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 December 29, 2000
Open Air Interpretative Centre Along The Singapore River

 A "re-enactment" of a favourite local pastime can now be witnessed on the Singapore River banks. Commanding vantage position in front of the new Fullerton Hotel is a statue of five naked boys depicted as jumping into the river for a swim - a sport regularly practised by children of the first immigrants to Singapore.

Aptly named First Generation, the statue is the work of Singaporean pioneer sculptor Chong Fah Cheong and is the first of many iconic pieces to be placed along the Singapore River bank.

In the next two years, similar life-sized sculptures will be installed along the Singapore River. This is part of the Singapore Tourism Board's plan for an Open Air Interpretative Centre - an open-concept museum where sculptures will be installed at historically significant sites along the Singapore River's promenades.

If the river is also the story of a nation, then the STB hopes to chart some of the country's past with these sculptures which will depict colourful river scenes showing river dwellers at both work and play.

"These works of art will not only beautify the landscape of the riverside, but also provide a narrative to the past as well. In addition, they will also integrate the different zones of the Singapore River in a compelling story of the river," said STB's Chief Executive, Mr Yeo Khee Leng.

Chong Fah Cheong's First Generation captures the essence of the carefree and simple life in the early days of river life. "As a Singaporean, I am particularly excited to have the opportunity to work on a sculpture that attempts to relive the life as I know it along the Singapore River. I remember the river chock-a-block with bum boats and full of activity - boys were jumping off Anderson Bridge and swimming in the river. The whole composition of work shows the romp and play that children engage in, having a good time and living for the moment," said Mr Chong.

Each sculpture will eventually have its own storyboard with a short description of the artwork. Local artists will be commissioned to produce sculptures of the people, lifestyles and activities of the days of yore. The project is a joint effort between the Singapore Tourism Board and private sector organizations to retain the rich historical character of the river. The cost of First Generation for example, is funded by Far East Organisation, holding company of The Fullerton Singapore, and the STB. A second sculpture, also jointly sponsored by STB and Far East Organisation, is already in the works and is expected to be completed by next year.

"The history of the Singapore River and the Fullerton Building are inseparable. The landmark has seen the river transform from a great trading post to a bustling commercial hub. It is therefore apt for The Fullerton Singapore to play a role in capturing the history of the river as a gift for all Singaporeans. We are proud to be associated with this STB project by co-sponsoring this beautiful sculpture," said Mr Ivan Lee, Chief Executive Officer of The Fullerton Singapore.

The STB envisages that these sculptures, together with existing landmarks and architecture, will draw in the crowds and create an interesting, meaningful experience for visitors to the Singapore River district. Like newly polished jewels, the sculptures will add interest and help revive the Singapore River. The STB will also be looking at developing interesting heritage trails for the Singapore River so that visitors can embark on a journey of self-discovery of the river and nation.

"The Singapore River district is one of Singapore's most significant historical sites," said Mr Kenneth Liang, STB's Director of Thematic Development. "The Open Air Interpretative Centre is one of the ways to instill a sense of history and distinction to the area, and to inject another point of interest along the already vibrant area. While the sculptures will no doubt be attractive in the day-time, come night-fall, specially designed lighting will illuminate the works, lending highlights to the evening river scene," he added.