Investigates: Why is there a place in South Africa also called Singapore?
Technically, Singapore is also located in South Africa, more than 9,000 kilometers distant. It is not especially novel to have a location in a country named after another. Even other than in Southeast Asia, Singapore is a term that is used elsewhere.
However, there is not as much material available about Singapore in Limpopo, South Africa, as there is about Michigan Singapore, which has a relatively well-documented history.
The following is the text of the paper as it appears in the print edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Here is a 2010 Straits Times story.
Singapore in Limpopo is briefly mentioned in the article, with the statement "little information is available about the place" being made. The majority of Singaporeans had never heard of that specific Singapore before. We don't appear to have learned much more about the area in the more than 12 years since that ST piece.
Google Maps, however, doesn't even cover the region.
There isn't much to be found on other social media platforms either, though you can find a few images of what appears to be a South African hamlet on Facebook by searching Singapore Limpopo.
These, however, are presumably not of the same settlement but rather just a village in the general vicinity. Actually, according to what Mothership discovered online, there were only two images of a signboard in Limpopo that indicated the position.
Here's one that Hlangi Sithole captured:
No information about the location, dimensions, or even pictures of the space is easily accessible. Singapore is unknown.
A post to the "South Africans in Singapore" Facebook community set the stage for what to anticipate in the upcoming year. Despite their best efforts to see if anyone in the group was aware of Limpopo's Singapore, an administrator kindly informed me that they weren't positive if there was much in that area.
Mothership made the decision to consult Limpopo specialists because the area in issue might not see a lot of human traffic. They sent a number of emails to professors in related departments at universities in the region, but all of them just led to more dead ends.
An epiphany then occurs.
Mothership had been perusing Professor Peter Raper's "Dictionary of Southern African Place Names," a fantastic reference work on the antecedents of place names in South Africa.
Singapore was not mentioned in any of the book's iterations, but it later emerged that South Africa had drawn names for its locales from other locations around the globe.
To mention a few, Amsterdam, Andalusia, Hottentots Holland, and Marseilles.
Mothership contacted Professor Raper, who is regarded as one of the preeminent authorities on place names in South Africa, to inquire about the etymological history of the settlement in the hopes that the Singapore entry might be a DLC or something.
The lecturer responded, which is good news.
The bad news was that he no longer had "an extensive archive of place names" because he had departed the South African Onomastic Research Centre, which was devoted to the study of the origins and history of place names.
Even so, he went above and beyond by providing me with Professor Adrian Koopman's name and the name of the institution that now held these archives.
Koopman was also of great assistance, giving more background on the archive's position.
According to Koopman, the University of KwaZulu-Natal did hold these archives, though they didn't have a curator — at least when he was there about 10 years ago. Koopman claimed he thought the archives were still kept in the same room as when he departed, despite being retired since 2012.
The Mothership team was aware of the location of the archives, but they had a hunch that I would shortly encounter another problem.
Indeed, it became apparent after a number of emails went unanswered that it would be difficult to find someone who would be prepared to sift through tons of uncataloged documents in order to find the answer to a minor etymological query without someone in charge of the archives.
The team chose to pursue a route with less red tape and bureaucracy because academia was proving to be a very challenging nut to crack. Government representatives were first emailed by the Mothership crew.
Again, though, it's perfectly understandable because this was a rather specific request from a non-citizen. Quite a few officials very nicely attempted to help me discover an answer. However, the responses began to dwindle after about two waves of delegations to what they believed to be lower-ranking officials.
One specific phrase in an email thread between these officials caught the team's attention. This sentence pretty much sums up how challenging it would be to learn more about South Africa's Singapore.
It was written by a senior official before he finally assigned someone else to research Singapore. He said, surprised at my linguistic inquiry:
"I am hearing the name for the first time in Limpopo."
Why you report this article?
What do you think?
Give a comment