Maintaining Heritage Series | The Material Culture of Bukit Brown Cemetery

Date: 16 May 2012, Wednesday
Time: 7.00pm – 9.00pm
Venue: NUS Museum

Free Admission
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Opened in 1922, the 213-acre Bukit Brown Municipal Chinese Cemetery is a prime spatial manifestation of the period that consolidated overseas Chinese identity in Singapore from separate dialect ones. Prior to it, distinctions between language groups in residential enclaves were extended to having separate burial sites such as Kwong Hou Sua for Teochews or Peck San Theng for Cantonese, respectively.

Besides natural heritage, the cemetery's material culture: tombs, settings and embellishments; is a rich data field for tracing the early political and social history of the networked, diasporic Nanyang community in Southeast Asia. In this talk, its material culture in terms of the different types of tombs found there, as well as the bluestone, granite, tile and sandstone, and in particular the use of brick with Shanghai plaster to construct them, will be discussed. The talk will also describe the importance of the calligraphic and epigraphic material that may be culled from its texts and poems, and how these extend beyond that space in central Singapore. 

About the Speaker Dr. Lai Chee Kien is Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore. He graduated with an M.Arch. by research from NUS in 1996, and from University of California, Berkeley with a PhD in History of Architecture and Urban Design, in 2005. He researches on histories of art, architecture, landscapes and urban environments in Southeast Asia, and is a registered architect in Singapore. His publications include A Brief History of Malayan Art (1999), Building Merdeka: Independence Architecture in Kuala Lumpur, 1957-1966 (2007) and Cords to Histories (forthcoming).

Maintaining Heritage Series 
The Maintaining Heritage Series presents opportunities for exploring the varied dimensions and perspectives of heritage in Singapore and beyond. Themes on evolving cultural practices; collecting and display; architectural and urban conservation; and heritage policies are approached through activities ranging from talks to walks. By encouraging debate on the considerations and challenges in managing various constituent elements of heritage, this series advances our understanding of the wider aspect of the heritage ecosystem. 

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