Abode of Peace in the Lion City

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Taming (shield) – seen here on display in the Royal Regalia Building in Brunei, these shields and spears were used in processions for the inauguration of the Bruneian monarch (Image courtesy of the Singapore Philatelic Museum)

“Abode of Peace in the Lion City” curates stamps, artefacts, 360° virtual reality displays and interactive stations to connect Singapore and Brunei’s rich cultural traditions

 

Text Sarah Chew

In 1967, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam signed a Currency Interchangeability Agreement that would tie their currencies to one another. On this, the Golden Jubilee of the Agreement, the two countries celebrate their union with the launch of commemorative fifty-dollar bills, alongside twin exhibitions open to the public to spread awareness of the relationship between the countries, and of the other country’s culture. The first of these exhibitions recently opened at the Singapore Philatelic Museum (SPM), titled Abode of Peace in the Lion City: A Brunei-Singapore Exhibition. The second is due to run in Brunei in November this year.

The SPM repertoire revolves closely around the theme of connection in the world. SPM General Manager, Ms Tresnawati Prihadi remarks: “This exhibition will enable the peoples of Brunei and Singapore to gain a deeper appreciation of each other’s history and culture, as well as long-standing political, social and economic ties.”

Jointly curated by SPM and the Bruneian Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the Singapore leg of the exhibition is divided into three rooms on the museum’s upper floor, and by corresponding themes. The first room celebrates the thriving relationship between the two countries through political and economic landmarks, and through the 42 currency notes and coins on display, from as early as 1967. On loan from the Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the money is a testament to the financial alliance between the countries, as well as a reminder of their colonial pasts.

The second contains the 33 items from the Royal Regalia, painstakingly transported from the Royal Regalia Building in Brunei where they are housed alongside the Royal Chariots on which the Sultan rides for important processions. Each year, new Regalia are designed and made by artisans commissioned by the government. This is the first time items from the Royal Regalia are on display in Asia, outside of Brunei.

 

Bedil (brass cannon) – one of the early forms of currency in Brunei (Image courtesy of the Singapore Philatelic Museum)

 

The final room celebrates the country’s natural landscapes. The oil-rich country has learnt to exploit its natural resources, but retains 76 percent of virgin forest and rich biodiversity. The exhibition provides information about species native to the Bruneian forests with the help of interactive displays – including a 360º simulation of a boat ride on the Brunei River, the view along which is controlled with hand gestures.

On a wall by the entrance is an infographic with some surprising statistical comparisons between the two countries; despite the difference in geographical size – Brunei being approximately eight times the size of Singapore – the population of the latter is about nine times that of the former!

The exhibition also features a collaboration with Nanyang Polytechnic’s School of Interactive and Digital Media, titled “Take Home a Stamp”. Visitors are invited to connect their smart devices to a local WiFi network, and make a selection from a screen of post-independence stamps from the two countries, by scanning a code. The network then transfers the image of the selected stamp to their devices as a free souvenir from the exhibition.

Over the weekend of July 8 and 9, 2017, the Museum organised activities for members of the public, including food tasting sessions, where visitors were invited to try ambuyat – the national dish of Brunei – a starchy staple made from the trunk of the sago palm. The pasty substance is twisted around a chandas – special prongs that look like a cross between a pair of chopsticks and a catapult. The rolled starch is dipped in sauces for flavour. Ms Lucille Yap, senior curator at SPM, enthusiastically recalled: “Everyone who attended the food tasting liked the dish.”

 

Members of the public try ambuyat, the starchy Bruneian staple (Image courtesy of the Singapore Philatelic Museum)

 

This exhibition offers a broad perspective on the innumerable parallels in the histories and cultures of Singapore and Brunei.

Abode of Peace in the Lion City: A Brunei-Singapore Exhibition is running at the Singapore Philatelic Museum until February 28, 2017.

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