5 Free Multicultural Activities In Singapore To Spend Your Weekends, Like VR Opera & Dance Shows

Free multicultural activities

Back when ankle socks were the fashion statement of choice, Racial Harmony Day let us shake things up with vibrant traditional attire instead. But for a step up from the heartwarming sight of baju kurung, sari and cheongsam side-by-side, these five free multicultural activities will inject a healthy dose of fun as you learn about our multitude of traditions and practices.

From learning about Singapore’s smallest Malay community to training to be a master kopi-brewer, your weekends will confirm plus chop be an exciting and eye-opening time with loved ones of all ages.

1. Get a free behind-the-scenes opera tour in virtual reality

You can access the virtual reality backstage tour by peeping through holes incorporated in one of the wooden panels 
Image credit: National Arts Council 

Most associate Chinese opera with bold make-up, piercing vocals and dramatic fight scenes, but the Chinese Opera Roving Exhibition will offer new perspectives with a behind-the-scenes VR tour and exhibition. Since the mid-1800s, wayang continues to be an important aspect of Singapore Chinese culture, and is still performed in makeshift theatres and even restaurants.

The VR experience also gives you a look behind the curtain – from the painstaking opera make-up process to the extensive collection of props, costumes and musical instruments each troupe maintains. Exhibits showcasing everything from building materials to nostalgic photographs and artefacts will also make for a rare look at this enduring tradition.

By scanning a QR code with your phone, you’ll access the VR experience and be transported in the midst of opera performers prepping for a show.
Image credit: National Arts Council

Location: Stamford Arts Centre
Event duration: Until 31st August 2021
Opening hours: 9AM-10PM, Daily

Chinese Opera Roving Exhibition website

2. Learn about SG’s smallest Malay community through AR games and kueh making

Some artefacts on-site include the gem scale kit, which was used to measure the value of a stone in carats.
Image credit: Malay Heritage Centre

With signs in four languages and four official ethnic groups in Singapore, it might surprise you that each of these four categories boasts a mind-boggling range of sub-ethnic groups. Many of us might know about Malay groups like the Javanese or the Bugis, but few might have even heard about the Urang Banjar – a tiny community from South Kalimantan that numbered just 377 way back in 1911. 

Known for being involved in the diamond trade in the 19th and 20th centuries – many Urang Banjar settled in Kampong Intan, or Diamond Village, located near Sultan Mosque. Held at the Malay Heritage Centre, the showcase of Banjarese culture features an AR experience that lets you step into the shoes of a Banjarese voyage, among other exhibits and artefacts.

Cut from white quartz, this is a replica of the Banjarmasin diamond that was part of the Sultan’s treasury back in the day.
Image credit: Malay Heritage Centre

This includes tools and equipment used in the jewellery and diamond trade, intricate gem-encrusted headgear, traditional clothing, and ceremonial decorations like those used at weddings. You’ll also get to tune in to a gamelan performance in the Banjar style, and take home OG Banjar kueh recipes – like those for talam banjar and bingka ubi.   

For a dose of fun for the young ones, they can choose to doodle on interactive activity booklets or even design jewellery on-site.  

Location: Malay Heritage Centre
Event duration: Until 25th July 2021
Opening hours: Tue – Sun, 10AM-6PM (Closed on Mondays)

Urang Banjar Exhibition Website

3. Watch films and uncover rare artefacts from the Sikh community

Multicultural activities in Singapore: Sikhs in Singapore – A Story Untold
Image credit: Indian Heritage Centre

Numbering around just 13,000 today, Sikhs have formed one of our earliest police contingents in colonial times and serve in a multitude of prominent positions today. Celebrating their contributions to our nation, Sikhs in Singapore – A Story Untold marks the 140th anniversary of this community’s arrival on our shores with over 450 artefacts from Singapore and beyond. 

From formidable Sikh jaga statues that stood guard over tombs to everyday items like the violin-like sarangi used in folk music, you’ll also get to delve into the arts and culture of this community. The exhibition features a gem-studded painting of 10 Sikh gurus that offers insight into their deeply rooted spirit of seva – their culture of service to the community.

Sikh jaga statues that once stood guard at a tomb in Bukit Brown cemetery
Image credit: @yishkabob

Location: Indian Heritage Centre
Event duration: Until 30th Sep 2021
Opening hours: Tue – Thu 10AM-7PM, Fri & Sat 10AM-8PM, Sun & PH 10AM-4PM (Closed on Mondays)

Sikhs In Singapore Exhibition Website

4. Check out life-sized holographic projections of traditional dance

These large holographic projections depict some of the traditional dance forms from different cultures in Singapore
Image credit: National Arts Council 

Whether you’re graceful as a gazelle or limber as a fallen log – it’s hard to peel your eyes from a riveting dance showcase. At ROUTES, life-sized holographic projections will let you see the whirls and poses up close as performers pirouette right in front of you.  

As you absorb every glance, gesture and graceful leap, the 20-minute showcase will walk you through Chinese, Malay and Indian dance forms – letting you pick up on tiny nuances you might otherwise miss.

Santha Bhaskar is one of the pioneers of classical Indian dance in Singapore
Image credit: National Arts Council 

On top of that, you’ll also catch Cultural Medallion award recipients Santha Bhaskar and Som Said, along with Chinese dance veteran Lim Moi Kim as they share their experiences as pioneers of traditional dance in Singapore. 

Location: Stamford Arts Centre
Event duration: Until 12th September 2021
Opening hours: 9AM-10PM, Daily (Last screening at 9.30PM) 

ROUTES website

5. Check out IG-worthy displays and play an interactive kopi-making game

Multicultural activities in Singapore: Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre

From potent brews at old-school kopitiams to dainty cappuccinos at trendy cafes, coffee has always played an important part on our little red dot. For kopi-lovers and competitive souls alike, challenge your friends to a kopi-order showdown at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre for Overcooked-levels of fun as you put together mind-numbing combinations of our favourite beverage.

The IG-worthy neon installation showcases the attributes that make up the Chinese Singaporean identity

Apart from competing with your friends to see who can check off the most orders of Kopi C or Kopi Ga Dai, test your local knowledge at the trivia zone and ponder questions like if our $50 note features a famous painting.  

On top of that, you can learn about the origins of traditional foods like kaya toast and lohei through a guided tour in the same venue, as part of its CultuRediscover special tours that take place on 7th Aug and 4th Sep 2021.

Location: Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC)
Event duration: Permanent exhibition (SINGAPO人 exhibition)
Opening hours: Mon – Fri 9AM-6PM (Closed on Saturdays and Sundays)

SINGAPO人 exhibition website

Unique multicultural activities in Singapore

Living harmoniously side-by-side with our myriad cultures doesn’t come by chance – we each have to do our part to learn more about each other and to appreciate our diverse ways of life. With these five free multicultural activities in Singapore, you’ll have the chance to take a closer look at everything from our traditional dances and cuisines to our common love for kopi

With a slate of multicultural activities running all year round, it’s a great time to head out with friends, family and even kids to take a deep dive into our vibrant traditions and practices that make us truly Singaporean – in our own way.

Find out more about MCCY’s SGinHarmony initiative

This post was brought by you by #SGinHarmony, an initiative by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), with support from community partners.
Cover image adapted from: National Arts Council, TheSmartLocal

Sivapriya Subramaniam

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