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Looking for my Peranakan MUSE(um🤔)

Writer Chloe takes us on a nostalgic tour of the re-opened Peranakan Museum.


Image credits: The Peranakan Museum Singapore


After four long years, the Peranakan Museum was re-opened to great fanfare in February. I had the privilege of attending the media preview to get a glimpse of how the space has changed over the long closure. As someone who was dealing with a law-school induced writer’s block, it was nice to have something else to work on.


Having last been to the museum more than 10 years ago, I was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar piece of history retained in a corner of the museum - the Peranakan brown bench. This same bench has been kept on the first floor for visitors to sit on.


The writer and her sister in 2010


The bench 10 years on! Find it behind the stairway.


The Exterior and Interior


The museum looks significantly newer both inside and out, although various architectural features have been conserved or given a gentle facelift. The facade of the museum is painted in an eye-catching shade of aquamarine, adding a pop of colour to the vibrant Armenian Street.


Image credits: The Peranakan Museum Singapore


The contents of the galleries have been greatly revamped. Once solely focusing on the Chinese Peranakans in Singapore, there is now a greater emphasis on other smaller groups such as the Chitty and Jawi Peranakans.


The galleries are split according to three different themes across the three floors. The first floor sheds light on the origins of various Peranakan groups in Singapore. The second floor explores the lives of these Peranakans through different aspects such as dining and culture. Lastly, the top floor was dedicated to style, showcasing everything from handcrafted jewellery to delicate beadwork.


What to Expect


I shall not spoil too much, but be prepared to see an extensive array of artefacts on display such as photographs, cookware and even a child carriage. There were way too many dressing table mirrors that fed my inner narcissism as well 🫣. My favourite though? Beaded Puma sports shoes. (have fun looking for them, they’re not easy to find!)


Pro tip: The director of the museum suggested exploring the galleries from the 1st to 3rd floors in a clockwise direction. He also suggested looking for modern-day Peranakan inspired items that have been placed in all galleries and seeing how many you can find.


Lastly, hanging from the ceiling of the museum are several handcrafted lanterns by Sam Lo, a Singaporean artist known as the “Sticker Lady” for their early forays into street art.


Beautiful lanterns in the Peranakan Museum


The lanterns come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes depicting various angles of what they thought was part of Peranakan culture. I felt it was a nice touch that contributed to the overall homeliness of the place, much like how lanterns were used to light up houses at night.


I think that the revamp of the museum has certainly made the concept of being Peranakan a lot easier to understand and relate to. As a non-peranakan, I found that the concept of “home” the museum sought to evoke was so well-executed that at one point, I turned the corner expecting myself to stumble upon a family going about their daily activities.


Conclusion


I deeply appreciated the amount of effort that was put into making the museum more appealing to a larger audience and for showcasing Peranakan stories in a unique, multifaceted and respectful manner.


Having gone back during the reopening weekend party, I can attest to the museum’s popularity and universality just by looking at the demographics of those waiting to enter the museum. A long snaking queue of people from all walks of life were eagerly waiting to enter the premises, and a good number donned traditional Peranakan attire.


The museum is very near to SMU (~100m from SMU Yong Pung How School of Law) and I certainly recommend others to take advantage of SMU’s location and pop down to learn a little more about the ubiquitous Peranakans on your study breaks. Just maybe, you’ll find your muse there too 😉.



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