From pioneer to towkay : the shifting images of Aw Boon Haw in Singapore
Ang, Reuben Yuheng
Date of Issue2017-03-24
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Nicknamed ‘Gentle Tiger’, Aw Boon Haw was an overseas Chinese of immeasurable wealth and influence. Born in Rangoon, Aw and his brother formed an ideal partnership, which saw the success of the Tiger Balm products. A legendary figure who had lived in Singapore during the periods of Chinese nationalism, British colonisation and the Japanese Occupation, the ‘Tiger’ often appears as a ‘different animal,’ depending on the contexts. The 1990s saw various state initiatives to re-invent Singapore as a cultural space. In tandem with such aspirations is the National Education programme to inculcate a sense of nationhood. In the lead-up to Singapore’s jubilee year in 2015, the emphasis was switched to re-discovering Singapore’s heritage, while its citizens re-connect with their ethnic identities and origins. This paper examines the media re-presentations of Aw in Singapore and argues that the different images of Aw propagated by the state are aligned with global and domestic contexts. These representations produced different images of Aw; first as a Singaporean pioneer in the late 1990s and later during the nation’s jubilee year, a Chinese sojourner who found his roots in Singapore. Such selective visual representations, produced amidst different concerns, can affect the understanding of the Tiger himself.
Final Year Project (FYP)
Nanyang Technological University