Singapore is a cosmopolitan city that has a colourful mix of different cultures, ethnicities and religions. Distinctively different yet distinctively Singaporean, the art forms of each culture tell an intricate story of the people and their traditions. Take your sightseeing around Singapore up a notch by exploring the crafts of the various cultures.
The delicate art of Chinese Calligraphy
It is said that Chinese calligraphy has the power to reveal the writer’s emotions, rhythm and balance.
Stroll the streets of Chinatown and you will see many shops selling scrolls with auspicious sayings in Chinese calligraphy. Chinese ink art is one of the oldest living art traditions that dates back to the imperial times. Like traditional Chinese painting, Chinese calligraphy uses a brush dipped in black ink or coloured pigments onto canvases like paper, silk and lacquerware.
Take a dip into the Chinese culture by trying out a traditional Chinese calligraphy workshop at Chinese Calligraphy & Fine Arts Studio. Each session is about two hours long, where you will learn how to pronounce basic phrases in Mandarin and write its characters.
Chinese Calligraphy & Fine Arts Studio
Address: Block 226A Compassvale Walk, #12-313, Singapore 541226
Frequency of Workshop: Every Fridays and Saturdays, afternoon and evening sessions only.
The Beauty of Henna Body Art
Tradition has it that the darker the Henna stain is on the bride, the deeper her love for the groom.
One of the must-see places in Singapore is Little India. A trip to Little India is not complete without a Henna (or Mehndi) session or spotting someone with an elaborate Henna design. So, what is Henna? It is a temporary body art that is made using the Henna plant (Lawsonia Inermis), which, once dried and washed off, uncovers a lovely brownish-red tint. The earliest records of Henna can be found in ancient Egypt but has since spread to other parts of the world. In Singapore, Henna is a common sight at Indian and Arabic festivals and wedding ceremonies, where you will see the bride’s hands and feet decorated in motifs like peacocks, vines and shells.
Discover this gorgeous Indian tradition by learning the basics of Henna at Syraskins. Each session is a full three hours with an introduction to the art form and a hands-on lesson on how to create different patterns.
Address: 970 Geylang Road, Tristar Complex, #01-08, Singapore 423492
Frequency of Workshop: Personal courses and workshops can be arranged upon request. Only during Monday - Saturday
The scent-sational craft of perfumery
The Attar perfumer has to have intuition and possess knowledge of various notes to achieve the right aromatic balance.
Did you know? In Muslim culture, perfume is used for rituals, religious celebrations and personal hygiene as it is considered a symbol of the Earth’s beauty. The most common type of perfume used is called Attar, an oil-based perfume made from natural botanical ingredients and essential oils, in which the careful filling of an Attar bottle is an art in itself.
The burgeoning of this perfume in Singapore came with the settlement of Arabs back in the 1930s. Many Singaporeans visit Kampung Glam to purchase a bottle of high-quality Attar. Non-Muslims too have been buying this non-alcohol perfume as it contains certain ingredients which can relief ailments like headaches and nausea.
Sniff the scents at Jamal Kazura Aromatics and breathe in the traditions of Muslim culture. You can approach any of their staff to create your signature scent. Each scent can be a blend of five or more oils.
Jamal Kazura Aromatics
Address: 728 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 198696
Frequency of Workshop: Signature scents can be created upon request at the store. Available every day except public holidays.
The embellished art of Peranakan beadwork
One of the most popular use of beadwork can be found in traditional slippers. Photo credit: Bebe Seet
Beadwork is the traditional Peranakan craft of stitching, using tiny glass beads to create motifs on slippers, pillows, bed runners and more. It is an intricate art form that is passed down from Mum to Daughter to equip her with skills to sew and decorate her very own bridal slippers and ornaments. Back in the days, this talent is crucial to a Nyonya (Peranakan woman) – the higher her skill level in beadwork, the more likely a family will accept her as a daughter-in-law.
Explore the textures of this elaborate artistry by learning the Peranakan Beadwork at Rumah Bebe. You can choose from a variety of workshops and learn how to make items like beaded shoes, coin purses and bookmarks. If you’re interested to find out more about the Peranakan heritage, you can read more in our interview with Bebe Seet, founder of Rumah Bebe!
Address: 113 East Coast Road Singapore 428803
Frequency of Workshop: Wednesdays & Saturdays for beaded shoe workshop. Other workshops can be arranged upon request.
From the use of various materials to its unique techniques and styles, different cultural groups have their own artistic expressions. We recommend trying your hand at these crafts to immerse yourself in these cultures and gain a richer understanding of Singapore. Who knows, you might even be a natural pro at them!