Singapore’s clan associations have come a long way since their beginnings as providers of social services to Chinese migrants here during the country’s early history. They have now transformed themselves to be more inclusive and changed focus to promote Chinese heritage and culture in order to keep up with modern times and attract youth.
In conjunction with Singapore Design Week, four clan associations collaborated with designers and artists to create installation works that represent the values of each clan. These installations were exhibited during Street of Clans from 8 March to 10 March, and are meant to engage the public to help them appreciate the ethos of each clan.
Mark Wee, executive director of the DesignSingapore Council, said, “Street of Clans showcases design’s role in preserving heritage and re-acquainting younger generations with the rich history of the clans – especially as design appreciation grows amongst youths. Design’s impact extends to not only shaping the way things look, but also how it can improve the way things work, or even serve as part of a company strategy to engage customers in a more purposeful and powerful way.”
Pok Cheng Chong, president of Chin Kang Huay Kuan, a century-old clan association formed by migrants from Jinjiang in Fujian, said clan associations nowadays help entrepreneurs to do business in places wherever they have networks. “For example, if a Singaporean wishes to do business in Jinjiang, we can be a bridge with our networks and contacts.” In fact, people with ancestry from Jinjiang hail from all over the world, including in Japan, Africa and Canada.
Gan Ee Bee, curator of the Gan Clan Heritage Centre, said that her clan built the heritage gallery in 2013 to reach out to younger people. Upgraded facilities were added, such as a rooftop garden, a pantry and toilets. “Previously the Gan Clan was a traditional clan association; only Gans were allowed in the building. By opening the heritage centre, we managed to attract many members of the public who are non-Gans.”
Below are the Street of Clan designers and their ideas of how their works reflect the clan associations that they worked with:
Installation: Chin Kang Huay Kuan x Ong Lijie
Artist: Ong Lijie
My silkscreen installation depicts the youth of the old Chin Kang School — the school has since closed down due to the introduction of government schools.
The figures in my work reference the many activities that have been organised by Chin Kang Huay Kuan. Chin Kang Huay Kuan has been a fervent supporter of the arts and youth, and a lot of effort has gone into bettering the next generation. I hope that my contemporary approach to this work will allow the modern public to have a refreshing view on Chinese clans.
Installation: Gan Clan x Matthew Sia
Artist: Matthew Sia
My installation features Chinese characters of the five clan values of the Gan Clan – filial piety, benevolence, integrity, kindness and virtue. I wanted the younger generation to know more about family values, and I wanted to make the piece more Instagrammable!
Installation: Koh Clan x TO THE POWER OF
Artists: TO THE POWER OF
TO THE POWER OF’s installation, Let The Good Times Roll, will be situated within Koh Clan, which centres on the value of unity. We had the idea of coming up with an interactive kinetic installation with the hope that people enjoy the anticipation and surprise as a result of different elements. We have put together multiple tracks for the structure, such that it will take more than one person to activate certain features arousing the different senses. Ultimately, we hope that people will have a joyous interaction with Let The Good Times Roll, delighting in the corporeal experience of the satisfaction that comes with acting in union.
Installation: Tung on Wui Kun x Binary Style x SCENE SHANG
Artist: Santhi Tunas, Co-Founder and Director of Binary Style
Tung On Wui Kun was known for their Cantonese opera activities. Our design installation seeks to bring this illustrious legacy back to life by creating a reimagined Cantonese opera set. By using our specially designed scarves that feature four archetypal characters of Chinese Opera and SCENE SHANG’s beautiful furniture, we hope to reenact the opera watching experience with a modern twist.
Through this installation. we hope to start public conversations and invite ideas about how clan associations in general can stay relevant in this era.