16 Oct 2015: Peranakan Heritage Museum & Parting Glances

b&n &pgThis house   fills me with pride, a reminder of my heritage and the rich and unique culture of the Peranakan Chinese…As I live and love the Peranakan way of life, my hope is that the conservation of this house as a museum will encourage the learning, appreciation and preservation of this beautiful culture.- Chan Kim Sinn, Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum

The two pictorial publications featured this week raises a topic which heritage watchers are familiar with—the fragile divide between choices which determine the fate of historical spaces and structures. While one book is an homage to an iconic building in Malacca which has withstood the vicissitudes of time and tide, the other is a tribute to places which are soon to make way for development in Singapore.

The Peranakan Chinese in Malaysia observed a unique culture and lifestyle. Traditional Chinese religious practices and festivals were strictly adhered to, but everyday life was influenced by the popular culture in the towns they lived in, which were multicultural—including influences from Malay and Indian as well as colonial Portuguese, Dutch and British. The Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum, located in Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock, was established in 1985 to reflect this cultural diversity.

The first two chapters of the book focus on the design and contents of the museum; the next two chapters delve into Peranakan pastimes and traditional ceremonies. All these are captured in gorgeous photographs and descriptive captions courtesy of the museum’s curator Melissa Chan, Lee Yuen Thien and photographers Iz Mady and Funky Dali.

Parting Glances: Singapore’s Evolving Spaces
takes readers on an evocative visual journey through six iconic neighbourhoods on the island nation that are poised on the brink of change. Whether it is due to redevelopment to pave the way for future industry and housing, or due to shifting demographics, these spaces will be forever altered within the coming decade. With an aim to capture and preserve history as it is unfolding, this book includes photo essays and reflective interviews of longtime residents who collectively impart a lifetime of memories. Written by Singapore-based American filmmaker and educator Craig McTurk, the lavishly illustrated Parting Glances is a useful primer for first-time visitors while offering nostalgic, poignant images that will allow residents to recall a Singapore from bygone years.