In the quiet nights leading up to National Day, Hisham Zainal photographs seven landmarks of historical, cultural and religious significance in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct that were illuminated red and white.

In its 56 years of independence, Singapore has carved quite a reputation for itself. Since separating from Malaysia in 1965, the city-state has been known for fighting against all odds, not just to survive, but to thrive.

With the advent of COVID-19, however, the country’s ability to adapt has once again been put to the test. To curb the spread of the coronavirus, restrictions have been imposed, social distancing measures were implemented, and certain festivities had the rug pulled from under them.

This year, the National Day Parade was postponed from the 9th to the 21st of August so that it takes place after the scheduled end of Phase 2 (Heightened Alert). Taking its place on National Day itself was a ceremonial parade that was much smaller in scale and grandiosity.

To mark National Day, the National Heritage Board also had seven landmarks within the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct magically lit in red and white, the colours of the Singapore flag.

These buildings are the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, the Central Fire Station, the National Design Centre, the National Museum of Singapore, Objectifs – Centre for Photography & Film, The Cathay and Stamford Arts Centre.

While Singapore’s 56th birthday may seem quieter than past National Day celebrations, it is a reflection of the times.

That is not to say that the sense of patriotism has diminished. On the contrary, these trials have strengthened our resilience and compelled us to reexamine how we can coexist – with each other and a lingering virus – better.

Photography: Hisham Zainal

Copy: Arman Shah


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