Not gonna lie for the zine I was pretty lost?? Initially I had ideas but like I didn’t know it had to be..ABSTRACT….so when I heard that I was like Oh No how??
But eventually the plan of action was to have the spreads follow a chronological order of changes within the cemetery, with a focus on unique Japanese visual cues:
First spread: Pre-war period
Origins of the Cemetery: Karayuki-san
Family tombs: Kamon family crests
Second spread: Wartime
Third: Post-war period
What do we see in the park now? Joggers, students…
first spread: pre war spread
Since I wanted to incorporate the karayuki-san, who were the first to be buried in the cemetery, as well as the interesting motifs in the kamon family crests found on some of the graves, I thought I could combine the two into one spread.
In total I found seven different crests (Some of them might not be crests like the non-circle one??? I can’t be certain.) and tried my best to reproduce them even though a lot of them were very faded.
I sketched out karayuki-san from a photo, purposely leaving out their faces (apart from not wanting to burden myself with facial features) to drive home the point about the forgotten souls that rest in the place, as a lot of them died in the conditions they were under, with diseases like cholera and dysentery spreading. 🙁
Why? I visited the location often in JC for research for a history project, and it’s a place that I find really peaceful and historically rich, so I thought it would be apt if I used this project to dig down into the unique aspects of the site. :))))))
Photographs and written observations about the Park. :))
Here’s a brief overview of the history of the Park, which is Southeast Asia’s largest Japanese cemetery, housing 910 tombs. :O
So as a cemetery would have it….graves and tombstones dating from the pre-war times to the post-war times. In my presentation I gave a brief overview of some of the different tombs, like tomb markers for the karayuki-san, Japanese prostitutes who were surprisingly some of the first Japanese people on the idea. As the community flourished, the Japanese’s socio-economic status heightened and you can see this from the shift in the tombstone to more elaborate designs. With the war came memorials and tombstones dedicated to the war dead as well. I thought it was interesting how you could see the rise and fall of the community through the different groups of tombstones.
There are a lot of plaques littered around the Park, especially at tombstones of notable Japanese people who for example, made contributions to not just the Japanese community, but pre-war Singapore as well.
Interestingly enough the prayer hall isn’t supposedly for a fixed religion, so anyone can come here to pray. Midō is a religion neutral term apparently.
On my first visit I sat down on the steps and noted down some observations about the place:
Recorded some ambient noise but there was really barely anything other than rustling haha.
‘Locale’ required us to pick a site to explore, quantitatively and qualitatively, its unique and interesting features. Part I of the project was to create a visually engaging presentation on our site, whereas Part II was to curate our materials to create a zine with abstract elements, about our location.
My choice of site was the Japanese Cemetery Park, an overlooked historical site in Singapore that was a site I often visited in JC for research. It houses Japanese tombs from the Japanese community that lived in Singapore before the war, as well as the Japanese war dead.