Merlionicity: the twenty first century elaboration of a Singaporean symbol

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Hayward, P 2012, 'Merlionicity: the twenty first century elaboration of a Singaporean symbol', Journal of Marine and Island Cultures, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 113-125.

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Designed in 1964 as a symbol for the (then) fledgling Singaporean tourism industry that reflected Singapore’s maritime heritage, the Merlion – a figure comprising a lower half fish and upper half lion – has become a widely recognized icon of the modern island-state. But despite its prominence in representations of Singapore, the figure has divided opinion and generated debate amongst Singaporeans. Since the 1980s and increasingly in the 1990s and 2000s, artists, writers and critics have variously re-imagined and modified the Merlion in order to comment on aspects of Singapore’s national project. Prompted by the re-imagination of the Merlion at Singapore’s third Biennale of Arts (2011), this article develops comparisons to similar international symbols and analyses the role and historical trajectory of the Merlion in Singaporean society and the manner in which it has stimulated discussion of the island-state’s identity. ª 2012 Institution for Marine and Island Cultures, Mokpo National University. Production and hosting

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