The People of the River Statue Series
Walking along the Singapore River, you’ll see a charming collection of bronze human sculptures — the People of the River — that immortalise scenes of our early years there.
On the left side of the iconic Cavenagh Bridge is the ‘First Generation’ – a frozen-motion monument of five boys diving into the river for a swim. Such an act is no longer allowed today, but that was what kids did then, playing alongside merchants who plied their trade.
Beside it is another sculpture called ‘From Chettiars to Financiers’, which depicts the group of traditional moneylenders who had established their presence in Singapore as early as the 1820s. The Chettiars 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 today.
The People of the River statue series continues to the Fullerton Hotel’s facade, where the third series is called ‘River Merchants’. The scene depicts a European merchant talking to 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.
These statues keep you company as you walk down the river, linking you to the people of the past, who came with their dreams and hard work, striving for a better life and contributing to the nation, like we do today.
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