Archive for the ‘Anthropology’ Category

Current Read

From the world bank blog:

For a much longer and opinionated read (yet again very well written and interesting), a new book by Michela Wrong is out, this time on Kenya, entitled ‘It’s Our Turn to Eat’. It focuses on how potent the mix of ethnicity, aid, corruption and violence has been in shaping adverse developments in Kenya. It is told through the story of John Githongo (the ‘whistleblower’), one of the number of courageous anti-corruption czars in Africa who tried to go after the corrupt big fish and were defangled in recent years. Nigeria’s Nuhu Ribadu is another such stalwart case, and there are others.


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Monocle’s Top 25 most ‘liveable’ cities

Monocle has become my favourite magazine since picking it up at Rockstar (by soonlee). I love all the write ups on culture, surveys and interesting design oriented pieces. It’s like wallpaper for normal people almost.

Since then, I’ve been following Tyler Brule’s columns on FT Weekend more closely. He did a piece this Saturday on the Top 25 most liveable cities. I love how Monocle didn’t use the conventional criteria – crime statistics, infrastructure (transport etc.),  cost of living – but REAL criteria we would use if we were to consider moving and living in a city.

Monocle used hours of sunshine (we wouldn’t wanna be in a place which only experiences 6hrs of sunshine – would be too depressing!), global connectivity (direct non-stop flights) and even diversity of a city’s streetscape (no. of independent retailers, restaurants – too many mass chain stores/outlets and you lose points) among other factors to select the Top 25.

These are really unique criteria and they do truly contribute to your experience in a city. Lesser developed nations like Rio, Beirut are also mentioned in a special addition to the quality of life survey. Monocle noted that while they don’t stack up in terms of infrastructure, they are oddly liveable because they’ve defined their own codes and managed to overcome thier limitation by making life bearable through softer, less tangible features – superior service, alternative economies and abit of lawlessness.

I totally agree. It’s about the unique way of life and the attitude of the people in the country that draw you to living in a country. Switzerland comes to mind as a great example. Sg often models everything after it (education, transport etc.) but no offense, I’ve dealt with a few Swiss people to know how boring it can get. It’s too seamless and efficient. There are no interesting stories and opinions. I love Bangkok/Thailand because of the lawlessness there (relative to Singapore of course). So I’m glad the good people at Monocle came up with this great survey. 

Interesting to note that Singapore dropped 4 places from 18 in 2009 to 21 in 2010. Seeing how 90% of all shops in the 2 latest shopping destination (Ion and MBS) are filled with the same stores that can be seen in every megamall in Singapore, it’s no surprise that Singapore’s retail scene can’t compare to the quaint streets of Copenhagen, Melbourne or Tokyo. We need to do more for local fashion brands. We have so much potential. Haji lane is a great example – so many great little shops (though its rapidly getting too crowded with blog shops).

What can Singapore do to edge up this list?


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Signed up for a curator’s tour for the Immortality exhibition at the NSM.

Hairanie, the curator for the exhibition, was our guide for the evening and it was a great experience! I’d recommend it to anyone. It was good having someone give you the context behind all the amazing exhibits that were displayed.

Her job allows her to travel around the world and negotiate exhibition exchanges for Singapore. Plus she gets to do DEEP research on the exhibits she brings in. She studied Egyptology for a year and gave us a pretty good idea of mummification and the concept of ‘ka’ and ‘ba’. *super envious*

Me next to sphinx of some random Pharoah

Curator's Tour - Quest for Immortality


Egyptian religion held that what we call the spirit or soul consisted of three distinct parts: the ka, the ba, and the akh. Egyptologists characterize the ka (represented by two upraised arms) as the individual’s “vital force” or “spiritual twin.” When a person was born, the god Khnum created his or her ka, modeling both body and spirit on his potter’s wheel. Kings could have several kas; mere mortals had only one. During life the ka remained separate from the body. At death a person was said to have “gone to his [or her] ka.” This was the Egyptian way of saying that the ka had merged with the deceased’s lifeless form.

To survive, the ka needed a body for its eternal home. The Egyptians believed that the ka dwelt within either the mummy or the tomb statue (sometimes called the ka-statue), a spare body needed if the corpse should be destroyed.

The Egyptians called the second element of the soul the ba (or “animation”). It was the part of the spirit that was free to leave the tomb and travel about the earth during the day. The ba was obliged, however, to return to the tomb during the perilous hours of darkness. The ba came into being only when the ka and the dead body were united; without the ka and a mummy or ka-statue, the ba could not exist.


Although most people would perceive Egyptian culture to be obsessed with death (w the rituals and the great lengths they go to preserve dead bodies), it’s actually the complete opposite – Egyptians are obsessed with life!

They believe the when people die, they merely move over “to the west” (i.e. another world/place) and continue living their lives. The whole concept of mummification came about because they wanted to help “enrich” the life of the deceased. They wanted the “ba” to be able to find the “ka” – Read short excerpt above on “ka” and “ba”.

Pretty different from my own beliefs of what happens after we die. I was curious as to what religion Egyptians then were considered to be practising – Paganism.

Prob gonna do a bit more research on that and write a post on it later.

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