Getai or 歌台 (song stage) is one of very few live stage performances in Singapore that is synonymous with Chinese festivities. Getai is typically known for its songs sung in Chinese dialect, over-the-top embellished costumes, and makeshift stages in open-air venues. Getai’s live performances are meant to entertain wandering spirits during the Hungry Ghost Festival which falls on the seventh month of the Lunar Calendar. The predominant use of Hokkien—historically the most prominent Chinese provincial dialect in Singapore—in Getai festivities makes them some of the very few public occasions in which vernacular languages are openly used.
Homogenised Chinese culture and the lack of proficiency in Mandarin and Chinese dialect has created a barrier for Singaporean Chinese to understand Chinese culture and practices in Singapore, such as Getai. The emphasis on the English language over Mandarin and Chinese dialects has unintentionally caused a linguistic hierarchy, creating social-class differences between English-speaking Singaporean and the Mandarin-speaking Singaporeans who also speak dialects. This has caused Getai, a Hokkien-centric performance related to Chinese religion and rituals, to be associated with the lowest-educated section of the working class. With the competition from popular culture and Westernisation, younger Singaporeans have been led to see Getai’s visual culture as “tacky” and “kitsch”, a term that is usually used to denigrate cultural products associated with the working-class.
Getai Kitsch: Reinepretation of Getai’s Aesthetics as a Visual Language for contemporary culture proposed an alternative method to preserve Getai’s visual culture within contemporary world. It focuses on the studies and reinterpretation of Getai’s visual forms to bridge Getai’s kitschy, low-brow aesthetics with contemporary design tastes as an attempt to break the negative connotations that are attached to Getai.
Apart from its main objective of forming appreciation towards Getai, this project is also a commentary on the lack of appreciation of local traditional culture in Singapore. It draws a similar approach to Royston Tan’s film “881” where he emphasises on the celebration of tackiness in Getai culture as a way to subvert the negative perception people have towards Getai. It hopefully will inspire other young Singaporeans, especially designers, to delve into Singaporean culture and heritage, and help contribute to defining and preserving Singapore’s cultural identity.
The design deliverables are guided by three main strategies that I have formulated: Create Awareness around Getai, Break Negative Perception of Getai and Integrate Getai Visual Forms into the Contemporary World.
Publication, Typography, Design for Culture and Heritage
Candice Ng Ee Ching
→ This project is part of my BFA’s Final Year Thesis.