Singapore Oral History, Liu Kang, And the Making of Nanyang Art History in Singapore

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Kunyi Zou


While in other countries, oral histories are usually employed to balance state power and are initiated by non-governmental organisations, oral history in Singapore originates from and is strongly supported by its government and is an indispensable part of Singapore history. As a rather new nation comprised of various ethnicities, including Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Eurasian, nation- building is always at the centre of concern for the state. The use and archiving of Singapore’s Oral History Project thus plays a significant role in its nation-building process, particularly in constructing its national art history. This research thus reveals the significance of archives and archival processing, particularly those related to oral history, in reinforcing nationalism and national identity. Navigating through oral records of a specific group of Chinese Singaporeans termed “pioneer Nanyang/Singapore artists,” this research article reveals a brief history of the Oral History Project and related institutions in Singapore, its political implications, and connection to nation building, specifically in the case of the interview with Liu Kang, a renowned pioneer Nanyang artist. The classification of oral records influences the way researchers use them, particularly with regard to Nanyang artists. Furthermore, the changing classification of Nanyang artists’ oral history materials, particularly those of Liu Kang’s, clearly intertwined with Singapore’s changing direction, focusing more on art and culture in creating a national identity.


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Zou, K. (2022). Singapore Oral History, Liu Kang, And the Making of Nanyang Art History in Singapore. Journal of Social Sciences Naresuan University, 18(1), 203–237.
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