LEE Kuan Yew's vision of establishing Singapore on the world stage was underscored in Paris on Thursday night (Paris time), when the three-month-long Singapore Festival in Paris was launched with a theatre piece and art exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo (PDT) art centre.
Hundreds of guests were invited to the launch of the festival celebrating the connection between Singapore and France, which dates as far back as Sir Stamford Raffles' time.
It is little known that when Raffles arrived in Singapore, he did so with two French naturalists, Pierre-Medard Diard and Alfred Duvaucel, who wanted to collect specimens from the Malay archipelago, said Minister of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) Lawrence Wong, whose speech at the event was read out by Rosa Daniel, MCCY's deputy secretary.
The French community in Singapore organised the first French Week in Singapore in 1950, the minister also noted.
The Singapour en France festival is a birthday gift to both countries in the year they are marking 50 years of diplomatic ties, said Mr Wong.
"That is the unspoken power of culture - its ability to bring people together, cross boundaries and boost understanding of each other's heritage," he added.
Jean de Loisy, president of Palais de Tokyo, started the night's proceedings by asking guests to observe a minute of silence for Mr Lee, a reminder that Singapore is still in its week of national mourning for its founding father.
The theatre production that played on Thursday evening was Ong Keng Sen's The Incredible Adventures of Border Crossers, a six-hour piece that tells real stories of border crossers. It was to be staged again on Friday evening.
An art exhibition, Archipel Secret, also opened on Thursday, curated by Singaporean artist and curator Khairuddin Hori, who is now the deputy director of programming at the 13-year-old PDT, the largest space for contemporary art in France and Europe. The centre now occupies the building that was the country's Museum of Modern Art before the museum moved to the Pompidou Centre.
Archipel Secret (Secret Archipelago) features the works of 37 artists from Singapore and Southeast Asia. The Singapore-born or Singapore-based artists include Ahmad Abu Bakar, Andree Weschler, Lynn Lu, Dennis Tan, Angie Seah, Lee Wen, Azmy Hassan, Gerald Leow, NADA, Shirley Soh, Speakcryptic, Zai Kuning and Zaki Razak.