Reliving old Peranakaan moments – Singapore, Melaka and Penang

Very often we try to erase our past because it simply does not fit with our present. We take an unexpected turn and we force every moment we leave behind into oblivion. I know from experience it´s a sad thing to do because you deprive yourself from your own history, reducing your life to what you and others have decided is convenient to live and relive in the present.

But today I came across this beautiful image and I couldn´t help bringing back some old memories;

Peranakan Marriage

It was 1986 and I bought one of these gorgeous Peranakan wedding baskets the minute I received my first pay check working in Singapore. I was then a very young 20 year old hungry for ¨the exotic¨, eager to take in the new local cultures at any cost. I haven´t spoken to anyone about these days for a long time and the memories are now tucked away in this silly brain. But I remeber the thrill I felt about every single little thing, from going to the local markets on Saturday morning and haggling with the vendors, enjoying Te Tarik and Roti Canai at the Indian road-side stall and having Cendol and Ice Kacang in Singapore´s colourful Peranakan place.

I was then totally ignorant about the fascinating history of the Nonya women and the Baba men. It was my colleague Juliana Ong, a bold and vibrant lady always dressed in the most sensual and bright-coloured cheong-sams who introduce me to the vibrant Peranakan culture and its people, descendants of late 15th and 16th-century Chinese immigrants to the Straits of Melaka during the Colonial era. As the following video explains, there are a couple of versions of how history developed but in a nutshell (and I hate reducing their history to a nutshell), Chinese migrants who settled in the main ports of the straits of Melaka – Singapore, Melaka and Penang – married local Malay and Indian women and developed a new cultural identity, now a central part of the heritage of these cities.

Globalisation has spread some of the Perakan treasures everywhere – Laksa, the multilayered Kueh Lapis, Chiken Kapitan – but if you want to dig a little deeper and are keen to find more about their beautiful traditional dresses, the sarong kebaya and the ornate homes and furnitures, this video is a good start:

I hope you enjoy these images as well. And if you have memories to share, whether tucked away or not, would love to hear from you.

SRG-Lasem-Sedan Chairs

Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, Georgetown, Penang

Nonya Beaded Shoe


'The Black & White Playing Cards'
20081104 - Penang Island - Pinang Peranakan Mansion