Irreverent and humorous
Eastern Economic Review
December 14, 2000
Book Review by David Plott
FOR A LIGHTER LOOK at history, Morgan Chua's My Singapore is a delightful and, at times, irreverent look at Singapore's history in cartoons, accompanied by copious notes, tidbits and biographical trivia. Chua spent 22 years at the REVIEW in Hong Kong, where he built a reputation as one of the region's finest political cartoonists and rose to become the magazine's creative director before returning to his native Singapore in 1997.
What Chua brings to this account of Singapore is an endearing sense of humour and an eye for the absurdities that lurk beneath the island state's dehydrating seriousness. From images of Lee Kuan Yew as the kung fu hero of clean government, flying through the air above an adoring cabinet, to opposition leader Chee Soon Juan on his knees begging to be arrested, these sketches poke gentle fun at a political culture desperately in need of a good laugh. There are also occasional images of Singapore's funkier side, such as the famed transvestites of old Bugis Street.
In these cartoons, however, there is very little of the sharp, biting political humour that characterized Chua's work for the REVIEW. They are daring, nevertheless, in a restrained way. From time to time, Chua's accompanying notes, although mostly factual, provide hilarious juxtapositions of detail. On British colonial governor, Sir Franklin Gimson, for example: "During his governorship, a bomb was thrown at him when communist fervour ran high in Malaya and Singapore. However, he successfully introduced income taxation."
Unfortunately, Chua was ill served by his publisher and editor, because this otherwise fine collection of sketches is marred by many misspellings and grammatical errors scattered throughout the text. More careful editing would have helped.
David Plott is a managing editor at the REVIEW