I haven’t been posting much because life is short, but you can catch me in June in pixilated person when I share my research findings as part of my Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship at the National Library of Singapore. As the press for the talk explains:
“From roadside shrines to sacred graves, Singapore once abounded with keramat. As post-independence development spread across the island, many of these sites were destroyed, their stories and history poorly recorded. Using site-specific research methodologies, this research project has analyzed the archival traces of extant and vanished keramat to build an archival catalog with entries for each one. The complete catalog contains close to 1,000 pages of textual, cartographic and photographic records for more than 50 keramat, as well as appendices for special topics such as kubor panjang (long graves), police station shrines and keramat families. The study paves the way for a wide analysis of the keramat phenomenon, revealing ethnohistoric patterns that otherwise remain obscure.
In this sharing session, Dr Gibson will discuss the research methodology he used to build the catalog, and use examples from his research to explain the outcomes of this methodology.”
Register at the link below…but be warned…my research is so hot, your brain will melt and run out your ears!
I was very pleased to go for a short trek around Lower Pierce Reservoir in Singapore with my long-time friend Phil Towndrow and to participate in his on-going video blog project.
Check that out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ioXKebM1Y84
This was totally extemporaneous so some of my explanations are a bit garbled. Here’s some more info:
The white guy who had a planation nearby was none other than John Turnbull Thomson, and he did indeed build a bridge or at least improve an existing bridge.
There were actually numerous bridges in the area and they may hold they clue to the name Ang Mo Kio…however, the colonial district name of Amokiah appears on maps in the early 1840s and thus predates Thomson’s planation.
Here’s one from 1842 from National Archives of Singapore:
The official National Heritage Board trail guide for AMK, written a decade ago by the excellent researcher and writer (and my friend) Tan Chui Hua, has this to say:
So, like, next time I go on a walk with Phil, maybe I should script it a bit first!
My most recent article for BiblioAsia investigates the German Girl shrine on Pulau Ubin, a space-shipped shaped island just off the coast near Singapore’s Changi airport. Its a fascinating story and you can read it here: https://biblioasia.nlb.gov.sg/vol-17/issue-3/oct-dec-2021/ubinsgermangirlshrine
This article is the second in my site-specific studies in Singapore. The first, also published in BiblioAsia, focused on Karikal Mahal. Read that here: https://biblioasia.nlb.gov.sg/vol-16/issue-3/oct-dec-2020/karikal
I am now working on a study of keramat in Singapore as part of a Lee Kong Chian Research Fellowship from NLB. This will be followed by work on the intersection of zoos, films, and exotic/erotica in the region. All of this work is planned as a book that presents an alternate history of Singapore…sometime in the next few years (check out my most recent book here: https://www.routledge.com/Alfred-Raquez-and-the-French-Experience-of-the-Far-East-1898-1906/Gibson/p/book/9780367702489)
There were some images for the German Girl shrine we did not include in the published article. Check those out here:
This map from 1923 shows the Wee Cheng Soon Quarry operation at the 190-foot-tall Ong Lye Sua, now Ketam Quarry. This is where the original shrine was located before being moved in the 1970s. Note that the 190 foot peak would have been a navigation mark for the dangerous shallows around the nearly flat Pulau Ketam. In this map, Bukit Puaka is unnamed but sits across the Sungei Puaka estuary, home to the Topham Jones & Railton Quarry. https://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/maps_building_plans/record-details/b87a1a8f-57a3-11e6-b4c5-0050568939ad
This aerial photograph shows the extend of the quarrying works at Ong Lye Sua in 1969. Within a few years, the hillside by the shore would be completely levelled. The original shrine is somewhere in this photograph…but where? A bend in the Sungei Puaka can be seen at bottom left. https://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/photographs/record-details/6b5b3212-9abb-11e4-859c-0050568939ad
Here are some images of the shrine itself:
[“Foreign Girl Becomes a ‘Datuk Girl’”], Xin Ming Ri Bao, 29 December 1987, 4.
The “Man in the Hat” (and my friend) Julian Davison walks away from the shrine in these still images from a 2004 episode of the TV show Site and Sound. “The Last Wild Place to Change Its Face.” Site and Sound with Julian Davison S02 E12.
The shrine in 2007 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Girl_Shrine (the pages needs updating now that my research is published). This is how it looked when I first encountered it in 2006.
As I explain in my article, it underwent a complete renovation in 2015.
Here are some early photos of the altar, for those who are curious about the urn. The first is the oldest known image, [“Strangely Wondrous Temple”], Lianhe Wanbao, 14 July 1990, 2. Note the perfume and cosmetics left as offerings.
Ten years later, this still image from Ho Choon Hiong’s documentary film shows the same urn in place.
And here’s Julian leaning on the altar in 2004. Note the lottery number taped to the altar.
