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Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements


Hwei-Fe’n Cheah
2010. NUS Press.
Softcover, 26.1cm x 22.3cm, 384 pages
ISBN: 9789971694685

Out of stock

Product Description

Intricate, meticulously crafted, and visually distinctive, Nyonya beadwork occupies a significant role in the cultural imaginary of the Peranakan Chinese, the acculturated descendants of Chinese migrants to the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian archipelago.

As an activity, beadwork was once an important part of a Peranakan Chinese girl’s set of skills. As an object, carefully crafted Nyonya beadwork was used at weddings and other celebratory occasions, touching the lives of Peranakan men and women, young and old. In this way, Nyonya beadwork became entwined within the wider relationships of gender, generation, and social hierarchy in Peranakan society The Peranakans also incorporated into their beadwork styles and motifs that reflected their changing ideals, aspirations, and lifestyles. Inscribed into the history of Nyonya beadwork is a narrative of the Peranakan Chinese community’s cultural transformations.

This book is a well-researched and gorgeously illustrated book which describes significant aspects of Nyonya beadwork in three sections : its social role, its development through time and space, and its significance in the present. (From our newsletter)

Editorial reviews

Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements is an exciting and original  contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the diversity of Southeast Asian art.  Decorative textiles are arguably the region’s greatest existing art tradition, yet relatively little has  been published on the brilliant beadwork of the Peranakan Chinese communities of Singapore  and Malaysia. In this fascinating study based on recent research, art historian Hwei-Fe’n Cheah  provides a lively and accessible account of the subtle nuances in the evolution of designs,  materials and textile forms against a history of social change in the lives of their makers, the  Nyonya women of the Straits Settlements. A visual feast, Phoenix Rising is richly illustrated with  superb and rare examples of Nyonya headwork from great international and local Southeast  Asian public and private collections. – Robyn Maxwell, Senior Curator, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Generously illustrated and drawing from a variety of sources, Phoenix Rising provides a richly  textured history of Nyonya beadwork, an integral part of the shared artistic traditions of  Malaysia and Singapore. It is a valuable contribution to our understanding of the multi-cultural  heritage of these two countries, a heritage of which l am proud. – Tengku Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Ahmad Rithauddeen, President, United Nations Association Malaysia, Former Foreign Minister of Malaysia

Using Nyonya beadwork as both a lens and an object of study, Hwei-Fe’n Cheah explores historical, social and cultural transformations in the Peranakan Chinese community. Phoenix  Rising provides social scientists with tangible tools for examining concepts of modernity and tradition. For gender theorists, Phoenix Rising exemplifies the way time was used for beadwork and  embroidery, thus crafting notions of Nyonya culture and identity. The reader is simultaneously  taken on two journeys, the one pictorial, the other analytic, to learn about the changing ways in which meaning intersects with items of‘ material culture – historically and currently. The  combination is a visually and intellectually exciting example of multi-disciplinary research that  is also aesthetically stunning.  Barbara Leigh  Adjunct Professor, University of Technology Sydney

Additional Information

Weight 1500 g
Dimensions 26.1 x 22.3 x 2.5 cm