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Listing of Bukit Brown in 2014 World Monuments Watch
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Singapore Heritage Society Statement on the listing of Bukit Brown in 2014 World Monuments Watch (10 Oct 2013)

The Singapore Heritage Society is heartened that Bukit Brown has been included in the World Monuments Watch list for 2014.

Founded in 1965, the World Monuments Fund, which runs World Monuments Watch, is based in New York and is the world’s leading independent organization dedicated to saving mankind’s treasured places. Its expertise and resources, including support from UNESCO, have helped restore some 600 sites in more than 90 countries.

On this year’s Watch List is also Pokfolum Village in Hong Kong, while other sites listed in previous years include the Buddhist Remains of Bamiyan (destroyed by Taliban in 2001), the historic Gingerbread Neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti (damaged by earthquake), the Cultural Heritage Sites of Syria (destroyed or damaged in the civil war) and Penang’s Georgetown Historic Enclave (2000 and 2002 Watch List) which is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.

This is the first time a Singapore site has been included in the World Monuments Watch. Together with the Singapore Botanic Gardens’ UNESCO nomination, Bukit Brown’s inclusion represents widespread international recognition of the historical importance of local heritage sites. Indeed, Bukit Brown’s narrative of early immigrants and regional histories complements the Botanic Garden’s narrative of colonial empire to provide a more complex and complete story of Singapore.

The nomination of Bukit Brown for World Monuments Watch inclusion was advanced by the community group, All Things Bukit Brown. This has been a grassroots initiative in response to Prime Minister Lee’s National Day Rally call to Singaporeans to step forth to make Singapore a better home for ourselves.

It is also in keeping with independent surveys on heritage awareness in Singapore. The 2006 Heritage Awareness Survey revealed that almost all Singaporeans surveyed (98.4%) felt that heritage plays a positive role in their lives and that an overwhelming 90% agreed that preserving our heritage would become more important as Singapore moves towards becoming a global city.[1] The survey also revealed that 87% of Singaporeans agreed that a better understanding of Singapore’s history and heritage would increase their own sense of belonging to Singapore. Meanwhile the 2013 Our Singapore Conversation survey showed that Singaporeans wanted heritage spaces to be preserved as far as possible.[2]

This World Monuments Watch inclusion is not a one-off event but part of an on-going series of Bukit Brown-related events such as symposiums, exhibitions and public talks that have been organised by citizens and community groups that have been taking place since November 2011.

Finally, the inclusion in the World Monuments Watch 2014 list is in keeping with the Singapore Heritage Society’s call for Bukit Brown to be gazetted as a heritage site. This inclusion should be seized as the opportunity to raise greater awareness of Bukit Brown and to conduct comprehensive documentation of the greater Bukit Brown space that includes the Seh Ong, Kopi Sua and Lau Sua cemeteries, which will provide the basis for future preservation plans.

REFERENCES

[1] Channel News Asia (18 July 2007) Heritage awareness rising among Singaporeans: study; see also http://www.heritagefest.org.sg/2007/official/images/stories/Downloads/press_release_shf2007_opening_ceremony.pdf (accessed 8 Oct 2013)

[2] https://www.oursgconversation.sg/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/OSC-Survey.pdf (accessed 8 Oct 2013)

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