Just as how The Grand Budapest Hotel was a hidden gem facing demolishment at the beginning of Wes Anderson’s movie, all things Peranakan in Singapore have steered close to becoming a dying trade due to the Peranakans’ scattered population.
Peranakans are not Chinese or Malay. Yet they speak the Malay language and eat rice with chopsticks. They are a hodge-podge of races, an ethnic cultural group that is known for their elegance, intricacy and integration.
So while you’re chewing on that Ang Ku Kueh, have you ever wondered who the Peranakans are and where they came from? Or pondered over their obsession over clashing colours and patterns?
This is their story:
The Peranakan, with a culture long in decline, has struggled to survive in Singapore. Today many warm, colourful Peranakan infrastructures have inevitably faced the wrecking ball to make way for cold concrete skyscrapers. However, as Singapore progresses with the rest of the world to become a fast-paced modern nation, we have not completely dismissed the importance of preserving our heritage.
A walk along the streets of Joo Chiat and Katong is akin to a walk down the memory lane for many of our grandparents with Peranakan blood in their veins. The array of shophouses, painted with a vibrant shade of turquoise and magenta were kept as close to its original state as possible to remind Singaporeans that the Peranakan culture still exists, albeit less popular and grand than it was pre-WW2.
Singapore has recognised the significance of our Peranakan history and established a Peranakan Museum in 2008. After all, the late father of Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew) was of Peranakan ancestry.
Today, we are able to experience a tinge of what Peranakan culture is thanks to those with a great passion for this exquisite culture and are adamant about keeping it alive. Stay tuned as Campus goes around Singapore to interview some of these individuals!
tldr; here’s a summary of the Peranakans, more specifically, the Nyonyas.
By Rachel Lim