The Material Culture and Activism at Bukit Brown Cemetery, Singapore


Speaker: Prof. Lai Chee-Kien, Singapore University of Technology and Design

Date: 19th Oct 2015 (Thursday)

Time: 5:30pm – 7:00pm

Venue: Lai Chan Pui Ngong Lecture Theatre, Y.C. Liang Hall, CUHK




In September 2011, the Singapore government announced a new 8-lane highway cutting through the historic Bukit Brown Municipal Chinese cemetery including its entrance, that would destroy its original semblance as an entity. Opened in 1922 and closed in 1973, the 213-acre cemetery is an important site that registered identity in Singapore in two ways: it recorded key persons who shaped political and social spheres during the colonial period (1819-1945), as well as consolidated dialect identities under the banner of “overseas Chinese,” since prior cemeteries were differentiated by sub-ethnicity or clan. Besides natural heritage, the cemetery's material culture: tombs, materials and inscriptions; is a rich data field tracing aspects of the networked, diasporic overseas Chinese community in Southeast Asia. This paper discusses that heritage and the activism that had grown around the cemetery, as a play is recently staged in the cemetery grounds by a well-known local theatre company.