Director’s Note (Jul-Sep 2015)
Singapore’s stellar performance at the 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is proof that our athletes have the guts and gumption to push the boundaries and achieve sporting excellence. Singapore’s haul of 259 medals – 84 gold, 73 silver and 102 bronze – which put us in second place at the medal standings behind Thailand – is no mean feat for a tiny nation whose athletes had to compete against the region’s elite. Singapore delivered its best showing since the 1993 Games – when it won 164 medals – and in the process broke more than 100 SEA Games as well as many national and personal records.
This issue of BiblioAsia, aptly themed “Pushing Boundaries”, celebrates the achievements and personal stories of Singaporeans – athletes, entertainers, dancers, civil servants, the ordinary man in the street – especially those who defied the odds and overcame adversity to fulfil their dreams.
Former journalist Chua Chong Jin relives the glory days of some of Singapore’s iconic names in sports, such as weightlifter Tan Howe Liang who won a silver at the 1960 Rome Olympics; high-jumper Lloyd Valberg, the first athlete to represent Singapore at the Olympics in 1948; and sprinter C. Kunalan who won five Asian Games and 14 SEA Games medals over the course of his illustrious career. Paralympians Yip Pin Xiu, Laurentia Tan and Theresa Goh are equally recognised for their sporting success.
Similar stories of grit are fleshed out in Han Fook Kwang’s feature “Stories We Can Call Our Own”. We meet 19-year-old Glenn Phua who has autism, but is an award-winning artist whose works are sold at charity events. We are also introduced to former drug offender Angel Ng who now manages three call centres that hire ex-offenders. These two stories, along with 56 others, are featured in the book entitled Living the Singapore Story, commissioned by the National Library Board and launched in May this year.
Performing Arts Librarian Joy Loh writes about the “Mad Chinaman” Dick Lee, who is one of the first entertainers to push the boundaries of popular music by injecting a strong Singaporean identity into his works, while arts reporter Tara Tan profiles five trailblazers of the dance scene who have created a unique Singaporean dance identity.
Long before Bernard Harrison and the Singapore Zoo, Singapore’s early zoo pioneers included the likes of Stamford Raffles, who mooted the idea of an animal enclosure within a botanic garden in Singapore; William Lawrence Basapa, whose private zoo in Punggol showcased animals native to the Malay Peninsula and Borneo; and Tong Seng Mun, who started the Singapore Miniature Zoo in Pasir Panjang. Librarian Lim Tin Seng reveals the interesting history of Singapore’s early zoos and wildlife parks in his article “All Creatures Great and Small”.
Another noted Singaporean from the annals of history is Mohamed Eunos Abdullah. Senior Librarian Mazelan Anuar profiles the man who not only gave his name to the Eunos district in Singapore, but, more importantly, is known as the “Father of Malay Journalism” in the community.
Many Singaporeans are familiar with the Ayam brand of canned sardines but who would have thought that the brand is of French origins? Senior Reference Librarian Timothy Pwee traces the history of the brand from its founding in Singapore in the early 1890s by Frenchman Alfred Clouët.
Our guest columnist in this issue is the best-selling author and noted thinker Parag Khanna, who identifies diplomacy, demography and technology as the three key pillars in achieving the Singapore dream in his op-ed piece “Seizing the Singapore Dream”.
While we celebrate Team Singapore’s outstanding performance at the SEA Games and the nation’s Golden Jubilee, let us not forget the victims of the tragic Sabah earthquake. The National Library Board extends our sincere condolences to the affected families.
Ms Tay Ai Cheng
Deputy Chief Executive
National Library Board