It is with some apprehension that I started my journey towards the Changi Chapel and Museum.
I had very vivid memories of pain and trauma about that name from my World War II (WWII) history books.
Therefore, I was not very sure whether it was a very good idea to take Heloise (10) and Raphael (8) to that museum.
They had the general background of WWII in Singapore. Their history classes, the Battle Box and the Former Ford Factory had done their jobs.
They knew that Singapore during the Japanese occupation was called Syonan and that these were among the darkest hours of the Singapore history.
They knew that the civilians had encountered a lot of sufferings but I had not really explained what had happened to the Prisoners-of-Wars (PoWs) once the British had surrendered.
An Unusual Effort to Respect Every Prisoner’s Story
But to the credit of the two curators Rachel Eng and Iskander Mydin, they entered into the museum narrative very easily.
This is truly an interactive and immersive environment.
It is with incredible care that the curators decided to respect every individual story.
By letting the personal belongings of the prisoners speak (and one third of the artefacts are donated by the POWs’ families), they allow direct communication with us.
They don’t talk on behalf of the POWs, they give us the opportunity to connect with them through time.
Focused on Authenticity and Accessibility to Everyone
Children are very sensitive to authenticity.
You cannot fool them with testimonies that do not make sense.
In the Changi museum, they embarked into the journey and they got engrossed into it.
Heloise got particularly moved by the story telling of the prisoners inside the cell. The dialogues were well scripted and gave a soul to the objects.
Raphael was intrigued by the murals of the chapel and he spent time going through the interactive panels.
Inspiration from the Past: Encouraging Us to Build Greater Resilience Today
The overall narrative of the Changi Chapel and Museum is one of resilience and incredible innovation in face of adversity.
The prisoners survived by hoping of a better future.
They crafted their survival throughout their objects, arts and connections to their families.
The children responded well to this positive message and on the way back on the bus, they told me:
“We are so lucky mummy, COVID is almost behind us and we have not even gone to jail!”.
Practical information for Visiting the Changi Chapel and Museum
Changi Chapel and Museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm, and admission is free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
For more information, visit Changi Chapel and Museum website site here.