24 April 2016: Penang & Nyonya nostalgia

There is not, probably, any part of the world, where, in so small a space, so many different people are assembled together, or so many languages spoken. – Sir George Leith on Penang

Nostalgia sells. As society propels itself towards irreversible modernity and change, the nostalgia bandwagon does brisk business filling yearnings for virtual glimpses into a familiar and comforting past – through books, films, music and other forms of commercial media. Age of the audience is completely irrelevant, simply because the nostalgic experience is, when you think about it, timeless.

Penang is simply synonymous with heritage, say writers Koh Tze Yin and Roz Chua. A spirit of nostalgia roams the centuries-old buildings, faded photographs and antiquities. Together, they embody a legacy so stirring, it tugs at the heartstrings of even the most unacquainted meanderer. This same spirit of preservation and appreciation of the roots dwells within the kitchens, the boudoirs, fashion and architecture, bearing timeless values such as filial piety, divine respect for traditions and communal empathy.

nyoFeatured this week are three ‘nostalgic’ offerings from Penang Passion, an entity aspiring to capture Penang’s rich legacy of unique colours and flavours with its publications and creations. Originally published in 2008, Nostalgic Penang Journal brings the rich tapestry of Penang’s legacy closer to those who have an eye for the nostalgic days. A pictorial album of Penang’s attractions, the book features delectable photographs and tasty bite-sized facts and anecdotes on history, food, literature, traditional fashion, heritage trades, nynoyaware, antiques, famous personalities, transportation, heritage buildings and festivities.

My Little Nyonya Diary offers an intimate peek into a Nyonya’s world – her toilette, wardrobe, accessories, cuisine, kitchenware, tableware, festivities, needlework and domestic furnishings. The last item is a luxurious special-order coffret à bijoux featuring the Diary and a handcrafted magnet.