I think we can all agree that 2020 was a challenging year. Like many people, I’m looking forward to a much better year ahead.
And for those of us with a sweet tooth, what better way to start 2021 than to tuck into buttery rich kueh lapis? Christopher Tan’s essay on the origins of this mouth-watering layered cake from Indonesia – made of eggs, butter, flour and spices – is a feast for the senses, and very timely too, given the upcoming Lunar New Year.
Still on the subject of eggs, you should read Yeo Kang Shua’s examination of Madras chunam, the plaster made from, among other things, egg white and sugar. It is widely believed to have been used on the interior walls of St Andrew’s Cathedral. Kang Shua sets the record straight.
Given the current predilection for toppling statues of contentious historical figures, poet and playwright Ng Yi-Sheng argues that Raffles has already been knocked off his pedestal – figuratively speaking that is.
From a familiar historical figure, we turn to a relatively unknown personality – Kunnuck Mistree, a former Indian convict who remade himself into a successful and respectable member of society. Vandana Aggarwal ferrets out the facts to uncover a fascinating story of redemption in 19th-century Singapore.
For a break from these heavy topics, check out our delightful photo essay on the children of the 1960s from the collection of the National Archives. And sadly, as Robinsons too fades into history, we shine a spotlight on some not-so-well-known aspects of its storied past.
Speaking of spotlights, one of my favourite essays in this issue is the one on the history of street lighting in Singapore. Timothy Pwee takes what might have been a dull subject and turns it into an illuminating (pun intended) read.
I’d also like to draw your attention to the essay that highlights the National Library’s rich collection of rare paper-based artefacts. We have more than 19,000 items and our recent book, Stories from the Stacks, showcases a small selection of them, including a manual of football rules in Jawi, a colonial-era list of Tamil names, and a copy of a 15th-century Chinese map that mentions Temasek.
These are just a few of the interesting articles that await you in this issue. Make yourself a nice cuppa (perhaps with a slice of kueh lapis), sit back, and slowly savour these essays. We enjoyed putting this issue together and we hope you will equally enjoy reading it.
Ms Tan Huism