Ritual & memory

Sam Chia

Singapore. A small island-nation, the country has worked its land manifold to compensate for the lack of a hinterland to expand to. Land is no longer natural, of the ground itself, but instead a political, economical tool, wielded by the state, in many revisions of tabula rasa. These changing landscapes affect not only how the country looks, but how its people behaves - rituals, memories, traditions become lost and altered because of the shifting environment. The graduation thesis thus seeks to investigate how one might continue and establish significance on a changing landscape. The project takes the site of an existing Hakka cemetery in Singapore currently embedded in the heart of a residential estate. It had lost its land to state planning, and now sitting on leased land, is potentially poised to have the rest taken away for redevelopment. The thesis saw the site as a representation of the island-nation itself – of having been altered, and on the brink of being altered (or erased completely). The thesis thus proposes a columbarium as a wall enclosing the existing cemetery, connected to the existing ancestral temple via a series of courtyards that hold ritual performances. A rethinking of burial ritual is thus proposed, one that recalls the notion of ground through the act of carrying the urn through ritual landscape, and a held place for communal festivals to play out. Through this demarcation and holding of territories, the thesis itself becomes an act of resistance.