The 1950’ and 60’s was a period of turbulence and dramatic changes. Politically, Singapore went through a tumultuous period of self government, merger with Malaysia and then independence through tragic separation in August 1965. Its social, cultural and educational system went through a circuitous phase of changes and adaption.
The Nanyang University (abbreviated as Nantah”) was founded in the 1950s after the Second World War in a period when people under colonial rule fought for independence, often through bloodshed and armed struggle to achieve national liberation and democracy. It was also a time when the international Cold War conflicts were at its height and the ideological struggles were severe.
Students of Nanyang University (called “Nantah students”) as hot blooded young people in synch with the times, voluntarily and enthusiastically responded in the anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism movements and engaged in the struggles of the fair against the unjust, the weak against the strong, the liberators against the oppressors. The effect of the British “divide and rule” policy succeeded in creating severe cultural and language internal conflicts amongst the Chinese community.
Nantah students self proclaimed to be the guardian of Chinese education, staged a series of strikes, open protects and petitions in response to the Government various attempts of reform and the arrests of the student activists. The fight against the authorities were uncompromising and determined, and the conflicts were violent. The eventual failure of the struggle forged in Nantah students the deepest sentimental tie with Nantah and developed a strong will to preserve their Chinese cultural heritage and in particular, they were drawn closer by their common ideals. This is evident after the merger of Nantah with the Singapore University in the 1980. The poems written by Nantah students after the merger were emotional, wrathful and indignant. These poems were obvious in airing their anger, frustration and disappointment accompanied with deep and strong cultural sentiments. Poems written in 1991–2000 decade were numerous besides showing the continuing emotional ties with Nantah but the key concern was in the introspection and in-depth deliberation about the root of the Chinese cultural heritage. In contrast in the recent period of 2001–2007, the poets expressed in their poems calmly their emotions, and broadened their themes in order to restore the Chinese cultural roots and went into the soul searching of ethnic Chinese as well as national cultural psyche.
This thesis attempts to deal with the subject from a unique angle. It departs from the typical viewpoint of a historical review of this epoch of tumultuous turbulence, but observes the changes from a literary vantage point through the eyes of Nantah students from an extensive review of their poems. The aim is to recount and appreciate the sentimental expressions of these poems which showed the students’ ardent love of Nantah as well as their unwavering love of their Chinese cultural heritage. From these two angles, the writer attempts to conduct an in-depth dissection of Nantah students’ distinctive and inextricable affection for Nantah, and through the viewpoint of literature and literary ontology, to interpret the nature of the deep-rooted inner meaning of Nantah students’ poems as well as their creative metaphysics.
Key words : Nanyang University Nantah students Literary work
Poems Cultural heritage Nantah sentiment