Photograph of the crocodile 1887, (original photographer, owner and copyright unknown). Reproduced in Tan, Kevin, Y.L. Of Whales and Dinosaurs. The Story of Singapore’s Natural History Museum. National University of Singapore Press 2015.


In 2019 a single grain of wheat from the interior of a 133 year-dead 4.7m, salt water crocodile shot 1887 at the mouth of the no-longer-existing Serangoon river in Singapore and kept for over a century in the Raffles Museum, migrated to the arctic circle and was ceremonially buried in Platåberget, adjacent to the Svalbard Global Seed Bank on 10th June 2019 as part of an international competition called Agri Cultures Seed Links.

This gesture was one part of an ongoing, interdisciplinary research inquiry by the Singapore/Helsinki-situated Migrant Ecologies Project. Our proposal for Svalbard consisted of regarding this 133-year dead, salt-water crocodile as a comparative seed bank to the Global Seed Vault. Equally important for us has been the discovery initially by conservator Kate Pocklington of what has become a feral diversity of regional sources all claiming in different ways that this very crocodile (currently in the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum) is believed to host, together with this wheat grain the spirit of Panglima Ah Chong, nineteenth century gangster, Taoist mystic, and anti-colonial freedom fighter.

In this artist’s talk, Lucy Davis will discuss this ongoing project and grains of possible historic, genetic material and poetic stories that the Migrant Ecologies Project are in the process of tracing from the interior of this one salt water crocodile. 

The Migrant Ecologies Project, as an umbrella for collaborative, interdisciplinary inquiries into questions of art ecology and more than human connections, primarily but not exclusively in Southeast Asia. The Migrant Ecologies Project embraces concerned explorers, curious collectors, daughters of woodcutters, miners of memories and art by nature. The project evolves though and around past and present movements and migrations of naturecultures in art and life in Southeast Asia.

Lucy Davis is a visual artist, art writer and founder of The Migrant Ecologies Project. Her  practice encircles ecologies, animal and plant studies, art and visual culture, materiality and memory—primarily but not exclusively in Southeast Asia. She lived and worked for 30 years in Singapore. She is currently Professor of Artistic Practices in the Master’s Degree Programme in Visual Cultures, Curating and Contemporary Art at Aalto University, Finland.