Singapore Bicentennial 2019

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The year 2019 marks the 200th year since the founding of modern Singapore by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819. The Singapore Bicentennial 2019 (Official Site) is a year-long event celebrating 700 years of Singapore history and heritage.[1] Events will be held across Singapore, from the civic district to the heartlands and will include activities like special heritage tours, guerilla installations and roadshows.

Background[edit | edit source]

Official logo of Singapore Bicentennial 2019. Photo from Singapore Bicentennial Office (SBO).

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong kickstarted the year-long calendar of events with the official launch of the bicentennial on 28 January 2019.[2] The launch occurred by the Singapore River in the surrounding vicinity of the Asian Civilisations Museum.[3] The 2019 edition of iLight Marina Bay called iLight: Bridges of Time was launched on the same day, alongside the Light to Night Festival 2019: Traces and Echoes.


The Singapore Bicentennial logo was created by a local branding and design studio, Roots.[4] Advertising agency J Walter Thompson was chosen by Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) to handle the marketing communications and campaign outreach for Bicentennial 2019, edging out other agencies like Gushcloud and Ogilvy Singapore.[5]


There is an advisory panel of professionals from the private and people sector managing the entire Bicentennial calendar of events. These individuals range from university professors such as Assistant Prof Imran bin Tajudeen (NUS) to Mr Chua Thian Poh, Chairman and CEO of Ho Bee Land.[6] Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo and Minister of Social and Family Development Desmond Lee will oversee the overall preparation of the event.

Event highlights[edit | edit source]

The statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, before and after the implementation of paint. Photo credit to Singapore Bicentennial Office (SBO).[7]

Pop-up installations[edit | edit source]

On 29 December 2018, the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles along the Singapore River was found to be partially painted such that it would camouflage into the OCBC Bank building.[8] It was later revealed that the stunt had been authorised by the Singapore Bicentennial Office (SBO).[9] The artist behind the painting was Singaporean Teng Kai Wei, a specialist in public sculptures. The statue was restored to its original unpainted state on 3 January 2019.


On 4 January 2019, an additional 4 statues of Sang Nila Utama, Naraina Pillai, Munshi Abdullah and Tan Tock Seng were built overnight alongside Sir Stamford Raffles.[10] The 4 individuals were key players in the early history of Singapore dating back to 1299. Like the earlier art stunt on the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles, the 4 statues were commissioned by the Singapore Bicentennial Office.The five statues are located at North Bank in the surrounding area of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM), with the closest MRT station being Raffles Place (EW14/NS26). The statues occupy the iconic site where Sir Stamford Raffles allegedly landed in 1819.

Festivals[edit | edit source]

TRANSPORTA Showcase at Esplanade Park as part of iLight 2019. Photo credit to The Smart Local.

In conjunction with Bicentennial Singapore, existing programmes such as iLight Marina, Light to Night Festival, Singapore Night Festival, and National Day Parade will include the heritage themes of the Bicentennial.


iLight Singapore: Bridges of Time (28 January - 24 February 2019) (Official Site) is the Bicentennial edition of the annual sustainable light art festival in Singapore.[11] Organised by Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the festival will operate from 7.30pm to 11pm daily and 12am on Friday and Saturday. There is no admission fee. The festival consists of 33 art installations in total, with some installations specific to Bicentennial 2019. The festival will be spread across 5 zones - Fort Canning Park, The Lawn @ Marina Bay, MBS Event Plaza, Bayfront Event Space and Esplanade Park.[12]

“HALO” at Esplanade Park by UK-based artist Michael Davis is one such installation designed specifically for Bicentennial 2019. It comprises of 200 illuminated rings, one ring representing each year since Sir Stamford Raffles landed in Singapore. “Sails Aloft” is another holographic installation from Estonia depicting the boat dwellings of the earliest inhabitants of Singapore, the orang laut (sea people).

The light show on the facade of National Gallery Singapore during the Light to Night Festival 2019. Photo credit to The Smart Local.


Light to Night Festival 2019: Traces and Echoes (18 January - 24 February 2019) (Official Site) is an urban art festival consisting of 2 editions - a Singapore Art Week edition (18 - 27 January 2019) and the Bicentennial edition (28 January - 24 February 2019).[13] Installations and programmes will be scattered across the Civic District of Singapore spanning from National Gallery Singapore to Asian Civilisations Museum.[14] The event is organised by National Gallery Singapore.

BALIKSG: Augmented Reality (AR) app[edit | edit source]

The BALIKSG app (iTunes store) was jointly developed by the National Heritage Board (NHB) and National Parks Board for the Singapore Bicentennial.[15] On 28 January 2019, a total of 8 Augmented Reality (AR) points were installed along the Singapore River for public interaction. The content of the app spans across the first 100 years of British occupation in Singapore and highlights the key events during this period. For example, the AR point located outside the National Gallery Singapore (NGS) includes details about the Hikayat Abdullah, a historical document pertaining to the early history of Singapore. On 1 June 2019, the Fort Canning trail will be launched, complementing the existing Singapore River trail.[16]

Exhibitions[edit | edit source]

“Raffles In Southeast Asia: Revisiting The Scholar And The Statesman” (1 February 2019 - 28 April 2019) is a special showcase held at the Asians Civilisations Museum (ACM). In collaboration with British Museum, approximately 240 Javanese and Sumatran artefacts gathered by Sir Stamford Raffles himself will be accessible for public viewing at the ACM. These artefacts range from traditional keris daggers to drawings of flora and fauna.[17] Admission fees are priced at $12 for Singaporeans and permanent residents and $20 for foreigners. The closest MRT station to ACM is Raffles Place MRT (EW14/NS26).


