The People of the River Statue Series is a simple yet incredible collection of sculptures found along the Singapore River.
The series of sculptures have cultural and historical significance because they depict the life of Singapore’s early settlers, suggesting how they may have worked, lived, or played by the river.
People of the River, Statues, Sculptures & Locations Map, Singapore
On the left side of the iconic Cavenagh Bridge, you’ll see a sculpture entitled First Generation; a frozen-motion monument of five boys who are shown about to go diving into the river for a swim. Such an act is no longer allowed today, but it represents what the river meant for people of various ages and backgrounds back then. It also serves as a reminder that some time ago, the river also served as a vital recreational area for kids, who played alongside merchants who were busy selling their wares.
Beside it is another sculpture called From Chettiars to Financiers, which is dedicated to the history of the bustling finance industry in Singapore. Although the Lion City is recognised as a world leader in the finance industry, its roots started with the traditional moneylenders. The sculptures’ names are derived from the Chettiars, which refer to a group of Tamil people originating from Chettinad in India. Many of them have historically been involved in money lending, and upon arrival in Singapore, their modest lending businesses eventually gave rise to the finance industry.
The People of the River Statue Series continues to the Fullerton Hotel’s facade, where you’ll find the third series entitled River Merchants. The scene shows a European merchant talking shop with Chinese and Malay traders, as coolies loading a cart are seen just beside it. The European is meant to represent Alexander Laurie Johnston, recognised as a pioneer trader in Singapore. This sculpture was erected in what was the location of Johnston’s trading business right by the mouth of the Singapore River back in the 1800s.
To go deeper into Singapore’s fascinating history, check out the Asian Civilisations Museum after visiting the People of the River Statue sculpture series.