- Vivian Teo
5 highlights at the Singapo人 exhibition that will 'wow' you and your kids
A unique exhibition with interesting and interactive features, Singapo人 at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre will engage both kids and adults, and set you thinking on what it means to be a Chinese Singaporean.
The Singapo人 exhibition debuted at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre in March 2020, but it was only a few weeks ago when I first heard about it. I suppose with 2020 being a year overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, exhibitions had really taken a backseat in the year. But judging from the very thin crowd at the exhibition on the Saturday we were there, many probably have not caught up to this marvelous exhibition yet.
In a way, I was a kinda glad that not many people knew about this exhibition because we had lots of space and time to interact with the exhibits. But on the other hand, this one-of-a-kind exhibition that examines the evolution of the Chinese Singaporean identity and what it means to be a Chinese Singaporean is too good to simply keep it to ourselves.
My whole family were extremely impressed by the exhibition, including our two kids at age eight and ten whom before arrival weren't really interested because they somehow had the impression that we would be looking at boring displays when I said "exhibition". But in the end, they enjoyed themselves and were sufficiently entertained by the interactive features at the venue.
Oh and have I mentioned that the exhibition is free? Yes, free. We have too many good things in Singapore that I'm truly grateful for and this is one of them. Here are five highlights you and your kids will love at the Singapo人 exhibition:
1) 'Magic' shadows at Zone 1
The exhibition is divided into five zones. Once you enter through a tunnel screening introductions on the exhibition (see first pic), you arrive at Zone 1 of the exhibition. Here you'll get to look into the influences that had shaped the Chinese Singaporean culture.
Kids will love making shadows with the coloured lights projected onto the wall where yellow represents Chinese Heritage, blue, Cultural Interaction and pink, public policies.
The children activity booklet - which you can collect at the entrance of the exhibition - has a '人' cut-out in it which you can hold up and see the 'magic' shadows it makes on the wall. The wall is very insta-gramable as well!
2) Drawers of surprises at Zone 2
Zone 2 of the exhibition explores the habits, values and traditions of the Chinese culture that have been passed on through the centuries.
Here you can literally open doors and cupboards to discover cassette tapes, parking coupons, traditional toys and other surprises that I shall not reveal here so as not to spoil the element of surprise for you.
Looking at the cassette tapes, sewing machine and VCDs in this section sure felt like a trip down memory lane for adults like me.
In the hallway connecting Zone 2 and 3, you'll get to explore the festivals Chinese Singaporeans celebrate like Chinese New Year, Qing Ming and Mid-Autumn.
Throughout the exhibitions, there are many Q&A and polls which you can participate in with the personalised radio-frequency identification (RFID) wristband you're issued at the start of the exhibition. You just need to flash your wristband to log your answers and votes. Do try to participate in these because at the end of the exhibition, you can print a personalised souvenir (more on that later!)
3) Kopi-making game at Zone 3
Here at Zone 3, you'll get to learn more about the language we use in Singapore, and how words like 'buay tahan' and 'kancheong' came about. It was also here we picked up a beautiful notebook called "Chinese Tips". It's a notebook but there are words like "鱼尾狮" and “红头巾” and their explanations at the bottom of the pages. Such a lovely keepsake!
There is also a display on the myriad of names we use for our teh and kopi based on how thick/thin you like your drink, how much sugar and with or without milk etc. Till now I still get confused by these terms!
The kopi-making game here is definitely one of our kids' favourite features at the exhibition!
4) Animation on a dining table at Zone 4
At Zone 4, you'll get to see how influences are observed in food, art and popular culture. It's here you get to vote for your favourite Singaporean dishes from the lovely display of famous dishes in Singapore - Chicken Rice is so far the number one choice!
At Zone 4, you'll also get to watch a short animation about the origins of Singaporean dishes...on a dining table! Watching the extremely well-made animation come alive on the table in front of us was definitely a highlight for me. We were extremely impressed and hungry after that.
In the hallway between Zone 4 and 5, you'll get a closer look at the pop culture of Singapore. It was another journey down memory lane for me seeing and reading about Singaporean films like 881 and Mee Pok Man.
5) The conveyor belt of familiar brands at Zone 5
Zone 5 is all about the familiar and famous brands of Singapore...
...transported on a conveyor belt! It was actually rather mesmerising to sit there and watch the products loop around on the conveyor belt. Our kids had a fun time spotting familiar brands like Old Chang Kee and Bee Cheng Hiang, while I was pleasantly surprised to spot a copy of 电视广播. Man, I used to read these when I was a kid!
It's also here you'll find the stations which you can provide a short feedback on the exhibition. Thereafter you can print a personalised report in the form of a 4R photo based on the questions and polls you had answered/participated in earlier in the exhibition. This one is mine as shown on the screen.
So, after you have completed the feedback, remember to choose "print report". My girls and I didn't choose the print option initially, and after seeing the very nicely printed photo my hubby got, we went back to do the feedback again but it neither displayed nor printed out personalised ones for us, only the generic ones. So if you want a hardcopy pic, which I think makes a really nice souvenir, do choose to print the report when you're done with the feedback!
Just a note that you're required to wear plastic gloves at the exhibition, which are handed out to you at the start of the exhibition. Honestly, I didn't see the need to do so because if someone rubs his/her nose then touches the exhibits with his/her gloved hands, it's the same as someone who touches the exhibits with his/her ungloved hands. Your hands also start sweating ten minutes into the exhibition and it gets very uncomfortable, especially for children. I saw some people removing their gloves in the middle of the exhibition; I can understand it was too much to bear. My hands were wrinkled from sweat at the end of our 1.5 hours there! Not to mention, all that discarded plastic is really environmentally unfriendly as well.
I have a written a feedback to the Centre suggesting that having hand sanitisers at all the zones and staff to remind visitors to sanitise their hands at the various zones might be a more viable option. Well, hopefully they do away with the gloves soon.
Other than for the gloves, I must say our family really enjoyed this experience. The Chinese Singaporean culture is truly unique and worth being proud of, and I'm glad there is such an impressive exhibition that showcases it.
Bonus tips for your trip:
- Do collect the activity booklets available for children at the start of the exhibition. They have one for those age 5-8 years old, and another for those older. We didn't attempt the activities while there, as it was really difficult to do so wearing those plastic gloves but after browsing through them when we got home, I realised how well-made and interesting they were. Likewise, get a copy of the lovely notebook at Zone 3 and print a copy of your personalised report as mentioned above. You can choose to bring your wristband home if you like, and we did so for one of ours.
- The exhibition is located at Level 2 of the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre at 1 Straits Boulevard, Singapore 018906. Opening hours are at 2-8 pm on Mondays, and 10am–8pm Tuesdays to Sundays. Extended opening hours until 9pm from 22 January to 28 March 2021. If you're driving, the Centre has its own car park, which you enter from Union Street.
- There is no need to pre-register for the exhibition. Just head to the ground floor to do the usual safe entry measures, before heading up to level 2.
More vids from the exhibition at our FB page and IG stories!
Have you been to any other exhibitions that are fun for both adults and children? Do share them with us!
Disclaimer: My opinions and reviews here are strictly my and my family’s own.
©Vivian Teo. All content and photos are copyrighted to Vivian Teo unless otherwise specified.