“An Old New World: From the East Indies to the Founding of Singapore, 1600s to 1819” (August 2019 - February 2020) is another exhibition detailing the history of the region and Singapore. The exhibition will be held at the National Museum of Singapore.[18] There will also be showcases held at National Gallery and National Library throughout the year.[19]

Google Doodle: Bicentennial edition[edit | edit source]

The Singapore Bicentennial Google Doodle on 28 January 2019.

Google Singapore celebrated the Singapore Bicentennial by replacing the traditional Google logo with an exclusive Google Doodle on 28 January 2019.[20] The Doodle showcased Singapore’s Marina Bay skyline, featuring iconic landmarks such as Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer, Gardens by the Bay, and the Art Science Museum. The number 700 in the Doodle represents the 700 years of Singapore’s history stretching beyond 1819 when Sir Stamford Raffles and William Farquhar first set foot in Singapore.[21] The white font against the red background is reflective of Singapore’s national colours, red and white.

200 Years Of Singapore And The United Kingdom (Book)[edit | edit source]

On 29 January 2019, the book “200 Years Of Singapore And The United Kingdom” was launched in conjunction with the Singapore Bicentennial. The book contains various texts written by British and Singaporean scholars, historians, and subject experts such as Associate Professors Kwa Chong Guan and Albert Lau of NUS. It was published by Straits Times Press, and edited by Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh and British High Commissioner to Singapore Scott Wightman. The book mainly discusses Singapore’s early colonial history under the 142-years of British rule.

Fort Canning Park renovations[edit | edit source]

Fort Canning Hill dig on October 28, 2018. Photo credit to Matthias Chong (ST PHOTO).[22]

Since March 2018, Fort Canning had undergone renovation works in preparation for the year-long Bicentennial celebrations in 2019.[23] The permanent renovation works were initiated by National Parks Board (NParks) Singapore.[24] By June 2019, the Fort Canning Centre will be refurbished to host the bicentennial showcase exhibition and new sheltered escalators will also be added to enhance visitor experience.[25] The existing archaeological dig site will also be refreshed.[26]


The bicentennial showcase titled From Singapore to Singaporean: The Bicentennial Experience @ Fort Canning” is headed by Beatrice Chia-Richmond and Michael Chiang who have both had professional experience conceptualising and organising past National Day Parades.[27] The multimedia exhibition is divided into two main segments. The first segment titled “Time Traveller” comprises of 5 galleries which have been organised by key time periods in Singapore’s history starting from the year 1299.[28] “Pathfinder” is the second segment of the showcase where visitors are encouraged to independently explore the exhibition material.


The Artisan’s Garden located on Fort Canning Hill will also be updated to include a workshop space, a sandpit for mock excavations, multimedia educational panels, and more display cases for the found artefacts dating back to 14th century Singapore.[29] Set up in 2001, the Artisan’s Garden was previously known as the Archaeological Dig site.[30] On top of these updates, archaeologist Professor John Miksic and historian Associate Professor Goh Geok Yian of Nanyang Technological University will helm the Young Archaeologist Programme under the authority of NParks. Archaeological digs at Fort Canning Hill begun in 1984, with the latest dig occurring in September 2018.[31]


The three historical gardens added to the Fort Canning area are the Royal Garden, Jubilee Park and First Botanic Garden.[32] Closest to Stamford Road, the Royal Garden will feature tropical fruit trees and common flowers found in Singapore. Jubilee Park, which is closest to the Fort Canning Centre, is a 14th-century themed garden meant for public events. The First Botanic Garden is the largest of the three, and surrounds the site of the original garden built by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1822.[33]

References / Citation[edit | edit source]

