Day 2 of the Conservation Science course, where students received a guided tour by Guest Relations and Outreach Manager of the NUS Baba House, Ms Poonam Lalwani.


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Reflections by Marcus Ng


The Baba house… certainly didn’t disappoint me. It was simply an eye-opener for me. It opened numerous doors for me to explore- for a teen that is 12.5% peranakan, the visit to the Baba house made me more aware about my roots. Some of the traditions mentioned by the tour guide were familiar; others unheard of. For example, listening to the tour guide mention about superstitions such as the painting of deities on doors in the hope of warding spirits off homes brought a smile to my face as I heard that numerous times from my late grandmother. However, other practices were rather ‘alien’ to me and listening to these stories spurred me to explore my roots and learn more about Peranakan traditions.

On the other hand, for a student that aspires to be a leader in the near future, the visit to the Baba house opened the doors to the needs of conservation for a rapidly urbanizing metropolitan city like Singapore. For a country that seeks to keep up with the pace of globalization, change is the only constant. The old needs to make way for the new; old and dilapidated buildings are constantly torn down so that new buildings can be constructed. However, should we tear down every single old building in Singapore? Certain places in Singapore are vessels of memories for Singaporeans, an instigator of nostalgia, a reminder of their roots and past. These are places that hold a key place in many Singaporeans’ hearts; perhaps they have even been ‘immortalized’. These are places that are vital to Singapore’s heritage and thus it is the utmost importance for these places to be conserved. Alas, the need to conserve may be understood; the dilemma faced by the gov’t ever present. If one were to conserve a place, would he conserve a specific place (e.g. house/shopping mall), or a stretch of land (e.g. a row of shop houses) or even a large piece of land (e.g. Chinatown). Furthermore, if they were to be conserved, what function would they continue to serve as? Would they be reduced to mere museums, where people would occasionally visit; or would it continue to provide commercial functions?

These are questions that many leaders would definitely need to consider if it hopes to blend the new with the old; to both conserve and bring radical change to an area at the same time. Lastly, the visit to the Baba house opened the doors to restorations techniques. I learnt how restoration is one which seeks imperfection; it isn’t one which seeks to give old things a “brand-new”, ‘fresh out of store’ look; rather, it is simply to wipe the dust off the statues and leave its bumps and dents alone