Syonan Gallery – what’s in a name?

The old Memories at Ford Factory has been revamped and renamed: Syonan Gallery. But people are not commenting on the ‘contents’ of the exhibition; it’s not open yet. They have gone ape-shit over its name (see here). Syonan, you see, is the name the the Japanese gave to Singapore in the few short years during WW Two. According to the report “Heritage expert and law professor Kevin Tan said: “I think a more appropriate name might have to be found as it suggests a celebration of the time. The frontage could be more sensitive.”

Yes, we should be much more sensitive about the sufferings Singapore had to endure under the Japanese. Maybe for a start, Singaporeans who had collaborated with the Japanese would be ‘distanced’, just like how we would like to distance ourselves from ‘Syonan’ due to the memories of the cruelty of the Japanese. Should such people, including a few who had held very high positions in Singapore post-WW Two (and who now have buidlings and scholarships named after them) be reviewed as they were actually working for the Japanese during their occupation of Singapore (i.e. collaborators with the Japanese, who in their collaborations could’ve made Singaporeans suffer)? Or maybe we should go further in WW Two ideology: People who drive the old VW beetles should be reviewed because the distinctive round-ish car was, after all, made under the orders of Hitler? There were Singaporeans who did much to resist the Japanese during the war with much pain and hardship (and even death) but do we see many buildings and scholarships named after Lim Bo Seng and Elizabeth Choy? Nope.

OK, enough of the bull-crap. Yes, people can protest the name Syonan Gallery because everyone one has a right to. And yes, of all the names in the world, if the Library Board and National Archives picked this one on purpose, they should definitely be well-prepared for the ensuing shit-storm. But i just hope that these people think about why and how they are picking and choosing their personal memories of WW Two that suits their convenience. If the gallery’s contents are historically ‘accurate’ and paint a ‘fair’ picture of Singapore at the time of occupation, I don’t give a hoot what it’s called. I am, however, interested to see if the gallery does talk about Singaporeans such as K.Y. and S.R. and their roles as collaborators (and if such collaborations resulted in intelligence that actually harmed locals) in these few short years.

Eh, what’s that pink, hairless blob that just flew past my window???

How about “Glorification to the tangible sufferings of our stoic people in the face of inhumane acts of cruelty by the incorrigible Japanese during WWII in occupied-Singapore Gallery”?

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