Monday, 20 February 2017

Syonan Gallery renamed after ‘public outcry’

Sorry for Syonan

I WAS about to write about the much-condemned Syonan Gallery when news broke that the G had changed its mind about the name. I was going to say that my father would turn in his urn if he knew about the name.

First, he would have said it was really Syonan-to, not Syonan. Then, he would have said it was not the Light of the South but the Dark of the Night. Finally, he would curse and swear at the historians and members of the advisory panel which the National Library Board (NLB) said it had consulted before alighting on the name.

Seriously, the NLB’s rationale for the name is no rationale at all. It merely reiterated the importance of remembering that period. It did not say that it had considered alternatives and discarded them. It merely stated that “no other name captured the time and all that it stood for”.


Sayonara to Syonan – with a message
The new permanent exhibition at the Former Ford Factory was opened to the public on 16 February. Photo: Safhras Khan

Born in post-Occupation Singapore, I was immune to  the horrible pain and trauma  an older generation had suffered under Japanese soldiers  — until I got close to an ex-colleague many years ago.

I had the good fortune of working with this Chinese man with a shrivelled body and an unsmiling face. He didn’t speak much but his face communicated the thousand words of a painful past. I got a taste of that back story when I once remarked, “I notice that you never go to Yaohan.” At the time, Yaohan was  a popular Japanese shopping mall in Singapore.

“You wouldn’t too if your family had been tortured by the bloodied hands of the Japanese,” he said and refused to talk more about it. The bitterness in his words was palpable.


Syonan Gallery renamed to bear witness to painful memories: PM Lee
Workers covering up Syonan Gallery signage after it was announced that the exhibition would be renamed (Foto: Howard Law)

The World War II exhibition at the Former Ford Factory, previously known as "Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies", was renamed to bear witness to painful memories, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Sat (Feb 18).

In a FaceBook post, Mr Lee noted that many Singaporeans have spoken up in recent days about the name of the exhibition.

"The name Syonan was meant to evoke that dark & traumatic period in Singapore’s history," explained Mr Lee.



Visitors to former Syonan Gallery welcome change of name, new signs to be up in a month
The entrance has been cleaned of the original signs. The exhibition is now called Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies. ST FOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

Just over 12 hours after the World War II gallery space in the Former Ford Factory was renamed from Syonan Gallery: War & its Legacies following a public outcry, its entrance has been cleaned of the original signs.

And many visitors to the former Syonan Gallery on Sat morning (Feb 18) said they supported the change.

"I'm actually quite impressed that there's a readiness to listen to how some people feel very strongly about this - especially those who lived through it, & what that name meant to them," said researcher James Low, 47, who was at the gallery with his family.

related:


Singapore renames ‘Syonan’ second world war exhibition after public outcry

Singapore has renamed a second world war exhibition after the original title, which used the name given to the city-state by Japan under its brutal occupation, sparked a public outcry.

The exhibition opened earlier this week under the banner “Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies” to mark the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, then a British colony, to Japanese troops.

But many locals protested use of the term “Syonan” – Japan’s name for the island during its three-year occupation – saying it “evoked deep hurt” among individuals, parents and grandparents.


Newly-launched WWII exhibition in Singapore renamed: minister

Singapore's Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced on Friday to change the name of newly-launched World War II exhibition "Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies" to "Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies."

In a statement released on Friday evening, Yaacob Ibrahim said this particular exhibition name "Syonan Gallery" provoked a strong reaction over the past two days.

He has read comments made on this issue, and received many letters from Singaporeans of all races, which mentioned that the words "Syonan Gallery" had evoked deep hurt in them, as well as their parents and grandparents.


Singapore renames WWII exhibition after outcry

Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim publicly apologised for the mishap.

“This was never our intention (to cause hurt), and I am sorry for the pain the name has caused,” he said in a Facebook post on Friday after receiving letters of complaint.

“I have reflected deeply on what I heard. We must honour and respect the feelings of those who suffered terribly and lost family members during the Japanese Occupation,” he added.


'Syonan' dropped as gallery gets new name
Workers removing the Syonan Gallery signage at the Former Ford Factory last night. FOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

The word "Syonan" has been dropped from the name of the revamped World War II gallery at the Former Ford Factory.

It will now be known as Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War & its Legacies.

When the National Archives showcase was named Syonan Gallery: War & Its Legacies, it sparked public outcry over the use of "Syonan".


NLB backtracks its decision of “Syonan Gallery”, exhibition renamed “Surviving the Japanese Occupation”
Wait till you hear what the Syonan Garden is supposed to memoralise

The Singapore Government has backtracked on its previous decision to name the World War II exhibition, "Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacy", which has spurred strong reaction between Singaporeans in the past few days, choosing to rename it as "Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies".

When Minister for Communication and Information Yaacob Ibrahim opened the exhibition “Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies” on Wednesday (15 February), he explained that the Government had designed this exhibition to capture the dark days of the Japanese Occupation, and remind Singaporeans never to take for granted our peace, harmony and sovereignty.

