An artist whose portrait of Singapore’s first president is immortalised on currency notes, and a centenarian who still goes to work daily are among 80 people highlighted in a new book.
The English version of The Story of Singapore Teochews, to be launched on Saturday, highlights the movers and shakers in Singapore’s 700,000-strong Teochew community – the largest Chinese dialect group here after the Hokkiens.
It chronicles their contributions to the Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan and Singapore as the clan association celebrates its 90th anniversary and as the nation commemorates its bicentennial this year.
Artist Chua Mia Tee, 87, is behind the portrait of Singapore’s first president, Mr Yusof Ishak.
The prolific portraitist, who dropped out of Chung Cheng High School without his father’s consent and studied at the Nanyang School of Art instead, has painted Singaporean luminaries – including six presidents – throughout his career.
The Cultural Medallion winner, whose work – among other things – captures Singapore’s nation-building years, is known as one of the country’s foremost realist painters.
The book also delves deeper into the backstory of centenarian and entrepreneur Eng Liat Kiang, detailing his journey to Singapore in a cargo ship in 1936, and how he started his work life by plucking chickens, running a fruit shop and roadside stall selling onions and garlic, before eventually establishing the Sin Heng Chan group which focuses on real estate today.
Speaking to The Sunday Times last Thursday, Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan president Chua Kee Teang, 70, said the 448-page publication aims to showcase and impart the culture, heritage and traditions of the Teochew community to younger Teochews and other ethnic groups.
“We want to transmit our Teochew culture and values, including the importance of family, contributing to the nation and entrepreneurship traits, to younger generations,” he said.
The clan association recently organised a beauty pageant to encourage more young women to join its fold and to develop them into Teochew ambassadors. The first such pageant was held in 2017, with about 40 women taking part.
The Teochew Poit Ip Huay Kuan has more than 5,000 active members. Poit Ip, which means eight districts in the Teochew dialect, stands for the eight Teochew districts in the province of Guangdong, China.
The book is one of about 200 community heritage projects that the National Heritage Board (NHB) has co-funded over the past five years.
NHB’s assistant chief executive of policy and community, Mr Alvin Tan, said: “Ground-up projects such as this are important because they capture community heritage and strengthen community identity for current and future generations to treasure.
“We hope that more groups and individuals will take ownership and embark on similar projects, and in doing so, amplify NHB’s efforts to document different aspects of our community heritage.”
The book also captures the association’s founding story and its journey over the past nine decades.
The book will be launched at Chui Huay Lim Club on Saturday. It will be distributed free to the Teochew community at the book launch.
E-book versions of the publication, in Chinese and English, will be available online from the same day.
The Chinese version of the book was launched last September.