It was a hot and humid Saturday morning, (14 May 2022) and when i arrived at Bukit Brown i did a double take because i saw a toddler or beginners child slide on the cemetery grounds. The first think that came to my mind was well it is a first for everything and the playground indoor slide really stands out among the tombs in Bukit Brown. After taking a picture of the slide for prosperity, i thought that the slide being in Bukit Brown was very apt as Bukit Brown Cemetery space is a space for everyone. Many young souls both named and unnamed were buried in Bukit Brown. [see my articles on: Gravestones of the young (1 May 2017), Children buried together in the Pauper Section (1 April 2019), They died young (1 March 2012) and tagged articles, Died Young ]
|A toddler slide at Bukit Brown|
Another thing that comes to my mind is the misconception of the Cemetery especially in the chinese context as a space that you do not visit unless during important festivals. The separation between the living and dead must clearly be maintained, but if we want to see Bukit Brown to be conserved as a Heritage Park, that mindset has to change. The space should be more than a Cemetery but a living museum that people can come visit, learn and also experience the stories of the early pioneers as well as the material culture used during burial in the past (e.g. the statues, tiles, epitaphs, calendering system, etc. Intangible cultural practices such as ancestor worship can continue as well.
Bukit Brown is also a Park, in that it has also embraces nature since its closure in 1973 and has become a place that supports a diverse ecosystem of flora and fauna. I do understand there is some contradiction between nature and cemetery and debating about it is something i am not good at. But i believe there is no turning back in time and destroying the flora and fauna and reverting Bukit Brown into a cemetery of the strict sense (devoid of nature). A fine balance should be maintained if that word is even possible.