He stressed that the decision made was far from expressing approval of the Japanese Occupation, saying, "Our intention was to remember what our forefathers went through, commemorate the generation of Singaporeans who experienced the Japanese Occupation, and reaffirm our collective commitment never to let this happen again."



Blunder in naming ‘Syonan Gallery’ reflects the failure of group-think in PAP government

The “Syonan Gallery” had now been changed to “Surviving the Japanese Occupation, legacies of WW2″.

Anyone expecting some silly newbie PAP ministers to come out and say: see the PAP listens to the people. Please! This is a PAP blunder where there is a real and serious risk of them losing many votes and trust from their supporters and the swing voters.

Singapore is not China or S Korea when it comes to registering its hurt and memories of the atrocities committed by the Japs during WW2 but many had loved ones who were slaughtered by the Japs during the war, not to mention the many who died of starvation and ill health.

related:


Government makes u-turn in naming WWII memorial as Syonan gallery

Following backlash (both online and offline) from the public, the government has decided to change the name of a World War II museum.

The exhibition, titled Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies will now be called Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim in a statement today (17 Feb).

The contents of the exhibition remain unchanged. They capture a painful and tragic period in our history which we must never forget, and which we must educate our young about. It is vital for us to learn the lessons of history, and reaffirm our commitment never to let this happen to Singapore again.


Singapore renames WWII exhibition after outcry

The words “Syonan Gallery” would be removed from the name of the exhibition and the new title would be “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies”, he said.

Yaacob also rejected suggestions that using the name “Syonan” implied approval of the Japanese occupation.

“Our intention was to remember what our forefathers went through, commemorate the generation of Singaporeans who experienced the Japanese occupation, and reaffirm our collective commitment never to let this happen again.”


Syonan Gallery renamed after public outcry
Workers in a cherry picker in the process of covering up the signage for the gallery at the Former Ford Factory building last night. The gallery's new name is Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War & its Legacies. ST FOTO: LIM SIN THAI

The name of the revamped World War II gallery space at the Former Ford Factory building has been changed, following public feedback that it was insensitive & hurtful.

Yesterday evening, Minister for Communications & Information Yaacob Ibrahim said that Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies will now be called Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies.

He said people have shared with him how they were hurt by the words "Syonan Gallery".


Statement from Minister for Communications and Information on “Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies”

When I opened the exhibition “Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies” on Wednesday, I explained that we had designed this exhibition to capture the dark days of the Japanese Occupation, and remind ourselves never to take for granted our peace, harmony and sovereignty.

Far from expressing approval of the Japanese Occupation, our intention was to remember what our forefathers went through, commemorate the generation of Singaporeans who experienced the Japanese Occupation, and reaffirm our collective commitment never to let this happen again.

The name of the exhibition reflected the time in our history when Singapore was forcibly renamed “Syonan”. We have used the word “Syonan” before to factually describe this difficult period. For instance, in 1992, for the 50thAnniversary of the Fall of Singapore, we held an exhibition at the National Museum, titled “When Singapore was Syonan-to”.


Syonan Gallery to be renamed after ‘deep reflection’: Yaacob
Workers taking down the Syonan Gallery signage shortly after an announcement was made about its name change to 'Surviving the Japanese Occupation'. Foto: Wee Teck Hian

Following a public outcry, Syonan Gallery will be renamed to “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies”, Communications & Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said on Friday (Feb 17) as he apologised “for the pain the name has caused”.

The U-turn came 2 days after both Dr Yaacob & Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted the strong public reaction but said the name was a reminder of a traumatic period that Singapore must not forget.

In a statement, Dr Yaacob said: “Over the past 2 days, I have read the comments made on this issue and received many letters from Singaporeans of all races. While they agreed that we need to teach Singaporeans about the Japanese Occupation, they also shared that the words “Syonan Gallery” had evoked deep hurt in them, as well as their parents & grandparents.”


Syonan Gallery renamed, Yaacob apologises for 'pain the name caused'
Workers covering up Syonan Gallery signage after it was announced that the exhibition would be renamed (Foto: Howard Law)

The name of an exhibition on World War 2 era Singapore will be changed, out of respect for the people who suffered under the Japanese Occupation.

The exhibition, titled Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies, will now be called Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies, said Minister for Communications & Information Yaacob Ibrahim in a statement on Friday (Feb 17).

The exhibition is housed in the historic Old Ford Factory at Upper Bukit Timah, where the British formally surrendered to the Japanese 75 years ago.


TGIF special: Yaacob Ibrahim apologises; “Syonan Gallery” renamed; Khaw Boon Wan lends sarpork

At the launch of the revamped museum on Wednesday (Feb 15), Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, said it was understandable that the name Syonan Gallery has “evoked some strong reactions in the community”.

Two days later, Yaacob made a U-turn: he “reflected deeply” on these reactions and apologised “for the pain the name has caused instead”.

