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Singapore has seen its fair share of mascots, created by government institutions or statutory boards to promote a message of national importance. After two decades of programming for racial harmony, productivity and Asian values, Singapore pivoted to building infrastructure, physically and culturally, for the arts and entertainment, first with the 1986 Conservation Master Plan and then with the Renaissance City Plan in the 2000s. Notice though, that there isn’t a mascot for the arts. Gasp. Anyway, some of these mascots have wormed their way into popular culture to become iconic figures (Singa the lion, anyone?). Some have fallen by the wayside. Some have retired quietly without losing their charm. We pay tribute to some of our lesser known mascots’ illustrious careers.
Year of birth: 1982
This industrious bee was a busy one indeed. Teamy fronted annual campaigns for the Productivity Movement that began in 1981, an initiative by the National Productivity Board (NPB) that was set up in 1972. The NPB was tasked with modernising businesses and improving the Singapore workforce for an increasingly competitive global economy in the ‘80s. Teamy saw great success, with double-digit economic growth through the 1990s, up until the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. As bees function together as a single hive mind, Teamy—with sting removed no less—promoted cooperation, teamwork and an unwavering dedication to productivity. He had a tongue-twisting jingle too:
Good, better, best! Never let it rest.
Till your good is better and your better, best.
Singapore is home to more than a million migrant workers, who have helped us achieve the happiness, prosperity and progress for our world-class nation. Explore the emotional and aspirational journey of Indian migrant workers; a minority within a minority community whose stories and contributions often go unheard, based on true stories gathered from interviews with tailors from Tekka Centre. Watch Paper Paravai by Brown Voices.
Year of birth: 1984
Mission: Please read
Remember The Bookworm Club? The bookworm was an icon for the popular range of children’s books in the ‘80s that chronicled the adventures of the self-proclaimed Bookworm gang at recess, in the classroom and after school. The gang comprised some questionable gender-normative stereotypes: the boys are Smarty who loves to read (of course), Porky who loves to eat (ground-breaking), Sam Seng who gets up to all sorts of mischief, Dollah and Kokku who are jocks and there's Louie, the business-minded boy. And as for the girls, we have Mimi, the vain one, Simone, a tomboy, and Fat Ani, who is a reporter (go figure).
It sounds like another club we like for breakfast, but this expanded brat pack was written for kids and doesn’t unpack those stereotypes like the coming-of-age cult classic does. Nonetheless, the bookworm did its job in cultivating a generation of readers, who fondly remember both the books and the bespectacled grub.UP YOUR ALLEY:
Each of the seven songs by singer-songwriter Aniq Rusyaidi depicts the unpredictable reality in life's chapters and reminds us to treasure serendipitous encounters with the people we meet. Watch and listen to The Untold Chapters.
Year of birth: 1990
Mission: Protect the environment
The frog has a name! Captain Green debuted as the poster amphibian for Singapore’s first ever Clean & Green Week, an annual initiative by the National Environment Agency (NEA). The inaugural campaign was launched officially on 4 November 1990 by then deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, who planted a Kuras tree at the Esplanade Park to mark the event. Captain Green was called upon to “raise social responsibilities and heighten environmental awareness on issues such as clean air, nature preservation, recycling, green consumerism and maintaining a litter-free environment".
As a frog, he’s sensitive to changes in the environment and his mission was not only to realise a clean and green Singapore, but also to shift mindsets towards a shared responsibility for the environment. In a not-so-secret lab, by order of the NEA in 1997, Captain Green got ripped and became a caped human-phibian superhero (DEFENDER OF THE ENVIRONMENT!!!). They kept his trusty lily pad and gave him a comic book deal. But it didn’t stick and it seems like Captain Green has reverted to his quaint, adorable frog form.UP YOUR ALLEY:
Hayashida Ken (also known as HYSHD) tells stories through sound, and he's used sounds from our lived-built environment, comprising sounds of housing estates, defunct school compounds and train announcements, for his electronic music creations. Watch and listen to HYSHD.
Making a Scene: Directing the National Day Parade
Find out more >
Year of birth: 2005
Retired: Not this BB
Mission: More blood
Follow @heybloodbuddy and you’ll see at a glance what this Gen Z blood bruh is up to. He’s pretty transparent, it’s in his blood – and all BB wants is your blood. A proud representative of the National Blood Programme, BB advocates blood donation, making appearances at mobile blood donation drives and outreach activities by the Singapore Red Cross. He’s actually had a makeover at the start of 2021 for a new campaign, One More Step, which serves as a reminder to Singaporeans that every step counts towards making a difference, whether it’s an eligibility test, booking an appointment or holding a blood drive.
Every step counts, especially for people of diverse abilities. "The more you see us, the more we’ll be normalised and your imagination broadened that, yes, disabled people have something to offer..." The artists of Access Path will share their fabulous tales of diversity in this performance. Watch Disability Visibility.
Year of birth: 2018
Mission: Represent Singapore
Out of all of Singapore’s mascots, Merli is the descendent of the oldest and most iconic one, the Merlion. The lion-headed fish predates the smiling Singa (born 1982), having originally been designed as the logo of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in 1964. STB then commissioned pioneer sculptor Lim Nang Seng to craft a merlion statue, which was completed in 1972 and relocated from the mouth of the Singapore River to the Merlion Park opposite Esplanade today. The merlion has been a trademarked symbol since 1966 even though STB has since changed its logo, and STB’s approval is required for any use of the merlion symbol on any Singapore paraphernalia.
As a mascot of the official mascot of Singapore, Merli represents Singapore and fronts STB’s Passion Made Possible campaign. Kawaii Merli was designed to appeal to a younger generation of families and to kids. He’s got his own animation series (beat that, Captain Green) and his favourite food is kaya toast.
Bonus: The Merlion symbol was designed by a British ichthyologist named Alec Fraser-Brunner. (Ichthyology is a branch of zoology dedicated to the study of fish.) He was the curator of the Van Cleef Aquarium that operated from 1955 to 1991 at Fort Canning Park.UP YOUR ALLEY:
Inspired by Merli and the merlion's new lease of life, listen to songs from the Yellow Ribbon Songwriting Competition, including a special original about how every day, everywhere, there are lessons to be learnt and how we can be each other’s second chances and inspiration. Watch We Are Each Other’s Second Chances by Yellow Ribbon PAC Alumni and Intune Music.
Happy birthday Singapore
Celebrate the things that make us uniquely Singapore through music and more by diverse artists and community groups in the month of our nation's 56th.