This work takes my family history as a point of departure and explores a hidden chapter of the Cold War in Asia – the resistance of the Malayan Communists against the British in the 1940s – 1960s. Using photographs, archival documents, objects used by the Malayan Communist guerillas, oral histories and recorded revolutionary songs, it seeks to sketch a picture of a complex time of war that has left unspoken trauma.

As a child growing up in staunchly anti-Communist Singapore, all I knew about my mysterious paternal grandfather was that he had died in China. For our family, he was a non-person. Even my grandmother’s tombstone does not bear his name.

It was only over the past four years that I have slowly began to piece together the story of my grandfather, and come to see how it was part of the most enduring conflict of the 20th century: the battle against colonialism and the Cold War between West and East. My grandfather and his generation of activists fought the Japanese and then the British in the only way they knew how—by joining a Communist movement in the jungles of British Malaya (today's Malaysia and Singapore) in the late 1930s and 1940s. It was war in every way but name, and both the local Communists and British committed what would today be crimes against humanity. These battles were a direct precursor to America’s experiences in Vietnam, where Washington tried to apply many of the tactics used by the British in the Malayan Emergency of 1948 to 1960. But even today, we remember “Nam” but know very little of the Malayan chapter of the Cold War.

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Who? Sim Chi Yin

From China

Docking September 4 - 29

Working on For This My Grandfather Died 

About a family history of the Malayan Emergency


Chi Yin was trained a historian, finishing two degrees in International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She worked as a journalist and foreign correspondent for Straits Times, Singapore's national English language daily, for nine years before quitting to be an independent story-teller. 




‎Team Leader & Senior Multimedia Producer at China Daily

"Chi Yin Sim continuously challenges herself by selecting under-reported and elaborate social topics. In her approach - each time a step up, more complex - she goes all the way, long-term and emotionally. 

In her current documentary work she’s taking a historical route and focuses on the resistance of the Malayan Communists against the British in the 1940s –1960s. Using her own family story as a point of departure, Chi Yin explores the story both as a photographer, as a journalist and as a historian.

The past two years she has been traveling throughout South-East Asia taking pictures as well as collecting photographs, archival documents and objects used by the guerrillas. She has also been recording oral histories and revolutionary songs. In doing so, Chi Yin is visually discovering a hidden chapter of the Cold War in Asia; a complex time of war that has left unspoken trauma. 

The Docking Station opportunity comes at a great moment of the project’s development and will allow her to examine different ways to move the story forward in collaboration and discussion with a range of experts from different fields."