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Nov 29, 2011

When Nations Remember II Conference

Mr. Shaik Kadir: Sharing by Partners of the Singapore Memory Project - Growing up in Geylang Serai.

Excerpt from The Straits Times, Nov 29, 2011:
220,000 memories sent to the bank

Yaacob calls for even more contributions of personal stories
By Cheryl Ong

Retired teacher Shaik Kadir was eight years old when his family moved into an attap house in Geylang Serai in 1953.

It was an austere lifestyle for the family of three. Mr Shaik, now 66, fondly remembers how water had to be collected from a tap that was a 10-minute walk from the house.

"Now I live in a five-room flat in Bedok, but I saw that Geylang Serai was changing and would no longer be around. That's why I decided it was important to write down my story, so we won't forget our past," he said of his decision to publish a book documenting his experiences in the kampung.

The book, A Kite In The Evening Sky, was released in 1989.

Today, Mr Shaik's story is one of the 220,000 contributions received so far that will be preserved for future generations under the Singapore Memory Project.

The project, run by the National Library Board (NLB), aims to collect and store five million stories from members of the public by 2015. It was launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech in August. The process of remembering how Singapore was in times gone by is meant to foster bonding and rootedness among citizens.

At the NLB's When Nations Remember II conference yesterday - the first was held last year - Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts Yaacob Ibrahim urged more people to share their personal stories.

Dr Yaacob recalled that in his younger days, he would collect five- and 10-cent stamps on a POSB stamp card that students could submit to the bank. The total value of the stamps pasted on the card was added to the student's savings account.

"In this case, we are saving our memories and depositing them into a shared memory bank for ourselves, our children and for others to enjoy and hopefully enrich their lives."

So far, nearly 100 volunteers have helped to document the stories online in text and video. The organisers also worked with RediscoverSG, a group of four undergraduates from Nanyang Technological University who gathered stories about Tanjong Pagar Railway Station.

At the conference yesterday, the project organisers also launched an online picture database for artwork or photographs of old Singapore, called PictureSG (

Singapore Memory Project programme director Gene Tan said several campaigns will be launched next year to increase the number of contributions by focusing on themes, such as stories about one's school days.

"We're looking at getting the older generation of Singaporeans and schools to contribute their stories," he said. "I hope we can get about 1.5 million stories next year, and another 1.5 million in 2015."

Graduate student Low Jiaxin, 24, documented a story about an 85-year-old woman, Madam Kuek Saw Eng, who was a student at Singapore's first Chinese community-founded school, Chong Wen Ge School.

"We need to keep these memories safe before the tangible forms of them, like buildings or landmarks, are lost, and the generation that remembered them passes away," said Ms Low.



Blogger Lam Chun See said...

Good job brother. So paiseh, you suddenly mention my name in the middle of your speech. And asked me to stand up some more.

Anyway, I am proud to be among the pioneers of Nostalgia blogging in Spore. By the way, you used to post several old photos at your YoungOnce website. Why not post them here or at the IRememberSg Facebook page.

November 29, 2011 at 12:30 PM  
Blogger lim said...

I notice that commercial activities have ceased at the Malay Cultural Village. Yet, what surprised me was that with the removal of the ugly tents and canvas covers, the beautiful Malay architecture is exposed in all its glory. What surprised me again is why is this beautiful place sealed off? Why not open it on weekends so that locals, tourists, wedding couples and photographers can enjoy the place?

November 30, 2011 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Lam Chun See said...

Very strange. Even though I grew up in a Chinese kampong, our house had a Malay design like those the speaker talked about. You can see a photo here.

November 30, 2011 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger lim said...

Mr Lam, I remember that house no 4 barber shop. My grandfather brought me and my elder brother there quite a few times to get our hair cut. After our haircut, he might bring us to the coffee shop to have a traditional cup of coffee.

Lor Kinchir is a road I always passed through on the second day of Chinese New Year when my mum would bring us to her parents' home. As they say in Chinese - 回娘家. There is a humorous Chinese folk song by that name but sometimes it brings tears to my eyes just listening to it.

December 2, 2011 at 8:07 PM  

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