Singapore’s oldest museum – The National Museum will put on display 12 unique smells in SINGAPURA:700, an exhibition which showcases an olfactory translation of Singapore history from 17 April to 18 May 2015. These smells are conceived by Mrs Prachi Garg, founder of Je t’aime Perfumery and an Olfactory-artist.
Since time immemorial, smells have served as memory markers. For example, the smell of calamine lotion might bring back childhood memories of a warm day for those who grew up in 1970s Singapore when the pink suspension was liberally applied by local mothers to soothe prickly heat. Smells evoke memories. For some, these memories could be nostalgia, love or even trauma. As our island develops and matures through the last 700 years, its colourful history can be categorised into different periods where certain moods and emotions prevail.
To enable visitors to experience the dormant mood of different eras, the National Museum and Je t’aime Perfumery have worked together to create a scent to symbolise each of them. If you have ever wondered about what it must feel like to live in a particular era in Singapore, you can now experience it at the National Museum.
With input from Museum volunteers, curators, Prachi and Je t’aime Perfumery, special scents are created and curated to give visitors this added sensorial dimension to experience SINGAPURA: 700 Years.
These signature scents will be displayed at different locations in all the galleries at the Museum. They range from a musky Ancient Singapore to a spicy Colonial Singapore. Visitors can also take a whiff of Independent Singapore, a refreshing fruity scent that captures the energy of a nation gearing to surge forward and grow. There is also Fear, an unpleasant smell to represent uncertain times, which can evoke negative emotions.
“I look forward to seeing people’s reaction when they smell Fear. Even when we were designing it, some team members were affected to the extent that our discussion escalated to an argument. But as soon as we moved to next pleasant smell, everyone was relaxed again,” shares Prachi. Her perfumery workshops help people express themselves through scents. Many of her clients found their personal signature scent and some have even tried to launch their own brands with her help.
Recalling the creation process, Prachi also lets on that the Singapore Stone was the most difficult to create, as the stone could only be seen along our coasts during low-tide.
“So the question was: do we make the stone smell wet or dry? Eventually we all agreed to make it semi-wet. These are two completely different smells and therefore, challenging to mix,” recalls Mrs Garg.
“Other interesting smells to look out for are ‘Hotel de l’ Europe’ and ‘Independent Singapore’. These are both conceptual smells and often lead people into a discussion. Strong discussion where likes and dislikes are fairly strong!”
Create Your Own Singapore Scent
Besides this display, Prachi will also organise a perfume workshop where Singaporeans can create their own idea of a ‘Scent of the Nation’ on 3 May 2015. Experience Singapura’s 700 years through the ‘Singapore Stone’, ‘Chinese masonry’, ‘Life before 14th Century’, ‘Fear during Japanese invasion’ and more, with your nose.
Each participant will get the chance to learn the techniques of perfume making and how to mix different ingredients to create your unique Scent of the Nation. Each participant gets to keep a 75ml bottle of perfume they create. Tickets on sale on SISTIC from 10 April 2015.
Before the workshop, participants will have a chance to join the museum-volunteers on a guided tour to smell your way through Singapore’s history and experience her transformation from a humble fishing village to the pride of an empire, before becoming an independent nation-state as she is today.