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Inspiration for your home: Nyonya Needlework at Peranakan Museum

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Love Peranakan heritage, and looking for inspiration for your new home? You might want to check out the Peranakan Museum - there's a new exhibition in town, with motifs and designs that will spark a few clever ideas!

Nyonya Needlework features close to 200 items of embroidery and beadwork from Singapore's national collection - the largest collection of Nonya needlework in public hands - as well as some loans from the Rijksmuseum and the National Museum of World Cultures, both in the Netherlands.

The exhibition includes immaculately embroidered and beaded decorative hangings and accesories - such as tablescreens and tray covers - that show how symbols are used to convey auspicious meanings in Peranakan culture, and how Nonya needlework from Java, Malacca, Penang and Singapore differ in style and form. It, however, transcends mere craftsmanship and visual splendour.

The museum's director, Dr Alan Chong, says: "The Peranakans are not just a little community living in the Straits Settlements taking up peculiar cultural habits. It is really a blended community that represents the best of South-east Asia where we live in relationship to many cultures and, regardless of our ethnic descent, we adapt the traditions and artforms of others."

Such cross-cultural dialogue is apparent in Nonya beadwork and embroidery.

He says: "Some of the forms are Chinese, some are Malay and many of the materials and techniques are in fact European. But the curators will be the first to concede that sometimes, they don't even know where certain techniques are from; they are a combination of many different things."

Written by Huang Lijie for The Straits Times.

TOPICS: museum, Peranakan