Lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society: ‘The Production and Patronage of Portraiture in Colonial Singapore’

RAS Lecture Series: ‘The Production and Patronage of Portraiture in Colonial Singapore’

Where: The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 14 Stephenson Way, NW1 2HD.Nearest tubes: Euston, Euston Square, Warren Street
When: Wednesday 5th February 2014.
The lectures begin at 6.30pm and will be followed by a Q&A session and a drinks reception
(Admission is free and all are welcome.)

Daphe Ang Ming Li

This talk will discuss the impact of trade, travel, media and war on the development of portraiture in Colonial Singapore.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 opened the floodgates to maritime trade, situating Singapore on the world map as a strategic port. Converging at the crossroads of maritime trade routes, Singapore was a convenient location for European photographers to settle or sojourn. Many migrant Chinese artists who came to Singapore during the second half of the 19th Century were part of the mass exodus escaping the Taiping Rebellion in Southeast China, heralding the arrival of the Cantonese artist. Recording these interchanges, portraits became the unlikely historical repositories of these tumultuous times.

However, the history of portraiture and patronage in Singapore is still a largely unrecorded aspect of Singapore’s history despite being a thriving industry for nearly a century. One of the major problems that arise from dealing with late 19th, early 20th century portraiture in these settlements is the issue of anonymity. The second part of this talk discusses these issues.

I will also provide some insights into my research fellowship at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum which has culminated into an exhibition of portraits of the early Chinese Diaspora from the Dutch East Indies, British Malaya and Colonial Singapore.

About the Royal Asiatic Society

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The Royal Asiatic Society was founded in 1823 by the eminent Sanskrit scholar Henry Colebrooke and a group of likeminded individuals. It received its Royal Charter from King George IV in 1824 ‘for the investigation of subjects connected with and for the encouragement of science, literature and the arts in relation to Asia’.

Throughout the course of the Society’s history many distinguished scholars have contributed to its work, including Sir Richard Burton (1821-90) the noted explorer and first translator of the Arabian Nights and Kama Sutra and Sir Aurel Stein (1862-1943) the renowned archaeologist and explorer of the ‘Silk Road’. The Society is affiliated to associate societies in India (Calcutta, Bombay, Bangalore, Madras, and Bihar), Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Malaysia.

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