Preserve culture by letting it evolve

Ice kacang has evolved from its beginnings in the 1950s to include a variety of new ingredients. This enables it to be appreciated by different generations of Singaporeans and remain popular.
Ice kacang has evolved from its beginnings in the 1950s to include a variety of new ingredients. This enables it to be appreciated by different generations of Singaporeans and remain popular.TNP FILE PHOTO

It is sad to see our old trades and traditions being slowly eroded by the effects of modernisation, but it is something that cannot be avoided ("Can more be done to save Singapore's past?"; Jan 13).

Hanging on to the old ways will not recreate how life was.

Rather, it creates a caricature of the past.

For instance, we may be able to preserve the facade of buildings in heritage sites like Kampong Glam and Chinatown, but we will never be able to perfectly recreate the traditional way of life in these places.

The only way to preserve our cultural heritage is to allow it to evolve and change with time, so that it can be appreciated across different generations of Singaporeans.

Take ice kacang, for example.

It originated in the 1950s as finely grated ice made into a ball, coated with coloured syrup and eaten with one's bare hands.

This dessert remains popular today, despite the influx of new frozen confections, because it has evolved to include a variety of new ingredients to cater to our modern tastes.

To preserve the old trades and traditions unique to Singapore, we must be willing to allow the old to blend with the new.

In this way, they can remain relevant to Singaporeans of all ages.

Raphael Niu Zi Yuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 19, 2017, with the headline 'Preserve culture by letting it evolve'. Print Edition | Subscribe