Baba House: Celebrating Singapore's Peranakan past
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On the western periphery of Chinatown stands one of the few remaining architectural examples of Peranakan culture in Singapore. Built around 1895 and once the ancestral home of a prominent Straits Chinese family, Baba House is the first Straits Chinese (or Peranakan) heritage home that has been restored to the splendor of its early twentieth-century heyday.
“The essence of the Peranakan culture is its hybrid sensibilities -- the ability to embrace other cultural forms and ideas," explains Foo Su Ling, curator and manager of Baba House. “As a metropolis, Singapore is also shaped by these ideals.”
One of the highlights of this heritage home is its bridal chamber, displaying the distinct customs and rites of Peranakan weddings.
“Singaporean Chinese realize that however good their Mandarin or knowledge of Chinese culture, we are still Southeast Asians living in a diverse region. Peranakan culture is enjoying a certain revival. Peranakan culture is self-consciously Chinese and Southeast Asian,” says George Yeo, Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Through donations from Agnes Tan, daughter of the late Straits Chinese leader Tun Tan Cheng Lock, extensive archeological research and studies have been invested in Baba House. The three-story Wee ancestral home showcases more than 2,000 Peranakan items from antiques to decorative items on the first and second floors. Special exhibitions are held on the third floor for academic researchers, artists and those interested in more contemporary issues related to the Straits Chinese community.
“I grew up in a Peranakan environment in Katong and I regret to see how much of that culture has been lost," says President S. R. Nathan. “I'm glad something like this has been restored, and we can savor some of the rich cultural practices of that time. For my generation, this is an interesting revival.”
Visits by appointment only
For more details, visit www.nus.edu.sg/museum/baba