The National Museum of Singapore welcomes visitors back to the newly refreshed Goh Seng Choo Gallery with the exhibition A Voyage of Love and Longing. It features a selection of the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings paired with Malay literature for the first time, to encourage visitors to not only learn about the diverse natural history in the region, but also to rediscover the rich cultural heritage of our Malay community and neighbours. The presentation of the 19th-century drawings alongside Malay pantuns (rhyme quatrains), classical texts and love ballads offers visitors a fresh, lyrical perspective on the natural history depicted in the collection. These include excerpts from prominent regional writers and musicians from the 19th and 20th centuries, ranging from Amir Hamzah and Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, to Ella and Saloma. Interactive digital activities and displays at the show encourage visitors to further engage with the storied collection.
The exhibition draws inspiration from the practice of belayar (voyage) in the Malay Archipelago during the 19th century, and it is designed to evoke the complex emotions seafarers felt at different points of a sea voyage, from departure to return. For example, Malay pantuns that use birds as a subject to express a voyager’s sense of love and longing are juxtaposed with corresponding drawings from the collection offering viewers a personal, emotional connection to the natural history drawings.
Drawings of plants and animals significant to coastal communities in the Malay Archipelago, including trees used to make sea-faring vessels and the woolly-necked stork which inspired the design of the vessels, are also displayed alongside Malay literature. The juxtaposition amplifies the resonance between the collection and life in the Malay world, and offers audiences a lyrical way of understanding the natural history drawings.
Another striking pairing in the exhibition is the poetic coupling of drawings of vibrantly coloured Burung Punai birds with lyrics from the popular Malay love ballad “Mengapa Dirindu” (Why Do You Miss Them). The song, sung by renowned Singapore-born singer Saloma, inspired the music that plays in the background of the gallery.
Venue: National Museum of Singapore
Goh Seng Choo Gallery, Level 2
93 Stamford Rd, Singapore 178897
When: 10 Feb - 31 Dec 2021,