VENICE - The Singapore Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, featuring a 17-metre ship made of rattan, string and wax, was launched by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu on Wednesday (May 10) in Venice, Italy.
The work by multidisciplinary Singapore artist Zai Kuning, 53, is the culmination of almost two decades of research into the pre-colonial history of the Riau Archipelago.
Titled Dapunta Hyang: Transmission Of Knowledge, it references the first Malay king of Srivijaya, Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa and reimagines his voyage through his vast empire, which included Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
This is the eighth time Singapore is participating in the Venice Biennale, a prestigious international contemporary art exhibition, which runs from Saturday (May 13) to Nov 26.
The ship took almost three weeks to build onsite in the Singapore Pavilion, which is located within the Arsenale, a key site of the Venice Biennale.
The installation includes 31 black-and-white portraits of mak yong practitioners, whom Zai met in Mantang Island in Indonesia during his research and travels. Mak yong is a pre-Islamic artform that includes singing, acting, rituals and dance.
Speaking at the launch, Ms Fu thanked Zai and his team for "helping to bring ancient Malay cultural history to life through this stellar piece of work".
She also spoke of the strides Singapore has made towards arts excellence, mentioning the upgrading of the Singapore Art Museum to "meet new demands" and platforms such as the Singapore Biennale, which create opportunities for experimentation and meaningful exchange.
"As a young, vibrant nation with a rich multi-cultural heritage. I am confident that our artists will continue to practise and innovate, to take our arts scene to new heights," she said.
Ms Fu is in Venice till Thursday (May 11) and will meet with other Singapore artists involved in different shows in Venice.
This includes Sarah Choo Jing, 27, who is presenting video installation, Art Of The Rehearsal, which depicts traditional Indian, Chinese and Malay dancers rehearsing against the backdrop of back alleys in Singapore's heritage districts.