Merdeka is a word in the Indonesian and Malay language meaning independent or free. It is derived from the Sanskrit maharddhika (महर्द्धिक) meaning “rich, prosperous and powerful”. In the Malay archipelago, this term had acquired the meaning of a freed slave. — Dictionary.com
2019 is finally coming to an end, and personally, I cannot wait for this Singapore Bicentennial year to be over. The Singapore Bicentennial is a commemoration of our 700 years of history, even the years before the British made their way here and decided to take everything for themselves — people, culture, life.
When I initially heard about this, I had hope that finally our historical narrative will put colonisation into perspective and recognise the hurt that has come from all that (egoistical and blind nationalistic) violence.
However, most of the events that took place in the name of this commemoration have been surrounding Sir Stamford Raffles, mostly positives about what he did with a severe lack in negatives to balance out what actually took place.
The angle to these events usually come from a Western standpoint — how they viewed the war, their intentions. How their invasion and, I will say, bullying got us to where we are today. It is almost as if we should be grateful.
But has it never crossed our minds that we built up this nation from where they left off simply because we had no choice, for survival and to make something good out of all the bad we lived through?
Do we have little faith in ourselves that we will never find ourselves in this place if colonisation never happened? Why are we so ready to acknowledge the ‘greatness’ colonisation brought us and yet stay silent about the price we paid through deaths and traumas?
So I am glad that Merdeka / 獨立 /சுதந்திரம், directed by Glen Goei and Jo Kukathas, is being presented as WILD RICE‘s Grand Opening Season. Written by Alfian Sa’at and Neo Hai Bin, it is a necessary confrontation with our colonial hangover.
The audience learns about our history from the Asian points of views we do not necessary know of from history textbooks through a group called Raffles Must Fall formed by six young people. They gather to share their findings through texts, artefacts, speeches and re-enact scenes from the past.
Merdeka / 獨立 /சுதந்திரம்
Date: 10th October – 2nd November 2019
Venue: The Ngee Ann Kongsi Theatre @ WILD RICE, Funan Level 4, 107 North Bridge Singapore 179105
Time: Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm / Saturday & Sunday, 2.30pm
Admission: From $25 (Concession rates are available. Get your tickets here.)
Rating: Advisory 16 (Some mature content)
Photography credits: Rueyloon from Wild Rice