Chua Mia Tee
National Language Class
Oil on canvas
112 x 153 cm
Shortly after Singapore became partially self-governing in 1955, Malay was made the national language to help forge the identity of a nation pushing for full independence. On the blackboard are the phrases "Siapa nama kamu?" ("What is your name?") and "Di mana awak tinggal?" ("Where do you live?"), words that capture a growing national consciousness in Singapore at that time.
Born in Guangdong Province, China in 1931, Chua Mia Tee immigrated to Singapore in 1937 and graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 1957. Chua is a highly regarded master of portrait painting and has painted prominent public figures including presidents and prime ministers of Singapore. Chua is also known for painting nationalistic and local scenes of Singapore, which serve as historical documents of the nation's changing landscape.
Collection of National Gallery Singapore.
Image courtesy of National Heritage Board.