Published on Dec 11, 2011
By Yen Feng
Over seven days, 561 out of some 5,000 graves said to be affected by a new road into Bukit Brown have been successfully documented.
The graves are in the Seh Ong cemeteries located at the gates of Bukit Brown, between Sime Road and Kheam Hock Road.
Dr Hui Yew-Foong, the anthropologist tasked by the Government to do the job, gave this update at a media tour of the site yesterday.
He said that the documentation work began on Dec 1. On average, field workers clocked in about 100 graves a day. But the first two days yielded considerably fewer graves due to rain. They work from Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Dr Hui has until March next year to complete all 5,000 graves. He said the team was maintaining a ‘reasonable pace’. As long as the weather holds up, the project would be on schedule, he added.
But it is back-breaking work. To document the graves, field workers set out in pairs, in the morning. First, they clear the tomb of brush and fallen leaves, then proceed to scrub its facade with water.
After it is cleaned, one person records the tomb’s inscriptions; the other takes photographs from various angles.
A regular-sized grave can take up to 30 minutes to document.
Graves that are typical of a certain style – Teochew, Hokkien, for example – or of exceptional design will also be copied and archived.
In the afternoon, field workers return to review their data and check for errors.
Some 300 people have signed up to help. Most are volunteers.
Mr L.N. Chua, 35, said he decided to pitch in since he was between jobs. ‘I’m just doing something I think is useful,’ he added.
For university student Goh Chye Kim, 24, it was an opportunity to learn more about Chinese heritage, said the Chinese studies student from the Nanyang Technological University.
Meanwhile, a new bilingual petition, SOS Bukit Brown, to halt construction works in the cemetery was launched online last Monday by a group who said they are artists, educators and writers.
Signatures have to be submitted by post, or e-mail. Its aim, said its creators, was to collect 100,000 signatures – ‘one for each grave’, by the end of the month.
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