Yaacob added that it was never the government’s intention for the words “Syonan Gallery” to cause such deep hurt in Singaporeans, as well as their parents and grandparents.


G renames Syonan Gallery

DID G commit a faux pas? The purpose of a gallery is to remember, not to honour. Somehow, naming of the gallery has triggered numerous negative reactions – the name Syonan is not appropriate

Two quick thoughts on the renaming of the gallery:
  • First, Singaporean voices matter. G is moving away from a top down approach; you can call it the GE2011 effect. They got the feedback/backlash and made the changes. Seems that calling a spade a spade is not right in this case.
  • Second, G is not afraid to do correct her misstep.


Daniel Goh 吴佩松 11 hrs

Excellent resolution to the controversy.

Both the inappropriate "Syonan" and the pretentious "Gallery" dropped. I think we would have been poorer without this controversy, so all's well that ends well. I am reminded of what Shanice Lishan Foh said in the comments of my previous post on the misnaming, "hey this make us all think about our history".

I can't agree more.

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2 days after PM Lee defend & supported the name "Syonan Gallery", they now 180 degree U-turn?
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Syonan Gallery exhibition at the Former Ford Factory is a reminder of a traumatic period in Singapore history: PM Lee
The Syonan Gallery: War & its Legacies exhibition which opened at the former Ford Factory on Feb 15, 2017. ST FOTO: MARK CHEONG

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has expressed his support of naming an exhibition about the Japanese Occupation "Syonan Gallery".

Critics have questioned the use of "Syonan", which some have said glorifies the occupiers of Singapore & is "insensitive".

S'pore was renamed Syonan-to by the Japanese in 1942, following the British surrender. It means "Light of the South".


NLB explains rationale behind naming new museum Syonan Gallery; name had sparked debate
"It is a sombre reminder not to take our peace and harmony for granted, and to appreciate the need to defend ourselves."

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, NLB said that after consulting historians and its advisory panel, it "decided that no other name captured the time and all that it stood for".

Elaborating on the rationale behind its decision, NLB said: "The period when Singapore was known as Syonan was a very important part of our history. The new name of the gallery reminds us how brittle our sovereignty can be, as Singapore lost not only its freedom, but also its name during the Japanese Occupation.

NLB said that the museum features voices from the darkest part of Singapore's history so that "future generations will remember what our predecessors went through".

related: Name of revamped museum stirs debate

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Naming stuff is hard

On Wednesday at the exhibition's opening, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim defended Syonan Gallery, saying the naming did not express approval of the Japanese Occupation.

But two days later, the name was gone.

Dr Yaacob said: "I have reflected deeply on what I heard. We must honour and respect the feelings of those who suffered terribly and lost family members during the Japanese Occupation. I have therefore decided to remove the words 'Syonan Gallery' from the name of the exhibition, and name it Surviving The Japanese Occupation: War And Its Legacies."

read more

The Syonan Gallery clown show
The Omnishambles so far...

On 10 February 2017, Singapore's National Library Board (NLB) unveiled the new name for the Old Ford Factory WW2 history museum. It would be called the "Syonan Gallery", in memory of the name Singapore was administered as during the Japanese Occupation.

Tempers flared. According to the rising ire of detractors, the name Syonan (昭南 or "Light of the South") was an affront to survivors of the occupation. It glorified the imperialist project of the Japanese. The minister in charge of culture disagreed. Syonan is the most appropriate name to remind ourselves never again.

Of course, there isn't a doubt that Syonan Gallery was a mistake. It's a mistake that hasn't been seen before in the field of cultural and historical production. To my knowledge, there isn't a Sudentenland Museum in the Czech Republic, or a Lebensraum Museum or a Heims in Reich Museum in Poland - because competent historians and curators elsewhere know better than to name a war museum using the frame of reference of the historical villains.

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Syonan Gallery: War & Its Legacies

War and Its Legacies is a permanent World War Two exhibition presented by the National Archives of Singapore at the historic Former Ford Factory. This was the place where the British forces surrendered unconditionally to the Imperial Japanese Army on 15 February 1942. The exhibition presents the events and memories surrounding the British surrender, the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, and the legacies of the war.  Through oral history accounts, archival records and published materials, the exhibition highlights the diverse experiences of people in Singapore during this crucial time in our history.

BECOMING SYONAN - After the British surrender, Singapore was renamed Syonan-to, or 'Light of the South'. The Japanese Occupation was a period of suffering and unfulfilled promises. Through the personal items and oral history recollections on display, find out about the diverse wartime experiences and the different ways people responded to these challenges.

SOOK CHING - Three days after the British surrender of Singapore, the Japanese carried out a mass screening of the Chinese community to sieve out suspected anti-Japanese elements, marking the beginning of a fearful period of state-sanctioned violence. Through oral history accounts, learn about the harrowing experiences of those who were screened and escaped the killings.

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