06 Jun 2015: The Babas

The BabasThis new edition is every bit as exceptional and groundbreaking as the original, rejuvenated with a lively and stimulating cocktail of text and illustrations narrating the origin, language, practices, festivities and character of the Baba.

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts”, so said Arthur Conan Doyle via his greatest creation, the super sleuth Sherlock Holmes.

The question of how the Babas came about is an enigma which has stimulated numerous debates, including some heated ones, for decades. Like any worthwhile mystery, there are several ways of approaching the solution, depending on one’s intellectual capacity. There is the superficial method, which obviously doesn’t require much deconstruction, examination and reading. Then there is the ‘academic’ method, involving an investigative approach and the forming of theories to suit facts, which forms the raison d’être of Felix Chia’s book The Babas. Felix said“Instead of clamouring for records, as they do not exist, could not sensible, alternative speculations come about through different perspectives that may cast some light on the mystery behind the Baba’s beginnings?”

The Babas was first published in 1980 and won the Highly Commended Award for English non-fiction by the National Book Development. To meet demand, a second edition retitled The Babas Revisited followed in 1993. A reworked edition of the latter – our featured book – was published in 2015. This new edition of the social history of the Babas and Nonyas, according to Felix, retained only the most interesting of the old text improved with the addition of new information gathered over the years; numerous updates; expounded crucial views and clarified ambiguities.

Additional illustrations of Baba memorabilia sourced from private and public collections are generously featured. All these improvements go a long way toward enriching existing knowledge and understanding of Baba history and culture with fresh insight and analyses, perhaps even paving the way for renewed appreciation, debates and discussions.