Syonan Gallery, An Exhibition at Former Ford Factory

Syonan Gallery, An Exhibition at Former Ford Factory

Last Monday, I took two hours out of the first day of my long-awaited summer break for a solo trip to this intriguing place, the Syonan Gallery. A little background on this place: it used to be known as Old Ford Factory before it underwent renovation and became the Former Ford Factory that we know now. It is the place that Sir Percival surrendered to the Japanese Army General, Yamashita, unconditionally on 15 February 1942 during World War II (WWII).

These two hours were very well spent. Even though I had wanted to go for the tour at 3pm, I figured that I would not hear and see as much of the oral recounts as well as exhibitions if I participated in the tour so… the choice was clear šŸ™‚

As I toured this extremely quiet place, I felt the slight atmosphere changes as the gallery transits from one stage of the war to another. Here are only some of my thoughts as I wandered from exhibition to exhibition.

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This haunting past that Singapore has cannot feel more distant to me, a mere millennial who did not go through the pains and sufferings of my ancestors. Detachment, that’s the word. It feels so unreal that this war ever happened because I will probably never experience any of this.

When I was in Secondary School, my Social Studies teacher posed a question to the class, something about how we felt about a (at that time) recent terrorist attack that occured overseas. She listed a couple of adjectives such as afraid, worried, detached etc and asked everyone to raise their hands asĀ she read out the adjective that we are feeling. When it came to the wordĀ detached, I was the only one in class who raised my hand, and many people looked at me with surprise. I suppose it was because they find it difficult to believe that someone would feel detachment over fear regarding terrorism, but I had an explanation. It was not because I was not scared, I do dread the possibilityĀ thatĀ terrorism will arrive in Singapore, and I wish that it would never arrive in Singapore. However, given that something like this happened miles away, I can only feel pity and detachment, not the intense fear that everyone else seemed to be feeling.

I presume this is the reason that all these information seem to fascinateĀ me, because the artifacts that are placed in front of my eyes are real and concrete.

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This was the exact room and table that Sir Percival and Army General Yamashita had their negotiations regarding the surrender, and below, shows the transcript of the surrender process.

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Once we were under the control of the Japanese, we were renamedĀ Syonan-to, which translates toĀ Light of the South.

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As I go on to read about what happened during the war, what agonised me the most was the fact that the prisoners-of-war (POWs) are treated so much less than a human. The torture that was inflicted on them was unspeakable of, yet there were oral recounts by the courageous people who managed to survive and tell their story. I listened to a couple of them, and one of which said that he underwent water torture, which was the process where the Japanese kempeitais would insert a water pipe into the POW’s mouth, and turn on the water. The POW will be forced to swallow the water until his stomach bloats to a sizeable extent. Then, the kempei would step on their bloated stomachs such that the water will be forced our of their mouths, noses and even ears. It was horrifying to hear, which resulted in my inability to listen to the rest of the oral recounts, as I could not bear to hear any more.

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The Japanese, in order to resolve overcrowding issues, decided to build primitive farming villages for some Singaporeans. Besides escaping from the kempei’s wrath, these Singaporeans also felt rather lucky and happy that they were able to make a small livelihood.

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News of the surrender spread like wildfire as the atomic bombs hit Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Above, would be a quote from a Singaporean regarding what he had heard about the surrender, and below would be the Japanese news articles announcingĀ the surrender.

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After WWII, many Japanese were captured and put on trial for war crime.

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This gallery posed a gentle reminder to me that peopleĀ such as Elizabeth Choy, Lim Bo Seng and other unsung Singaporean heroes who eventually died during this devastating war, did not sacrifice so much to be known as heroes today. They wanted to do the right thing and fight for their country’s honour and for that, I was moved despite the detachment I feel. It is so remarkably noble of them!

Singapore has come such a long way to restore and build upon the peace that our ancestors so painfully worked for us to savour. To appreciate it and at least have some knowledge is definitely the least I can do šŸ™‚ It was an enlightening solo trip, and I would definitely do it again (but maybe not so soon) because I missed the chance to tour their little garden, and also did not listen to all of the oral recounts. There is truly so much to be learnt about the history of Singapore, which makes me so glad I took the time to revisit the things I’ve learnt in Social Studies back in Secondary School, and to relive the moments I’ve read about in books when I was in Primary School.

#traveloguesg: To the zoo

I have been meaning to go to the zoo for the longest time ever, as I had not been there since primary school. But the first time I was supposed to go with Amanda, I injured my back the day before and had to cancel. The second time, I was supposed to go with Shihui but the plan was never really finalised so again, it did not happen. This time, I was all ready for the trip and even prepared grapes as snacks! I was so excited.

In this photo Amanda said I look like her mum, which in turn made me remove my glasses because I obviously did not want to look like her mother on this trip to the zoo. I also decided to wear my cap and it is my first time wearing it for such a long time! I was very happy that it did keep my hair in bay and kept the sun from heating my head up too much. It was also a lovely prop to have in the photos that we have taken šŸ™‚

Shortly after I reached (she overestimated the time she needed to reach the zoo and reached 30 minutes earlier than I did), we went to watch theĀ Splash Safari ShowĀ and boy, the sea lion put on a good show! I really like how lively it seemed. We subsequently watched theĀ Elephants at Work and Play ShowĀ and also theĀ Rainforest Fights Back show, which proudly presented a series of furry animals. They were all so cute! The shows all showcased the different animals really well, and the zookeepers did remind me of mothers as they ought to have a lot of patience during the grooming and training, because look the animals did look very well-trained. I looked quite like a Japanese tourist in this photo, but I was truly enjoying myself despite the lack of animal contact that our zoo offers, meh.




Amanda and I decided beforehand that we would head to the KidzworldĀ to have KFC for lunch, so that was what we did! We were like overexcited little kids when we saw the goats and the leaves that we could pluck to feed them. Ballistic! It was so fun to feed the goats as their greedy little mouths reached for our hands as well, basically anything they could grab actually. They even tried to eat this other girl’s hair. A very weird but interesting encounter was that one of the black goats was wailing like a big baby and trying to stop another goat from eating the leaves that we were offering. It didn’t even reach for our leaves, it just wanted to stop the other goat from eating.

We (or rather, I) decided that we should be more like tourists and try out tourist things like this above! It was slushie served in a long plastic bottle, with an Orang Utan hugging the straw. It looked too cute to resist. Even though it was expensive at S$7.90 I must say it did satisfy my thirst as well as my desire for more tourist-like things. I eventually had to throw the bottle away though, as the plastic was already slightly deflated at the bottom when I bought it, but it was cute while it lasted!



Our last stops were the polar bears and the giraffes. We managed to catch the feeding time of Inuka, our resident polar bear who was born right here in Singapore a few years back. The giraffes…..I gotta say they are interesting creatures. While we were looking at them, one of them decided to give the other’s genitals a lick and then suddenly, urine started gushing out! Basically, a giraffe licked another giraffe’s urine. The best part was, we fed the exact same giraffe who had urine on its mouth region. Yes, we did. Guess what? I touched it by accident when it leaned forward to reach for the sweet potato that I was holding. We paid $5 for four sweet potatoes pieces to feed these giraffes, how precious.

All in all, I enjoyed this trip, much thanks to Amanda’s company. It is one of those things that you know you will never forget four to five years down the road. We managed to visit all except one or two animals, and some other enclosures were renovating so we could not catch those animals but it was still a very fabulous trip nonetheless! I am so looking forward to more trips around Singapore with you Manda šŸ™‚