  1. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.bicentennial.sg/about/
  2. "Singapore's Bicentennial Calendar: Journeying back 700 years.” December 9, 2018. The Straits Times. Accessed on 15 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapores-bicentennial-calendar-journeying-back-700-years
  3. Fu, Grace. "Launch of 200 Years of Singapore and the United Kingdom Book". Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth. January 29, 2019. Accessed on 1 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mccy.gov.sg/news/speeches/Launch%20of%20200%20Years%20of%20Singapore%20and%20the%20United%20Kingdom%20Book.aspx
  4. Farzanah Farveen. “Singapore Bicentennial unveils logo ahead of 2019 celebrations”. December 4, 2017. Marketing Interactive. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.marketing-interactive.com/singapore-bicentennial-unveils-logo-ahead-of-2019-celebrations/
  5. Mumbrella Staff. “The Singapore Bicentennial logo unveiled”. December 4, 2018. Mumbrella Asia. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.mumbrella.asia/2018/12/the-singapore-bicentennial-logo-unveiled
  6. Accessed on 9 January 2019. For more information of the Committee of the event: https://www.bicentennial.sg/about/
  7. https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/disappearing-raffles-statue-commemorate-singapore-bicentennial--11080630?cid=h3_referral_inarticlelinks_24082018_cna
  8. Tan Si Hui. “‘Disappearing statues  of Sir Stamford Raffles draws curious onlookers | Video”. Channel News Asia. December 29, 2018. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/disappearing-statue-of-sir-stamford-raffles-draws-curious-11072310.
  9. “'Disappearing' Raffles statue a teaser for Singapore Bicentennial”. Channel News Asia. 2 January, 2019. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/disappearing-raffles-statue-commemorate-singapore-bicentennial--11080630?cid=h3_referral_inarticlelinks_24082018_cna
  10. Zaccheus, Melody. “Four more statues join Sir Stamford Raffles statue along Singapore River”.   Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/four-more-statues-join-sir-stamford-raffles-statue-along-singapore-river
  11. “iLight Singapore: Bicentennial Edition”. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.ilightsingapore.sg/
  12. “Bicentennial Edition of i Light Singapore to have 5 festival hubs”. January 8, 2019. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://cnalifestyle.channelnewsasia.com/trending/i-light-singapore-bicentennial-festival-marina-bay-raffles-10968852
  13. National Gallery Singapore. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nationalgallery.sg/festivals/light-to-night-traces-and-echoes
  14. Singapore Art Week. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.artweek.sg/events/light-to-night-festival-2019-traces-and-echoes
  15. Sim, Fann. "'We are never done building Singapore': PM Lee at launch of Singapore Bicentennial." ChannelNewsAsia. January 28, 2019. Accessed on 1 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-bicentennial-launch-lee-hsien-loong-1819-11176236
  16. Ibid.
  17. Lim, Adrian. “New exhibition seeks to revisit Raffles’ other facets”. The Strait Times. January 1, 2019. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/new-exhibition-seeks-to-revisit-raffles-other-facets
  18. Zaccheus, Melody. “Singapore's rich pre-colonial history to be showcased”. October 22, 2018. Accessed on 11 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapores-rich-pre-colonial-history-to-be-showcased
  19. Accessed on 9 January 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/data/pdfdoc/20180406001/Embargoed_PressRelease_SBEventsCalendar_9Apr2018.pdf
  20. “Google marks Singapore Bicentennial with special Doodle”. Channel NewsAsia. January 28, 2019. Accessed on 31 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/google-doodle-singapore-bicentennial-celebration-graphic-11174386
  21. “Special Google Doodle to mark Singapore Bicentennial”. TodayOnline. January 28, 2019. Accessed on 31 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/special-google-doodle-mark-singapore-bicentennial
  22. Documentation of 28 October 2018 dig at Fort Canning
  23. Zaccheus, Melody. “Fort Canning Park to host bicentennial showcase next year”. The Straits Times.  February 4, 2018. Accessed on 28 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/fort-canning-park-to-host-bicentennial-showcase-next-year
  24. Ibid.
  25. Chua, Alfred. “S’pore’s bicentennial showcase to be held at Fort Canning Park, area to be enhanced”. Today. February 3, 2018. Accessed on 28 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/spores-bicentennial-showcase-be-held-fort-canning-park-area-be-enhanced
  26. “Archaeological Dig exhibition at the Fort Canning Park to be refreshed for the first time in 17 years”. National Parks Board Singapore. Last updated on October 28, 2018. Accessed on 28 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/news/2018/10/archaeological-dig-exhibition-at-the-fort-canning-park-to-be-refreshed-for-the--first-time-in-17-years
  27. Zaccheus, Melody. “Creative NDP veterans promise ‘cinematic and engaging’ Bicentennial showcase”. The Straits Times. December 9, 2018. Accessed on 28 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/bicentennial-showcase-by-creative-ndp-veterans
  28. Ibid.
  29. Archaeological Dig exhibition at the Fort Canning Park to be refreshed for the first time in 17 years”. National Parks Board Singapore. Last updated on October 28, 2018. Accessed on 28 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/news/2018/10/archaeological-dig-exhibition-at-the-fort-canning-park-to-be-refreshed-for-the--first-time-in-17-years
  30. Ibid.
  31. Pow-Chong, Gillian. “14th Century artifacts found on Fort Canning”. The Straits Times. January 28, 1984. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  32. Zaccheus, Melody. “Fort Canning Park to host bicentennial showcase next year”. February 4, 2018. Accessed on 28 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/fort-canning-park-to-host-bicentennial-showcase-next-year
  33. Chua, Alfred. “S’pore’s bicentennial showcase to be held at Fort Canning Park, area to be enhanced”. Today Online. February 3, 2018. Accessed on 28 January 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/spores-bicentennial-showcase-be-held-fort-canning-park-area-be-enhanced