Killiney’s Laksa, Lonton, Curry, Mee Siam, Mee Rebus Paste. Image courtesy of &Larry
To most, the term ‘London’ means Fish & Chips, Big Ben tower, the red double-decker buses and the tube. And ‘New York’ means Times Square, Helvetica, the Metro, its yellow cab, ‘I Love NY’ logo across mugs and t-shirts. Hong Kong with its bamboo scaffolding, the neon signs, the bi-lingual white painted road signs. Or Taipei and we would have thought of their night market, the smelly beancurd, the bubble milk tea, chicken cutlet and the hot springs.
And when it comes to Singapore, from the telling of the souvenirs as objects that we can find in the shops in the airport, museums or the tourism trap shops in Lucky Plaza, Mustafa, Chinatown or Bugis Street, they include postcards that is picturing Changi Airport, Esplanade or Marina Bay Sands, miniature figures of Merlion on everything from keychains, tote bags, t-shirts, caps, umbrellas, figurings, chocolates and refrigerator magnets or Chilli Crab or Laksa paste, Kaya, Good Morning towels, Bah Kua.
Can those souvenir represent Singapore?
Souvenir, a french word for remembrance or memory, is an object that can be collected or purchased and transported home by the traveler as a memento of a visit. A keepsake, a memento or a token of remembrance to many, serves another purpose to the respective tourism industry—to promote as a form of word-to-word marketing where it might seems crucial as there are people in the other part of the world thinks we are from China. Some don’t know even where Singapore is located or have heard of that word.
Images courtesy of Supermama
And in our society that doesn’t cultivate or inbreds artisan handicrafts or folk art. What makes Singapore, Singapore? Thanks to Supermama, who has started to revolutionised the merchandise market, we have better souvenirs to own—using iconic visuals of Singapore into their products. We can now find Merlion plush toy, miniature Jerry Can that we would be using in our conscripted national service, the locally designed and produced plastic red chair that we can find in most coffee shops, or Jiu Ceng Gao doorstopper, or Jalan Besar Fortune Cat plates in collaboration with Somewhere Else.
Images courtesy of FARM Store
Jalan Besar Fortune Cat Plates by Somewhere Else in collaboration with Supermama. Image courtesy of Somewhere Else
Dear Vol 1: Lost & Found by Do Not Design
Images courtesy of Kindness
This revolutionising trend was started off by FARM with Singapore Art Museum a few years back, where they launched a series of designer products and one of them is a Merlion tote bag by Hans Tan which is a replication of the commonly used plastic bag.
A few other notable buys are Do Not Design’s Dear, a publication aims to discover the lost and found of our nation’s culture and identity, Naiise’s Temasek Clothings or the limited edition commemorative Courtesy Lion figurings that you can purchase from the Kindness store.
Are these a better telling of what Singapore could be? Are we all about old colonial and Singlish? Or a modernist, metropolitan turned trading port—forward looking yet trying to embrace the old where we can still find old shophouses being lined up with the sky-scrappers, where we still can find 80 cents coffee in Kopitiams with $5+ coffee in Starbucks or cafe, one that is growing too fast that most heritage are torn and preserved in moderns and books, one with low crime rate, highest educational level and lowest homeless people in the region, one with no distinct culture and customs, and badly diluted and mixed that what some might call rojak. Bagged with red tape, our multi racial, our fines and caning system, our no no to gum, and no dialect on national tv and radio, and Singlish.
Those and confusion aside, I am just glad we have better products to own what we are proud to buy and give away and share to the world, this is Singapore.