Divercity Singapore: A Cartoon History of Immigration

Divercity Singapore is a compilation of Morgan Chua’s inimitable black-and-white cartoons on the waves of immigrants who washed up on Singapore’s shores through the centuries beginning with the prince from Surabaya in the 14th century to the influx of foreign talent in more recent times.

Morgan Chua’s lively cartoons work well with Justin Zhuang’s text to convey the changes and challenges that successive waves of immigration have inevitably wrought. George Cherian has succinctly mirrored this in the preface

The three of us behind this book Morgan, Justin and I were born in Singapore between 1949 and 1984. We’ve seen our country go through change upon change. It’s been modified by technological progress, economic development and wave after wave of immigrants. New arrivals bring new accents, flavours, beliefs, fashions, ideas, skills and habits. They mix with the old, transforming both. We notice the changes taking place in our lifetimes, sometimes welcoming them, sometimes resisting the foreign and rueing the loss of the familiar. But, rarely do we stop to think that what’s comfy to us once chafed an earlier generation. Or, that our own immigrant parents, grandparents or great-grandparents were once the aliens embraced or downtrodden, appreciated or despised. It’s the cycle of life in Singapore and a story that’s at least 700 years old…

Morgan Chua

Image from Wikipedia, courtesy of SPH

Morgan Chua was a Singapore-born cartoonist who started drawing for the Singapore Herald in 1970. When the paper was closed down by the government in 1971, Chua moved to Hong Kong and joined The Asian for nine months. He then joined the prestigious Far Eastern Economic Review, where he started as an editorial artist and over 24 years rose to creative director. At the Review, he was known for his incisive single-panel political cartoons and for arresting and provocative magazine cover choices. He has also drawn cartoons for Hong Kong’s Next Magazine and Apple Daily. Chua has published Tiananmen (1989, 2014), My Singapore: Sketches (2000, 2008), Divercity Singapore: A Cartoon History of Immigration (2010), In Memory of Madam Kwa Geok Choo 1920-2010 (2011) and illustrated former Singapore President’s S R Nathan: 50 Stories from My Life (2013). In 2014, Chua released LKY: Political Cartoons. He passed away in 2018 aged 68.

This slim book with the imaginative and incisive cartoons of Morgan Chua is certainly well worth your time. You won’t regret it.

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