Seriously, you don’t want to miss this rare chance to explore Singapore’s fascinating clan associations…
Ever walked down the quaint Bukit Pasoh Road and admired the perfectly preserved shophouses that are always closed? Well, Street of Clans festival, a part of much-awaited Singapore Design Week, is your chance to look in. This quiet street, home to exclusive and age-old Chinese clans, will be bustling this weekend. No wonder, it made it our curated weekend guide too!
What’s a clan, again?
Not many might know this but clans played (and continue to play) an important role in Singapore’s progress. Formed when Singapore was a part of the Straits Settlements, these associations came into being to help fellow immigrants with common ancestry, surname, hometown or language.
It became a home away from home where members would connect, share meals, help each other in various ways. With time, clans got involved in the development of Singapore – setting up schools, supporting the arts and such. In fact, the Chin Kang Huay Kuan building on Bukit Pasoh Road was actually the HQ for Japanese resistance during the war. That significant is their contribution!
What’s so great about Street of Clans?
Gee, only everything! Put together by OuterEdit, a creative agency, this festival plan to inject vibrancy into a historic ‘hood. It took convincing, some more than others, but the once private and elusive clans of Bukit Pasoh Road are opening their doors. It’s a rare opportunity to experience history in such a way – look out for free guided tours into Gan Clan, Tan Kah Kee Foundation and Straits Clan. Walk into these heritage buildings, learn about their story, ask questions and appreciate site-specific art installations created in collab with local artists and creatives.
Even today, behind those beautiful closed doors, clan members come together to collectively move communities forward. We had a good stickybeak around the clan association buildings and the artworks.
Matthew Sia’s wind spinners in the Gan clan hall on the level three left us starry-eyed. and The suspended Holographic whirligigs catch the light and wind quietly spinning in a cold room… it’s borderline hypnotic!
Across the street, Ong Lijie’s installation at the Chin Kang Huay Kuan illustrates a new generation honouring their traditions and culture. Silkscreened on blue fabric and suspended on the ceiling, we almost wish they’d keep it there forever.
Nearby, two of our favourite brands teamed up. Contemporary furniture label Scene Shang and the sisters with the scarves at Binary Style transformed the front room of Tung On Wui Kun clan building. Titled ‘For the love of opera’ (featured top), it’s expectedly a riot of colours! Fittingly, it’s inspired by this clan’s passion for Cantonese opera.
A few doors ago is the Koh clan – that we reckon will be a hit with kids and kidults. Pixie Tan’s To The Power Of has assembled an interactive installation that’s essentially a giant marble run and best experienced in collaboration with fellow festival goers. Pick a ball and set it on one of three pastel-hued tracks – watch it roll past chimes and eventually find its way home. Once it reaches its destinations, little lights come on and it sets off a record player that sings an old Chinese song. Inspired by the five surnames that make up the Koh clan, it combines set design, sound design, and DIY technology.
Oh, while the rare chance to look inside these clans is a highlight, the festival also includes plenty of other fun things. Sit through design talks (it is, after all, a part of Singapore Design Festival), get your portraits drawn, learn how to make your own lantern (kid-friendly), savour Peranakan food with Chef Malcolm Lee, painting sessions, try your hand at pottery at Studio Asobi and more. Of course, there will be plenty of live music from local bands and Zouk.
Street of Clans, Friday 8 March from 5 – 10pm and 9 & 10 March from 11am – 10pm