decoration: Negotiating symbols across time and place. Visit her website at www.designingculturesstudio.com