Duo behind ‘SAF Mourning Pins’ artwork state that authorities made them take down their post

Deeply affected by the tragic spate of deaths within Singapore’s national service over the 14 months, artist and designer duo ZZ launched a project on Wednesday that would commemorate their memories: funeral mourning pins in the style of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)’s pixelated green uniforms.

In traditional Chinese culture, pins known as “xiao” are worn on the shirt sleeves of the mourners for a period of time. These mourning pins consist of small pieces of cloth (about 3.5cm by 2cm) and are worn on the left side if the deceased is male, or the right side if the deceased is female. According to the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, these mourning pins would be worn for up to three years in traditional China, but in Singapore, they are typically worn for 49 or 100 days.

ZZ — made up of creatives Lim Zeherng and Lim Zeharn — intended to make a statement by modifying traditional mourning pins as a “silent act for greater accountability and transparency in the SAF”. The pins are even slotted in small plastic sachets, akin to packaged items bought from the SAF surplus shop.

“…it brings into question the recurrence of NSF deaths during peacetime operations, as the norm or even a ‘necessary sacrifice,” ZZ wrote in a Facebook post and in the caption of the product’s description on their website.

Facebook screengrab

Takedown

The post went viral across social media, garnering both support and disdain for the project. One side believed that it was a creative way to make a statement, while the other slammed the duo, accusing them of being disrespectful to the deceased, and alienating other cultures.

Less than a day after the post went live, it mysteriously disappeared from both ZZ’s Facebook and website with no explanation made. It was only today however that the duo clarified that the authorities had ordered them to remove the post. ZZ did not specify which authority (or authorities) censored them.

“As a work made with what we believe were good intentions to help generate more discussions on a topic many feel strongly about, it saddens us to have had our content removed,” they wrote, thanking people for their support when the post was live.

When contacted by Coconuts Singapore, ZZ declined to share further details, stating that it would be best not to talk to the media at present.

Servicemen deaths

ZZ, however, was not wrong to point out that the number of deaths that have been occurring within the national service.

  • Nov 3, 2018: Corporal First Class Liu Kai, 22, died at the Jalan Murai training grounds when an armored infantry fighting vehicle reversed onto his jeep.
  • Sep 28: An NSF was found hanging from a rope in his office in Sembawang Air Base.
  • Sep 9, 2018: A 23-year-old police NSF died a week after he was found with a gunshot wound to his head. His service revolver was found beside him. No foul play is suspected.
  • Jul 28, 2018: An off-duty SAF regular servicemen was found hanging from a rope in his bunk in Nee Soon Camp.
  • May 13, 2018: Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, died in a hazing ritual gone tragically wrong. He was pushed into a 12m-deep pump well at Tuas View Fire Station by his squadmates to celebrate the end of his two-year service. He never resurfaced.
  • Apr 30, 2018: Corporal First Class Dave Lee, 19, succumbed to his injuries after being hospitalized for heatstroke. He had collapsed from heat injury after completing an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp.
  • Sep 15, 2017: Third Sergeant Gavin Chan, 21, died in Australia during an overseas training exercise. He had been guiding an armored infantry vehicle out of difficult terrain when it landed on its side. He was found unconscious next to it, and succumbed to his injuries.

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