Showcase at National Museum of Singapore to highlight intangible cultural heritage of Southeast Asia

The showcase, titled 'Spinning Connections: Creative Takes on Intangible Cultural Heritage', will have four video artworks dedicated to present the region’s dance, food, martial arts and storytelling.

Kirby Tan

Will redo the same personality test until I get the results I want.

Published: 12 May 2023, 5:56 PM

As the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games unfold, many are glued to their screens, keeping track of the scores. But few know about the rich cultural heritage that lies behind each competitor’s flags.

To honour Southeast Asia’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH), the National Museum of Singapore (NMS) has partnered with the Maybank Foundation to launch a new showcase that displays the time-honoured traditions and living expressions of each region. 

Titled Spinning Connections: Creative Takes on Intangible Cultural Heritage, the showcase will present a series of four original video artworks on the Museum’s LED Wall, which will run till Aug 6.

Using a mix of artistic styles, each video will highlight a different aspect of ICH, namely dance, food, martial arts and storytelling. As visitors immerse themselves in the showcase, they can gain insight into the past and understand how ICH has evolved over the generations, said NMS.

Here is a brief overview of the four video artworks that are on display. 

Gestures of One

For many countries in SEA, dance is used to express both their past and present. This video artwork by Biome Entertainment explores Singapore’s interconnected cultural heritage through Chinese, Malay and Indian dances with both historical and modern nuances.

The video depicts three dancers communicating and interacting with one another through their movements at the NMS grounds. 


This artwork aims to inspire harmony, solidarity and hope. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE


While each of the dancers’ movements are rooted in their respective cultures, they also show similarities that allow them to come together as an ensemble. 

Through the choreography and cinematic language, visitors can enter a dream-like experience of what unites Singaporeans despite having different cultural backgrounds.


In various Southeast Asian countries, rice is often used as a central ingredient across several dishes. 

This video artwork by Addpetizer uses symbolism in the visuals as well as the sound to highlight how rice has become a central ingredient across a selection of local and regional dishes.


The circles present symbolise the unifying quality of rice in food and various cultures. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE


As visitors watch the video, they can see how the versatility of rice has given rise to a variety of dishes that form part of Singapore’s hawker and food heritage, and ultimately understand the importance of food as the universal “language”.

Kilat Kan Silat

Silat Tua is an ancient art form with deep roots in the culture and traditions of Southeast Asia.

To bring this martial art into the spotlight, Paradise Pictures showcases it in a contemporary dance film.


The word ‘kilat’ can be read as either ‘lightning’, ‘bright’ or ‘shining. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE


By creating a visual representation of the beauty of Silat Tua, the fluidity, grace and strength of its practitioners will be displayed. 

The film aims to inspire others to appreciate and celebrate the cultural richness of Singapore and the Nusantara region.


Inspired by a fairytale from traditional honey hunters, the synthesised images of Madu (Malay for ‘honey’) were developed using Artificial Intelligence (AI). 


The AI model was trained using selected data from the NMS’ William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings. PHOTO CREDIT: NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SINGAPORE


In this storytelling video artwork by Studio 1914, visitors will see the dramatic love story between gifted palace gardener, Hitam Manis, and a prince.

The video artwork will follow how she turned into a honey bee instead of dying after the Sultan ordered her to be killed, before being reunited with her prince years later. 

Through examining visuals from our colonial histories and Southeast Asian traditions, Madu hopes to rejuvenate visitors’ connection between nature and their cultural heritage.

Each of the commissioned artworks were selected from entries submitted through an Open Call exercise held between April to May last year, to foster collaboration with the artistic community to engage audiences on important contemporary issues.

Spinning Connections: Creative Takes on Intangible Cultural Heritage is a family-friendly showcase. From May 2 to Aug 6, both young and old can visit and explore how their culture and identity makes them unique compared to the rest of the world. 

Visitors can find more information on the NMS website

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