Deep in the heart of MacRitchie Reservoir lie the ruins of the Syonan Jinja, a Shinto shrine built during the Japanese occupation of Singapore. Envisioned first as a spiritual and recreational centre for the future empire, then built by Australian POWs and Japanese craftsmen, today it exists only as stone relics and fragments, swallowed up by the thick tropical rainforest.
As young artists, we have embarked on a journey of discovery to reclaim this forgotten monument. Its very existence is intriguing – a beautiful artefact of civilisation from an age of blood and destruction. Its architects made outlandish promises – that the site would be the greatest in the world after the Meiji Shrine, that the area might be a future host for the Olympic Games.
Perhaps most provoking is the love-hate relationship between Singapore and the shrine. Historians and tourism promoters want it preserved, even rebuilt, to commemorate our national heritage. Ordinary citizens, however, have violently objected to any celebration of former Japanese rule, even as they happily consume Japanese commercial and cultural products.