peranakan pride

National University of Singapore preserving the Peranakan culture

To preserve and exhibit the Paranakan culture, the National University of Singapore Museum and NUS Centre for the Arts is opening the Baba House to showcase the unique Peranakan culture. The Baba House is designed to ‘transport’ visitors back to a typical Straits Chinese home, circa 1928. This will allow visitors to have a first hand experience of living in a traditional Paranakan home.

The Peranakans are descendents of early Chinese who migrated to Malaya (now Singapore and Malaysia) and adopted Malay culture as part of theirs. The language of Peranakan – ‘Baba Malay’ is a mixture of Bahasa Malay and Chinese dialect – Hokkien. The traditional costumes of the Peranakans are Malay traditional costumes – kebayas and sarongs, embroidered with Chinese motifs. The Peranakans mark the part of Singapore history where the Chinese migrated to Malaya and adapted a whole new culture as part of their own.

Click here to find out more about the Peranakan culture in Singapore.

To find out more about the Baba House, read the article from Straits Times below.

Peranakan Pride

THE three-storey house at 157 Neil Road looks pretty much like its neighbours, although it has a fresh coat of paint.

But visitors who step inside are transported to a typical Straits Chinese home, circa 1928.
Baba House, which will be opened tomorrow by President SR Nathan, is the latest venue here to showcase Peranakan culture. It will be opened to the public on Sept 15.

Managed by the National University of Singapore Museum and the NUS Centre for the Arts, it is designed to give visitors a feel of what a traditional Peranakan home was like, said curator Jean Wee, 43.

Porcelain ware is kept in wall cabinets known as piaktu, much like how Peranakan families would have stored them.

The house, more than 150 years old, is the ancestral home of the family descended from Chinese shipping tycoon Wee Bin, who bought the plot in 1860.

In 2005, Miss Agnes Tan, now 88, the last surviving daughter of the late Straits Chinese community leader Tan Cheng Lock, donated $4 million to the NUS to acquire and restore the house to teach young people about Peranakan history, culture and architecture.

“I hope Baba House will serve to inspire present and future generations in every possible way,” she said.

Staff and students from NUS’ School of Design and Architecture and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences’ South-east Asia studies programme were involved in the restoration.

The Baba House’s previous owner, engineer Wee Lin, 62, is a sixth-generation descendant of the Wee family.

Miss Tan’s nephew, Mr Peter Lee, 45, who is an art historian, writer and committee member of the Peranakan Association, is the honorary curator for the Baba House.

Some 60 to 70 per cent of the furniture in the house, such as the ancestral shrine and two wedding beds, belonged to the Wee family. The rest was acquired from Peranakan families in Singapore and Malacca.

The house boasts elaborate and intricately carved wooden windows, doors and partition screens.

Visitors will be encouraged to sit on the traditional wooden chairs inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and to have a feel of the other items such as porcelain vases.

The first two storeys showcase the Peranakan domestic interior, and the third storey is an exhibition gallery for artists to show modern-day representations of Peranakan culture.

The NUS Museum will also conduct Peranakan cooking classes and craft workshops there.
To protect the fragility of the Baba House, visits will be by appointment only. Guides will conduct hour-long tours at $10 per person, with a maximum of 12 people in each tour.
Mr Lee feels the house will provide visitors a ‘window to a lost era’.

“Hopefully they will travel back in time and to a space that will make them feel proud that it belongs to Singapore,” he said.

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