If there is one word that best captures Singapore, it is “unique”. A dynamic city rich in contrast and color, you’ll find a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture here. Brimming with unbridled energy, this little dynamo in Southeast Asia embodies the finest of both East and West.
Located at one of the crossroads of the world, Singapore’s strategic position has helped it grow into a major centre for trade, communications and tourism. Its geographical location is 136.8 km north of the equator, between longitudes 103 degrees 38′ E and 104 degrees 06′ E. It is linked to Malaysia by two causeway bridges, and the key islands of the Riau archipelago of Indonesia are just a quick ferry trip away. Singapore, with an airport served by more than 69 airlines, is very much the gateway to Southeast Asia.
Unity in diversity is the philosophy of this cosmopolitan city. Although geography has played a part in the success of Singapore, its mainstay is its people. Lacking natural resources, Singapore’s strength is its hardworking, adaptable and resilient population.
Singapore’s population of almost four million comprises 77% Chinese, 14% Malays, 8% Indians and 1% Eurasians and people of other descent. The original inhabitants were Malay fishermen, but after the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles and the establishment of a British trading post, Singapore became a magnet for migrants and merchants. Seeking a better life for themselves and their families, they came from the southern provinces of China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Ceylon and the Middle East. Though inter-marriages have taken place over the years, each racial group within Singapore has retained its own cultural identity while developing as an integral part of Singapore community.
With its ethnic mix also comes its diverse set of religions. Singapore’s skyline boasts the distinctive minarets of mosques, spires of gothic cathedrals, intricate figurines of Hindu temple gods and distinctive roof architecture of Chinese temples. The main religions are Islam, Taoism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Judaism.
Often called the ‘Gateway between east and the West’ because of her cosmopolitan society, Singapore is fast evolving as one of the most significant centers for art and craft in Asia. The diverse and distinctive arts and crafts in Singapore attract a great number of visitors to this place every year. The rich and vibrant arts and crafts in Singapore are heavily attributed to the indigenous culture of the Malays, the heritage carried by the Indian and Chinese immigrants and most importantly the cosmopolitan and international stance of the city. The Malays brought with them batik and wayang kulit (shadow puppets); the Chinese, calligraphy and street opera. The Indians gave us henna (body art) and colorful silk saris. The Peranakans – Straits born chinese who assimilated the malay culture, produced intricate kasut manek (beaded slippers) and kerongsang (brooches). Along with the evolution of the different forms of Singapore’s arts and crafts , the city has also well preserved her traditional and unique culture in the museums and art galleries.