4 January 2013: “Recollections”

“This attempt to record a part of Penang’s unique history through the lives of a local family sheds details on the people who contributed to its growth and development during the 20th century… through the lives of the extended [Baba Nyonya] clan members are rare insights into their genteel world.”
From the Preface of Recollections

The elegant culture of the Baba Nyonyas, that heritage so fundamentally stitched into the fabric of George Town’s past and present, is often remembered through the objects they kept. From kebayas and jewellery to porcelain goods and furniture with mother of pearl inlays, the Baba Nyonya lifestyle was one of decadence, privilege, and often of leisure. But lovely as these keepsakes might be, they fall short of telling the whole story: What was day-to-day life like for these individuals? What norms, cultural mores and taboos did they hold? How did other valued members of Penang society see this culture, and how did they see themselves? Written by the grandson of a Nyonya grandmother and a Cantonese grandfather, Recollections is one man’s tale of growing up in a bicultural Baba Nyonya family, and learning to cherish the legacy of his heritage.

Tan Tiong Liat spent his childhood with his mixed Baba Nyonya family on Penang’s Muntri Street, and remains part of this close-knit family today. In Recollections, he uses the story of his Nyonya grandmother’s extended family history to guide him through his many memories and colourful anecdotes, describing both the personal and the historical events of his past. The details of everyday life as a Baba Nynonya come alive through memory as the author recalls how and why his family gave and received nicknames, how the second world war war changed his family and his community, what he remembers as a youth in Penang and where his family is today. Inclusive of over twenty personal photographs, the book captures the culture vividly and with heart.

Recollections is on sale for RM 22. Please click here for more information, or to purchase.