Several Singaporeans were displeased after attending an Asian Civilisations Museum exhibition on "Curating Colonialism". Playwright Alfian Saat posted about how the museum was too obsessed with "colonial whitewashing" by portraying Raffles as a "man of his time."
The museum was allegedly ignorant to celebrate Raffles as a prolific figure despite the presence of many critical writings about him. According to Alfian Saat, the curator conveniently brushed aside their critiques only to "reproduce his colonial gaze."
When asked why they chose to hoist him on a pedestal, the curator seemed to have said: "Whether we like it or not he's always going to be there. So we just have to find ways to reckon with him."
Is this the way our museums operate? Does this reek of gestural politics? The museum claimed to be open to dissenting ideas but proved otherwise when engaging in Q&A discussions with the participants. "[T]he reply I got was that the museum was not in a position to take one side or the other; it had to present its materials in an ‘objective’ manner. Evidently to even say that ‘colonialism is wrong’ involves a feat of editorialising that nobody at the museum is prepared to perform."
There it is: A museum that supposedly represents and showcases Singapore's history, culture and heritage. Hopefully their views on the discussion do not fall on deaf ears. Otherwise, if this regressive exhibition is what gives it reputation, Singaporeans sure have a lot to worry about.