The Final Frontier

2013
Bukit Brown Cemetery is one of the largest Chinese cemeteries outside of China, dating back to the late 19th century. Located in the middle of Singapore, it is currently facing dire fate at construction of a semi-expressway is underway.

The Qing Ming festival is the most important festival in the cemetery wher descendants pay respects to theri ancestors. This is the final Qing Ming festival in 2013, before the tombs in the of the cemetery would be exhumed for a semi-expressway.

Qing Ming is a festival of remembrance for the dearly departed. Where loved ones visit tombs of their ancestors and maintain the graves. As part of the ceremony the loved ones leave flowers and coloured paper squares. As we ponder the loss of the cemetery, we are not losing only the physical tombs and naturescape, but also the memory and culture of the cemetery. The erasure of memories, practices and traditions, only displaying itself in prayer items scattered on and before the tombs. Any attempts to objectify something so priceless would be devaluing what it is in its essence.

Often we only ponder things when they are gone or had changed. Would we notice the tombs if not for the colourful prayer papers. Slowly we are drawn to the otherwise forsaken tombs. The intricate ornamentation the elegant shapes; the often poetic inscriptions; and sometimes with unique designs. Each reflecting something about the deceased. Some with ornate carvings even tell entire stories and fables. Each tomb is a repository of a stories, a personal history and memory only held by a handful of descendants. Hidden, perhaps lost.

Together they form a collective memory. In the name 'Bukit Brown' there are two languages. 'Bukit' being the Malay word for 'hill' and 'Brown', named after the former landowner, Mr Brown. A Chinese cemetery with a Malay - English name. A manifestation of our culture, history and identity. As of Jan 2014, construction works for the semi-expressway had begun.