Singapore-based writer and blogger Anne Pinto-Rodrigues is a tile enthusiast, who collaborated with leading tile collector, Victor Lim, to produce Peranakan Tiles Singapore, a 200-page coffee table book that showcases the different types of tiles that came to the country in the late-19th and early-20th centuries.
She shares with us her favourite places in Singapore to view decorative ceramic tiles, and get up close to these works of art.
Eating at Bumbu is a multi-sensory experience. The restaurant serves a variety of Indonesian-Thai-Peranakan dishes and the food is complemented beautifully by the tasteful decor of the restaurant. Owner Robert Tan has decorated the place with a variety of Peranakan-Chinese furniture and collectables including framed antique tiles, black-and-white photographs and ornate lighting fixtures. One is almost instantly transported to a bygone era. A treat for both your palate and your eyes!
44 Kandahar Street
You cannot miss this building if you are walking along Dickson Road. The eclectic mix of tiles on its facade really makes the building stand out. Today, it is home to the quirky Wanderlust Hotel but the building itself was built in the early 1900s, and has quite an interesting history. Old pictures of the building show that the facade was decorated with tiles even way back then and more tiles have been added over the years, giving it a very “rojak” feel (rojak means mixture in Malay).
2 Dickson Road
English tiles were imported into Singapore as early as the 1890s and the Majestic is possibly the earliest example of the use of imported tiles on the facade of a public building. It was built by business magnate and philanthropist, Eu Tong Sen (1877-1941) for his wife who loved Cantonese opera. The construction was completed in 1928 and it functioned as a Cantonese opera house until 1938. The elaborate tile panels you see on the front facade of the building are scenes from Cantonese operas.
80 Eu Tong Sen Street
As the earliest Chinese Municipal Cemetery in Singapore (opened in 1922), Bukit Brown has several tombs that are decorated with exquisite tiles. Some of the tiles here are very rare and the only ones of their kind in Singapore. The cemetery closed in 1973 but the tombs and the tiles adorning them have survived the prolonged exposure to heat and humidity. Bukit Brown is a reminder of all the men who built Singapore – the rich and the powerful as well as those of humbler means. Guided tours to Bukit Brown are listed on their website.
Victor Lim’s collection of tiles spans several decades and artistic styles. What started out as a teenage hobby for Victor is today a successful business venture, Aster by Kyra. I would highly recommend a visit to the gallery for any genuine tile enthusiast. The gallery is open daily from 12-5pm. Victor has a colourful personality and likes to educate people about tiles.
168 Telok Ayer Street
First published in Silverkris.