"A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people" - Mahatma Gandhi
Singapore is a multicultural society by proclamation and, to some extent, by acclamation. Since Independence in 1965, we have held that every culture here has the right to be here. Yet, in the face of rampant globalisation and Westernisation, we hear, ever so often, of the withering of our Asian cultures -- Chinese, Malay and Indian -- and the waning of our official and mother tongue languages -- Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. This decline is a challenging reality of Singaporean life. The Centre for Singapore Tamil Culture (CSTC) is a modest, but hopefully, effective, response to this challenge. For now, it is only focused on Tamil-Singaporeans and their culture because the founding group doesn’t have the means to address other ethnic groups and identities. If the CSTC survives and flourishes, then we will consider expanding our efforts to include the larger cultural canvas.
Though Tamils have traversed this region hundreds of years ago, their continuous recorded history life on this island is available only since Stamford Raffles acquired it as a trading post for the East India Company in 1819. Their culture and identity have survived over the past 200 years, though somewhat differently from their countries of origin -- India and Sri Lanka. However, in recent times, a question has risen: Despite their distinct identity in name, are Tamil-Singaporeans truly a community with a distinct identity in practice? Many of us are distanced and dislocated from our own culture, if not totally deracinated. We cannot be ourselves, as we do not know ourselves. And to not know ourselves, is to not know others. As a people, we will become dark, silent ships passing each other in the night. This must not come to pass.
Thus, a small group of concerned citizens conceived CSTC to study, sustain and share Tamil culture in Singapore. It is a ground-up, non-profit, virtual organisation fired by voluntarism and active citizenry. Indeed, it is inspired by the experience of a similar, smaller virtual organisation called the Singapore Digital Heritage Group (TDHG), conceived by the same core group behind CSTC. TDHG was founded as a contribution to mark the 50 th Anniversary of Singapore’s Independence in 2015 and is now part of CSTC. Symbolically, CSTC was founded on 6 February 2019, exactly 200 years to the day Raffles signed the Singapore Treaty and seeded the continuous history of Tamils here. It is our contribution to the Bicentennial Year. Following that it was officially registered as a Company Limited by Guarantee on 2 June 2021.