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SG50: Celebrating Singapore's 50th anniversary


Singapore’s creative spirit is set to take centre stage as the city-state commemorates its 50th anniversary in its own special way, as Verity Hogan reports

Verity Hogan
Verity Hogan ,

Singapore will be buzzing in 2015 as it celebrates 50 years of independence. The SG50 year of festivities includes international sporting events, concerts and timely museum openings – and the celebration of 50 items, foods and customs that have become symbols of Singapore.

These 50 symbols not only resonate with the city-state’s past and present but they also define its character. Food features prominently: chicken rice, often regarded as the city-state’s national dish, represents the region’s Hainan culture; chilli crab echoes the colours of the flag; and the popular dessert ice kacang, made with shaved ice, red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, sugar and syrup, reflects its warm climate. Other symbols are less tangible. Singaporeans’ habit of queuing for product launches and special events features in the list, as does the city-state’s ban on chewing gum, the locals’ love of line dancing and the particularly personable taxi drivers.

Looking ahead
‘The 50-year mark is a profound milestone for our nation, as it is in the life of any person and any group of people,’ said Heng Swee Keat, chairman of the Singapore50 steering committee. ‘It will be an opportunity to look back on how far we have come together as a nation. But turning 50 is as much about looking forward as it is looking back.’

As well as commemorating its past and present, Singapore is planning for the future with an array of construction projects planned to tie in with SG50. National Gallery Singapore is set to open in November and the National Museum of Singapore has undergone an extensive revamp. A new walking trail, aptly named Jubilee Walk, will also be opening to coincide with the commemorations. The trail will take in a number of historic locations in the Civic District and also run to the Marina Bay area. It will feature a pedestrian bridge between Merlion Park and Marina Promenade.

Screen, songs and sport
From an omnibus film to a one-off concert, a host of cultural events will celebrate Singaporean talent. The film, curated by Royston Tan, will feature seven award-winning local directors who have created works celebrating the anniversary. Participating directors include Eric Khoo, Jack Neo and K Rajagopal. ‘Singapore and our people have influenced so many aspects of our lives,’ explained Tan to Screen Daily. ‘A lot of heart is to go into this and it is a way for me and the other directors to give back to our country.’

A Sing50 concert will comprise 50 of Singapore’s most emblematic songs. Spanning a range of genres, they will be performed by local artists in each of the four official languages.

Sports enthusiasts can look forward to the Southeast Asian Games (also known as SEA Games) being held in Singapore in June. The games include 36 sports and 402 events ranging from aquatic contests, basketball, cycling and equestrian disciplines to gymnastics, golf, rowing and martial arts.

A significant souvenir
Singapore’s leading retailers are also participating, with many issuing specially designed products to commemorate the year. Jeweller Risis has launched the Singapore Storytellers collection, a range of five handcrafted, limited-edition charity pendants. Each pendant represents a milestone in the city-state’s history since 1965, and each has been chosen by a local storyteller variously from the fields of business, travel, food and the arts. Every aspect of the pendants celebrates Singapore; even the presentation boxes depict local landmarks and, when displayed together, they show how the skyline has evolved over the last 50 years.

‘This initiative not only represents our brand heritage but is also an opportunity to raise awareness and much needed funds for marginalised communities in Singapore,’ explains Risis director Navin Amarasuriya. ‘As a country we’ve been successful because of our people and their community spirit. As we move into the next 50 years, it’s crucial that we still look out for one another.’

The Hour Glass is also releasing a special edition to mark SG50: the Hublot Red Dot Bang, a limited-edition watch exclusive to Singapore. The watch is a fine example of the accomplished craftsmanship and keen eye for detail that is particularly appreciated in the city-state.

From cultural and sporting events to new national museums and special-edition products, SG50 is set to offer something for every visitor to Singapore: 2015 will be a year of celebration, and everyone is invited.

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