Residents of Ubin critical in maintaining island's heritage

We thank Ms Yu Kexin for expressing her appreciation of Pulau Ubin as a repository of history and heritage (Don't let Ubin become an industrial or military island; Aug 2) .

The Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) has been working over the last four years not only to conserve Ubin's heritage but also to revitalise it as living heritage.

It is Pulau Ubin's living community which renders the island meaningful.

Ubin residents, past and present, and their families are living custodians of the island's cultural heritage.

Ideally, they should remain on Ubin or even return to the island if they have moved away.

At the same time, ways of life on Ubin cannot be frozen as exotica just for mainlanders and tourists to enjoy a few hours' nostalgic recreation in a rustic environment.

A living heritage adapts to changing times, even as it maintains strong continuity with the past.

SHS spearheads Kawan Ubin, formed as a project to promote and support the Ubin villagers as active drivers in revitalising Ubin's heritage.

Notably, Kawan Ubin volunteers organised a Balik Kampung Party on Feb 24, bringing together over 150 Ubin villagers, past and present, including different age groups and a mix of Chinese and Malay families.

As the first large-scale reunion, this party was a milestone, galvanising present and former villagers to reconnect with each other and with their island home.

These community relationships and shared memories are the heart of what a kampung is, not merely a collection of empty wooden buildings.

To promote the involvement of Ubin villagers in revitalising their kampung, SHS is also developing tours, guided by the villagers themselves.

We believe that a human-centred approach to heritage conservation is necessary if it is to be meaningful to future generations.

In this way, the Pulau Ubin kampung will be a place where the much-touted kampung spirit is a lived reality, not mere rhetoric.

Chua Ai Lin (Dr)

Executive Director

Singapore Heritage Society

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2018, with the headline 'Residents of Ubin critical in maintaining island's heritage'. Print Edition | Subscribe