via Hyperallergic, 26 Mar 2019: A critical piece about the Raffles exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum (see other reviews here and here), but the headline is unfair – it suggests that the exhibition sets out to ‘decolonize’ the museum (for whatever that means) in the first place.
Three large billboards loom beside the gates of Singapore’s Raffles Place metro station, advertising the Asian Civilisations Museum’s latest special exhibition, Raffles in Southeast Asia: Revisiting the Scholar and Statesman. The billboards feature several taglines about the metro station’s namesake: “Plagiarist or pioneer? Leader or liar? Scholar or scoundrel?” The tone here is barbed, suggestive, inviting us to reconsider our understanding of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (1781–1826), a British colonial administrator now branded in history textbooks as the founder of Singapore and a national hero: a figure whose legacy includes an international healthcare conglomerate, the state’s most prestigious high school, and, yes, a subway station. While the museum’s marketing team deserves kudos for getting the ball rolling in a long overdue public reconsideration of Raffles’ legacy, the exhibition unfortunately turns out to be entirely different from what is promised, lacking the bite and verve of its advertising campaign.
Masterclass organised by SOAS and the Asian Civlisations Museum on 13 and 14 April 2019. Registration fee applicable.
Asia, Art and the Transcultural
SOAS University of London, in partnership with the Asian Civilisations Museum, is pleased to announce this series of public masterclasses on transcultural issues in the arts of Asia, on 13th and 14th April, 2019.
The SOAS-ACM Masterclasses Series will provide perspectives and insights on key intersections in the historical transmission of arts, styles, cultures and religions between the cultural and political centres of Southeast Asia, India and China. The eight academics, from SOAS’s School of Arts and School of History, Religions and Philosophies, will lead this unique public event, exploring transformative patterns of engagement and understanding.
The Masterclasses Series, which will be of special interest to anyone with a passion for art history, museology, archaeology and history, takes place in the Asian Civilisations Museum, one of the world’s leading centres for knowledge exchange on Asian cultures and heritage, located in one of the world’s most transcultural cities.
via SG Magazine, 07 Feb 2019: A review of the Raffles in Southeast Asia exhibition currently at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore until 28 April. You can check out my review here.
Curated in collaboration with the British Museum in London, the exhibition consists mostly of Javanese and Sumatran objects Raffles personally collected, employing him as a frame to explore the encounter between the British, Dutch, Javanese, and Malay peoples here in the Malay Archipelago. It grounds notions of the colonial ruler as a collector of natural history and culture from Southeast Asia, before subverting them with new possibilities—that he was exploitative, wrongfully pompous; even a plagiariser.
Last week while I was back in Singapore I took the opportunity to visit the Raffles in Southeast Asia exhibition at the Asian Civilisations Museum. The exhibition coincided with Singapore’s bicentennial celebrations, a “celebration” that has been met with mixed reception because it commemorates the arrival of Raffles to Singapore, and hence the colonial period of Singapore.
The arrival of Raffles has traditionally been the start of beginning of the history of Singapore. This view has softened somewhat, due in no small part to Prof. John Miksic’s work on the archaeology of Singapore. With the discoveries at Fort Canning, school history books now acknowledge the Temasek period. Still, the idea of Raffles as founder of modern Singapore carries an air of preeminence and prestige, and some of the country’s top schools and institutions bear the name of Raffles.
The bicentennary, Raffles, the discourse of (de)colonisation and rejection of the ‘Big Man’ myth of Raffles all come together in this one exhibition. On one level, Singaporeans only learned about the Raffles who came to Singapore in 1819 but never knew the Raffles who was Governor of Java and his role in the rediscovery of Borobudur. Raffles never actually went to the now-Unesco world heritage site, but he commissioned the survey and is now credited for its discovery. This unearned claim to fame would be a recurrent theme in his career.
The exhibition, through the lens of Raffles’ seminal History of Java and the items collected by Raffles and his contemporaries show a bias towards ancient Hindu relics but pay little attention to Muslim culture.
Some of Raffles’ personal flaws also come through, now with 200 years of hindsight and other historical sources to draw upon. This story of the tapir publication is quite telling about Raffles’s conflict with his second, William Farquhar. Farquhar arguably should be credited as the actual founder of the Singapore settlement (having done the actual legwork) but even the named after him was erased in the 1990s, a victim of Singapore’s urban redevelopment. William Farquhar’s legacy was more recently redeemed in Nadia Wright’s book, William Farquhar and Singapore: Stepping out from Raffles’ Shadow
Raffles in Southeast Asia was enjoyable in many layers. For many Singaporeans, it was an eye-opener to the influence of Raffles on the rest of the region and not just the country he ‘founded’. The exhibition can also be seen as a critique to the legacy of colonialism, and how its perspective was selective in many ways.
via Straits Times, 27 November 2018: New galleries in the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore.
The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) will open three new permanent galleries for Christian Art, Islamic Art, and Ancestors and Rituals on Saturday (Dec 1).
These galleries, found on the second level of the museum, will show how systems of faith and belief spread across Asia, and how traditions of religious art adapted as a result.
Among the highlights are a 17th century sculpture of the Virgin Mary with possible Chinese, Filipino and Mexican influences; an ornate 19th century Quran made in Terengganu; and a hornbill carving by Sarawak’s Iban community.
Postdoc opportunity from the Asian Civilisations Museum! Deadline is 15 December 2018.
Organizing institution(s): Asian Civilisations Museum Singapore
Deadline: 15 December 2018
Description: The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore invites post-doctoral scholars to apply for fellowships in Material studies, Material culture studies, Museological studies, Trade, Singapore community heritage, Peranakan / Mixed heritage research, Cities/Urban studies, Intangible cultural heritage.
For more details and to download the application form, please visit https://www.acm.org.sg/research. To know more about the ACM’s collections, please go to http://roots.sg/learn/collections
For enquiries not answered in the information sheet, please contact: Secretariat, ACM Research Fellowship, firstname.lastname@example.org
In conjunction with the exhibition, Angkor: Exploring Cambodia’s Sacred City that is currently on at the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, there are a number of associated events upcoming in May and June:
11 May 2018, The invisible paintings of Angkor Wat: This is me! I’m pleased to be talking about my discovery and research on the invisible paintings of Angkor Wat.
18-19 May 2018, Exploring Angkor Symposium: A special symposium organised in collaboration with the Guimet Museum, with a number of speakers including Pierre Baptiste, Alison Carter, Chhay Rachna, Darith Ea, Martin Polkinghorne, Paul Lavy, Miriam Stark, Olivier Cunin, Stephen Murphy, Kong Vireak, Sok Sangvar, D. Kyle Latinis, and Damian Evans