This article was created in partnership with the Oval Partnership.
The Kampong Spirit has long been a part of Singapore’s history. Used to describe a positive communal attitude and solidarity of people, there seems to be a common consensus that the Kampong Spirit has been slowly chipping away as Singapore elevates its status from what used to be a small fishing port during the colonial era to its current standing as one of Asia’s most developed countries. The term has long been a part of our past, stemming from the period before Dutch and Portuguese traders landed on our shores. Prior to Western influences, our little red dot was a sleepy fishing village that contributed to Malaysian seafaring and trading.
The story of our island’s humble beginnings with trading may be common knowledge, but less is known about the time before colonial influencers took rein. What was the way of life before the rapid growth of Singapore, and how can our past and present interact meaningfully? That’s precisely what the Oval Partnership and several university research groups from Singapore Management University (SMU) and Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) sought to answer in the Lost Cities exhibition.
The Lost Cities exhibition is a purposeful stray away from your typical replication of Singapore’s pre-colonial kampong, but a unique display that showcases the pre-colonial urbanism in Asia from a past-meets-present perspective. Guided by exploratory trips to Pulau Ubin and Lorong Buangkok—the two earliest settlements on our island, and now the last two kampongs known to Singapore, the Oval Partnership and researchers took to the local culture and its inhabitants to document and collect first-hand experience of living the kampong life, a cultural gem unbeknownst to most Singaporeans.
Mr Chris Law, Founding Director of The Oval Partnership and visionary behind the exhibition shared, “this event recreates the experience of a bygone age, and enables attendees to explore how life was lived then,” he said. “Now we have a clearer sight of where we came from, and how we were shaped. It deepens our understanding of the giants whose shoulders we stand on, so we can build a better world for the generations that come after us.”
Debuting an experiential exhibition with three key zones, each guided by a reinterpretation of kampong living—The Lost Cities exhibition takes one through a fictional journey of a 14th century kampong through a contemporary lens of the three key themes of heritage, sustainability and community. The highly curated exhibition explores the world of a fictional kampong lead by the visionary female Chief Esah, as their thriving society lives in perfect harmony with nature and progressive cultural practices rooted in equality.
Members of the public can not only expect a refreshing perspective of our island’s past, but also an admirable display of sustainably sourced exhibit materials such as locally sourced wood from ethical wood-makers and non-profit environmental organisations. From interactive displays to creative experiences rooted in cultural kampong practices, exhibit-goers can expect an engaging and unforgettable journey through a reimagined city.
In addition to the research driven exhibits, the Oval Partnership has also tapped into the talents of three multidisciplinary artists—Gilles Massot, Marc Nair and Zen Teh, to contribute their take on Singapore’s kampong heritage.
An immersive experience through time, the Lost Cities exhibition will be taking place from 18 August – 1 October, 2023 in Fort Canning Centre for all members of the public to journey through Singapore’s earliest Kampong cities and dive into the past and present of Kampong heritage.
The Lost Cities Series: Kampong Port Cities of the Pre-colonial Era Exhibition
When: 18th August – 1st October, 2023 (Weekdays: 10am – 6pm, Weekends: 10am – 10pm)
Where: Fort Canning Centre, Singapore