Kostas Ikonomopoulos, a 43-year-old Greek national who has been living in Singapore with his wife and daughter for the last several years, has uncovered many of the country’s hidden secrets. It all began when the science book publishing executive first heard about plans to build a highway and a new town over the top of a local cemetery.
Ikonomopoulos felt obligated to take on the challenge of exploring the country’s past. He trekked around Singapore and the surrounding islands for six months, according to Asia One, and managed to visit thirty locations, including fifteen cemeteries.
He took pictures and notes and examined the state of each grave, studying the styles of the gravestones, and learning more about the names which piqued his interest. From stones over the graves of Muslim saints to Latin-inscribed tombstones of Catholic missionaries, Singapore has a great deal of history which is literally written in stone.
“People have a skewed perception of Singapore. They think Singapore is just Orchard Road and those who come here from other places think it’s just a place to make money. It seems that the focus of society is on technical and material progress, and the fact that the country also has a cultural past gets overlooked,” Ikonomopoulos told the newspaper.
He collected and collated data throughout his long journey around Singapore and its environs. He then began his research at the National Archives of Singapore, looking through numerous newspapers in order to discover more about the lives of people who were buried in the countries’ cemeteries.
In the end, Ikonomopoulos decided to collect all the data he had gathered over his months of searching and write a book which would encompass as much information as possible about Singapore’s first residents. His book, entitled “Remains: A Singapore Journey” was published by Ethos Books in September of 2015.
Reviewers have called it “an unorthodox travelogue.” But it is also a priceless compilation of the first residents of this most cosmopolitan Asian city-state, a place where breakneck development has almost completely obscured its earliest and most fascinating history.