Oh Boy!

The public officers who brought Tintin to Singapore share the adventures they had in making the stamp exhibition happen.

It was a three-year-long adventure around the world, on the hunt for prized treasures. At each step, Ms Lucille Yap, senior curator, and Ms Tresnawati Prihadi, general manager of the Singapore Philatelic Museum, had to tap into their networks of friends and colleagues, navigate red tape and engage their ingenuity.

Laughing, they shared the “challenging” process to put together the Adventures of Tintin exhibition at the museum, with parts of their tale bearing hallmarks of the boy reporter’s own escapades – except for car chases and trips to outer space.

The idea started innocuously enough. “Three years ago, we had a comic book and superheroes-themed stamp exhibition which displayed one Tintin stamp,” shared Ms Prihadi. “Quite a few people approached us and wanted to buy that particular stamp. We realised there was interest out there and we could explore an exhibition specifically on Tintin.”

Ms Prihadi, herself a voracious reader of Tintin comics as a child, shared the idea with her colleagues. “As we did our research, we found out that there was a movie in the works,” recalled Ms Yap. “We didn’t know when it was coming out, but thought we might be able to prepare and see if we could coincide the two events. So we started talking to the various museums to see if they were keen to share their collections with us.”


Around the world for Tintin

This began a series of communications with museums and postal services across the world, such as with the Netherlands, France and Belgium, home of Hergé, Tintin’s creator.

Getting permission to borrow collections and attain reproductions meant a lot of paperwork and administrative and logistical issues, said Ms Prihadi emphatically. “It was a complicated process to coordinate with all the different museums and look for and negotiate contracts with collectors,” she said.

Not all talks were successful and attempts to borrow some artefacts fell through, but the team ploughed on. Various collectors also required intricate legal protection before they would agree to lend their collections. “We are a non-profit organisation and can’t afford those types of costs,” said Ms Yap.

Ms Yap travelled to Belgium, the Netherlands and France to finalise deals and even collected some precious stamps herself, including special 2007 Belgium Post stamps featuring all 24 comic covers and a Hergé portrait.

“I had intended to carry back more stamps but they weighed 8 kg and were a bit too heavy to carry on board the plane!” Ms Yap laughed. But the project had its perks. “One of the most enjoyable parts was to read all 24 comics during office hours.” The hard work paid off and the museum managed to time the launch in November 2011 with the movie, as planned.

The result: A fascinating peek into Tintin’s world, and also that of his “father”, Hergé, an avid scout and prolific artist and letter-writer. Apart from reproductions of Hergé’s hand-drawn pencil artwork from his incomplete final book, there are snippets from his astounding collection of some 40,000 letters that reveal wry humour and boyish charm. Other rare pieces include stamp artwork that never made it into print and colour trials.

2018-04-22 10_12_45-Oh Boy! _ Challenge Online

Tintin fan to the rescue

Adding a touch of whimsy to the exhibition are Tintin figurines, from a bust of Tintin’s head to the submarine from Red Rackham’s Treasure and the intricately-patterned vase from The Blue Lotus.

All these came from the personal collection of Mr Eric Tan, Director, National Archives of Singapore who, as serendipity had it, happens to be a collector of Tintin figurines. “I was in my 20s or 30s when I read my first Tintin comic book,” he shared. “I saw it in a one of those second-hand bookstores that rent books and was fascinated by the graphics and storyline. The times may be different now but the stories are timeless and the themes continue. Of course, the adventures are also exciting to read about – going to the moon, undersea travel, pirate treasure... Who isn’t intrigued by pirate treasure?” What makes it all come together is Tintin the intrepid boy reporter, helped by his intelligent white fox terrier Snowy and the blustering Captain Haddock.

Sticking with Tintin: Rarely seen original stamp artworks, colour trials, and other philatelic materials from the Netherlands and France are on display for the first time in Singapore (Images reproduced with permission from Singapore Philatelic Museum on behalf of Belgium Post and French Post)

His figurine collection comes from all over, including lucky finds at flea markets. “The bust of Tintin was acquired in 1991 while on a business trip in Paris,” Mr Tan recounted. “I took some time after work to hunt it down and found it in a toy shop filled with all manner of comic book figurines. It was too large to fit into my suitcase so I hand-carried the bust onto the plane, but it was worth the inconvenience.” Another rare vintage item is a tin model of Tintin reading newspapers in a rocking chair.

With its mix of stamps, trivia and fan collectibles, the exhibit has been wellreceived by children and adults alike, said Ms Prihadi. It is quite a treat to see the range of Tintin memorabilia all in one place and learn about his feats. Tintin, after all, is a wonderful strange boy who is forever 16 to 18, but has a mysterious cache of skills, laughed Ms Yap. “He can ride a bike, drive a car, fly an aeroplane, a helicopter, dive, use firearms and even pilot a rocket to the moon!”

The Adventures of Tintin exhibition ends on May 31, 2012.

Tintin Trivia
Born: Jan 10, 1929
Age: Forever young – 16 to 18 years-old
Occupation: Reporter
Constant companion: Snowy, the white fox terrier

First man on the moon
Tintin was the first ‘man’ on the moon, even before Neil Armstrong, landing there in 1953 in Destination Moon.

Who knew Tintin was so fashion-forward? His signature quiff hairstyle and plus-four trousers happen to be the very hippest in vintage chic these days. The quiff hairdo first appeared midway through the very first Tintin comic, The Land of the Soviets, during a car chase in which his flyaway hair attained its poofy height and stuck. The brown plusfour trousers were featured in every Tintin comic except the last two when he swapped his rolled cuffs for bellbottoms.

    Mar 13, 2012
    Sheralyn Tay
    John Heng
  • link facebook
  • link twitter
  • link whatsapp
  • link email