Members of Kodrah Kristang, an initiative to revitalize the Kristang language, explore Eurasian culture, identity and history through a graphic novel. We catch up with Andre, Gerald and Chang Da from the team.
Tell us about yourself. How did you meet and come together as a group?
The 3 of us (Andre, Gerald and Chang Da) came together through the Kodrah Kristang initiative. Andre is a core team member and student, both he and Gerald attended and just completed the level 2 classes. Chang Da had signed on for a 3 month internship period under Kodrah as well, and joined the level 1 class. Shane, another class member, joined the team later on to help with the narrative.
"This project is about exploring aspects of the Eurasian culture and identity and portraying it in a way that most fictional media doesn’t, as well as showcasing the traditions and energy of the Eurasian community."
What is your project about, and why were you drawn to this subject?
This project is about exploring aspects of the Eurasian culture and identity and portraying it in a way that most fictional media doesn’t, as well as showcasing the traditions and energy of the Eurasian community. We want to show and tell the stories of the community, to contribute more to the small selection of literature and to hopefully start a conversation between the community portrayed in the book and the reader. For Andre, as a Eurasian, he had always wanted to do a project which showcases the community in a medium that he is familiar with, in this case, comics.
(Gerald) I originally started learning Kristang over an interest in endangered languages. But over time, I grew close to many members of the community, even and especially some of the older ones. Also as someone with Baba heritage, I am invested in the general movement to preserve minority cultures.
Have you found anything interesting in your research so far?
Eurasian “mass” migration to Australia in the 1960s. Hearing about first hand experiences of seminal events in Singapore’s history, for instance hiding during the Maria Hertogh riots. Some locations we are familiar with also had very different layouts and purposes (in the past), like the wet market at Beach Road.
It was also interesting to see how the resettlement and housing scheme had affected the community, and how in its dispersal, enclaves and connections still remained, and the community continued to stay close-knit.
Preliminary sketches for the team's graphic novel, titled 'Sabrozu'
Any artists, writers or works you are inspired by?
We’re inspired by various stories and graphics novels, such as Saga [Vaughn and Staples, 2012 - ongoing], This One Summer [Tamaki, 2014], Not the Israel my Parents Promised Me [Pekar, 2014]. These comics represent the tight and engaging storyline, the nostalgic and timeless atmosphere and the ability to shift visual styles for different aspects of the story respectively.
"As a Eurasian, I've personally found it difficult to step away from my own “agenda” of sorts when it comes to representing my own race. I need to take this opportunity to show the true diversity of the Eurasians in Singapore, and not just what I know or want to show."
What can we look forward to from your project come 2019?
100-200 printed copies of the graphic novel, which will be given out to schools and libraries. There will also be an exhibition where we will feature… clips/excerpts of the interviews, concept art, storyboards.
What are you looking forward to most in this process? Also, what has been the most difficult so far?
Showing the community our drafts and getting into vibrant discussions (similar to those that we’ve had in Kristang classes). We’re also looking forward to discovering lesser known traditions and cultures that the younger generation (or their parents) may not know about. The prospect of a community collaboration is also incredibly exciting as this would be a piece of media that members of the community can take ownership and be proud of.
(Gerald and Chang Da) As non-Eurasians, how do we represent the Eurasian voice without overstepping any boundaries? How do we present old traditions in a way that will appeal to the current generation of youth when they might not have been interested in them before?
(Andre) As a Eurasian, I've personally found it difficult to step away from my own “agenda” of sorts when it comes to representing my own race. I need to take this opportunity to show the true diversity of the Eurasians in Singapore, and not just what I know or want to show. There is a lot of “me” that will eventually show through in the comic, and i don't want my own presence to overpower or colour the way that Eurasians are portrayed, especially if it’s a community effort.
"As non-Eurasians, how do we represent the Eurasian voice without overstepping any boundaries? How do we present old traditions in a way that will appeal to the current generation of youth when they might not have been interested in them before?"
What would you like audiences to take away from your project?
We hope that they will realise that the Eurasian community has always been part of Singapore’s ethnic patchwork, and has it own distinct culture. Hopefully, they will also learn a bit about Kristang and the current efforts to revitalize it. Realise that identity is not as clear-cut as it may seem and that if we look back far enough, most of us have mixed heritages to a certain degree. Perhaps, to even be more interested in preserving Singapore’s minority cultures.
All images courtesy of the team