First community gallery focusing on cultural heritage
It showcases the rich history of Kreta Ayer with its cultural arts scene.
From the elegance of calligraphy and tea appreciation to the energy of opera and puppetry, the heritage of Kreta Ayer is inextricably linked to the Chinese cultural art forms practised by the communities that settled there. The stories of Kreta Ayer and the evolution of these art forms are being celebrated at the new Kreta Ayer Heritage Gallery, the National Heritage Board’s (NHB) first community gallery that focuses on intangible cultural heritage.
Co-curated by NHB and the Kreta Ayer Community Club (CC), the 100-sqm gallery serves as a platform to showcase the rich history of the Kreta Ayer and Chinatown areas. Kreta Ayer was a settlement for early Chinese immigrants, and it became famous for the vibrant Chinese cultural arts scene that emerged as a result of the Chinese opera troupes, and art and music associations that took root there.
Through the use of objects, photographs and personal effects, contributed by intangible cultural heritage practitioners and former residents, the gallery also seeks to showcase five intangible cultural heritage elements that are still practised in the Kreta Ayer area. To date, NHB has received 170 photographs and artefacts from 12 contributors, who include Cultural Medallion winner and veteran Cantonese opera artist Joanna Wong, award-winning calligraphy artist Yong Cheong Thye and nanyin musical group Siong Leng Musical Association.
The gallery is arranged thematically and features the following intangible cultural heritage elements: Chinese opera, nanyinmusic, Chinese puppetry, Chinese painting and calligraphy, and tea drinking and appreciation. Notable items on display include photographs dating back to 1975 that show the popularity and dynamism of Chinese opera in Kreta Ayer; and a score book containing about 300 original compositions by the late nanyin visionary Teng Mah Seng.
Calligraphy artist Yong, who loaned some of his works for display, has a long relationship with Kreta Ayer, which began in 1985 when he first opened his gallery along South Bridge Road. He has worked closely with Kreta Ayer CC on various community projects over the years. He said, “Kreta Ayer will always be a special place to me. The creative energy of all the artists, musicians and performers in the area is inspiring, and I hope that my works will allow visitors to gain an understanding and appreciation of Chinese calligraphy, as well as of Chinese cultural heritage as a whole.”
** The Kreta Ayer Heritage Gallery is one of the new facilities in the newly upgraded Kreta Ayer Community Club and will open to the public from July 14, 2019. The gallery will be open daily from 12pm to 8pm, and closed on Mondays and public holidays. Admission is free.
(** PHOTO CREDITS: National Heritage Board)