It was about time before the “disappearing” Sir Stamford Raffles statue along Boat Quay (and statues of other historical figures that got added later on) got turned into a meme.
We previously noticed the statue’s “disappearance” just before the New Year, with Instagram posts and media reports talking about the happening without revealing who was behind the Banksy-like move.
It was later revealed by the Singapore Bicentennial Office on their Facebook page that it was all part of a stunt that the office commissioned to local artist Teng Kai Wei, to commemorate the 200th anniversary that Raffles stepped foot into Singapore.
Internet humorist YEOLO took to his Facebook page this past week to comment on the statues: first, by offering a simple analogy on Thursday to anyone who has ever made plans and then backs out of them.
He then likens the statue’s so-called disappearance to other things that have disappeared in Singapore, such as analog television, SingPost deliveries, and ofo Singapore vacating its office recently. Oooof.
He then went on to spoofing the statues of other historical figures that have also shaped Singapore’s history, by replacing them with figures we all deeply care about: the Thoughtful Bunch quintet (seriously, there is a term for these characters) which was first introduced in 2014 by the Land Transport Authority to promote gracious behaviour among commuters in trains.
We all know these characters more, of course, for how absolutely ridiculous they are.
Other memes have been surfacing, touching on more sensitive issues of colonialism, such as this one by Paul Jerusalem commenting on the role of Sir Stamford Raffles in Singapore’s history:
The post, which has received more than 800 shares as of press time, got some criticism by a commenter who alleged that Paul had discounted those who fought to defend Singapore against the Japanese occupation but Paul was quick to reply by saying “this is a meme about not the valiant men who fought the war, but the colonizers who didn’t seem to be as interested in defending their little pearl in the Orient”.
“To willfully insist on reading the meme as an insult to the poor, valiant people who were drafted to fight… is missing the point: for all of its benefits, colonialism was, at its core, exploitative,” said Paul to Coconuts Singapore.
The memes go on with another one by Paul comparing different forms of colonialism, complete with an educational quote on what neo-colonialism is by Ghanaian nationalist leader Kwame Nkrumah:
The bicentennial commemorations have come under intense scrutiny by social media folks, who argue that keeping statues up serves to preserve the colonizer instead of removing it altogether and that the choice to commemorate the date Raffles entered Singapore is, well, a choice.
Although Paul commends the Singapore Bicentennial Office for questioning the narrative around Singapore’s founding, he said that it would be “deeply ironic” if the Bicentennial commemorations do not end in the removal of Raffles’ statue.
“There’s no reason why we should be literally placing our colonizers on a pedestal all these years later,” he added.
“If Singapore is more than just one date and one man, why do we have an entire campaign/exercise, complete with logo, specifically about the bicentennial of the date that one guy set foot on Singapore?” said Kirsten Han, editor-in-chief of New Naratif, on Facebook.
The Singapore Bicentennial Office said to Coconuts Singapore recently that the event serves as a reflection of Singapore’s history and its up and downs.
Editor’s note: Added comments by Paul Jerusalem