And the urn as it appears today, between the “haunted Barbie” and the new icon. A note on the doll…there are numerous photos of it online and it clearly has been changed regularly. I haven’t collected and collated all those images…you give it try…its fun!
This large termite mound can be found in the scrub just behind the shrine. As I explain in my article, the so called German Girl most likely began as a datuk kong (earth spirit) shrine, a termite mound that was in the shape of a woman laying down.
BUT for those of you who want to hang onto the German Girl story, there is a provocative name associated with the rubber plantation that replaced the coffee plantation. This information is not included in the BiblioAsia article. It’s only for the brave few who found my sad little blog.
The Singapore and Straits Directory for the year 1913 lists an assistant on the Pulo Obin Estate with the Dutch name of “A. Milkuizen,” and it is possible this man was present on the island for part of the following year, as his name appears as “Milkhuisen” in The Directory & Chronicle for China, Japan, Corea, Indo-China, Straits Settlements, Malay states, Siam, Netherlands India, Borneo, the Philippines, &c. for 1914, the year of the war (though the later date could be explained by the publishing schedule in Hong Kong).
Nothing more is known about this man. Could his daughter be the origin of the sweet Dutch-German girl villagers remembered years later? The mystery won’t die!!!
There’s much more to the story that I investigated that did not make it into the BiblioAsia article. The presence of Tamil workers on the coffee planation, and later Bawanese workers on the rubber planation, multiple misidentifications of the names of the owners and managers of the plantation by bloggers and even NParks, a broader discussion of the quarrying operations on Ubin and the transformation of the island into a nature reserve (at one point in the 1990s there was a plan for an HDB New Town on the western end, complete with MRT stations!)…there wasn’t space for all this in the magazine article but it will appear in some form at a later date. Stay tuned!!
Yours truly keeping good with the spirit (photo by Hikari D. Azyure).
Back in the days of my postgrad lounging around, we all used to gather at The Fenton pub near campus to discuss the problems of the world and get bombed.
This article [https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/apr/19/pubs-disco-and-fighting-nazis-how-leeds-nurtured-british-post-punk] in The Guardian contextualizes The Fenton’s signature role in creating a gritty post-punk, Northern-based pop sound in 1970s Britain.
It makes all the time and money I spent getting soused there twenty years later seem totally worth it!
So I’ve been, like, busy, with stuff and haven’t been putting much time into my alter ego DrG Supreme, but I’m happy to say the finishing touches are being made to the next TWSC release…the fourth album from my experimental sound project.
Over the past year or so as I’ve been writing I’ve been listening to a lot of Tim Hecker, William Basinski, Cliff Martinez, and Brian Eno and I think all that has percolated into Flowers…which will be out on BitPulse Records, like, soonish…
Meanwhile, check out the advance, non-mastered track Raquel on youtube: https://youtu.be/VupduKPefFA
Hop aboard the Honda Vario for a night ride across south Jakarta…. It doesn’t get much more fun than this! Or does it???
Awhile back we established that my commute is far superior to your commute and I featured videos to prove it…riding to work on my bike and riding home on my Honda scooter through the dynamic streets of Jakarta.
Now just for fun we’re doing a reverse commute…riding to work on my scooter and riding home on my bike. Some overlap along the routes, but not much…I generally go different ways…
Let’s face it, my commute kicks the shit out of your commute. Here’s a couple of videos from my daily ride shot on my new GoPro Hero5 Session, one from my bicycle and the other from my Honda scooter. Each one is in real time.
Other than walking, the best way to see the city is on two wheels so I’ll keep posting videos to my youtube channel as I make them.
Meanwhile, enjoy these two rides. About 20 minutes each, which is the same length as a “half-hour” American sitcom, only my videos are a thousand times more interesting than anything on TV and two-thousand times more interesting than 97% of all other videos on Youtube.
Called macet (sounds like the first part of “machete”) in local patois, Jakarta is now considered one of the worst cities in the world for traffic.
I drive here everyday on a little Honda Vario scooter, but I’ve never seen anything like this…
That’s a four way junction of two four-lane roads. The car trying to turn right is about mid-way through the junction. The tailback of motobikes on my side–which completely filled the oncoming lane–was at least a kilometer.
This goat-fuck went on for about 20 minutes. I turned off my motor and so did most other riders.
Then ONE GUY fixed this mess. He was a big burly dude with a jacket and a do-rag (under that broiling sun!), and he waded into the middle of his thing and by swearing and shoving and generally being a boss-man, got the motorbikes moving and unclogged the passage. This dude wasn’t a cop (there was none to be seen) but just a neighborhood guy with some balls and brawn and a short fuse…also a good sense of spatial geometry.
Whatever your commute, it’s probably PLAIN VANILLA compared to a daily run in Indonesia’s megacity!