Monday, 5 January 2015

Peranakan Museum

Our visit to the Peranakan Museum in December was impromptu. Our initial intention was to walk at the outdoor gardens at Gardens by the Bay, but our plan was thwarted by the relentless rain. We were with the extended family and our age range was fourteen months to eighty years, so we finally settled on a museum as it would probably cater to the interests of most of us. It was also indoors and free for Singaporeans.

We started the visit at Gallery 1, which housed photos of Peranakans in the community. Dick Lee was one of the more famous Peranakans featured. We also saw the portraits of our friend Salome and her mother, and it was nice to see familiar faces in the array of pictures. 

After the short walk around the first gallery, we proceeded to the second floor which featured Peranakan traditions. There was a section on the kebaya, the traditional costume of the Nyonyas. I had just bought a kebaya for Little An recently, but I guess she was too young to make the connection. I believe if there were a dress-up opportunity here, slightly older girls would be happy to have the experience. 

There were displays of dining sets and other furniture pieces and we learnt that certain animals like butterflies, phoenixes and dragons were used a lot in Peranakan ware. J was not that interested in the displays, but he was engaged in completing an activity which involved embossing pictures onto a paper wheel: 

He actively went about the museum with his cousin, looking for the various logos. That was a clever idea to keep children occupied. 

Another aspect of the museum which was children- friendly were the stop and touch displays. Visitors could put their hands through holes to feel the displays. When Little An got fidgety, I would look for such displays and let her feel the items and she would be temporarily appeased. 

The food section resonated with some of us as my mother-in-law cooked delicious Peranakan dishes such as ayam buah keluak and babi pongteh on special occasions. 

As I left the museum, I felt that it was informative and there were attempts to cater to the interests of children. However, as the various wares looked stately and sombre and there was even a section on Peranakan funerals, some children might not feel comfortable.

While I was thinking these thoughts, I suddenly recalled that my friend Lianne had given us a book she wrote - Stacey Goes to the Peranakan Museum! 

I read it as soon as I could and saw that Lianne had included four displays - the kebaya, the kerosang (brooch), the beaded tablecloth and the tok panjang - in her book. If I visit the museum again when An is older, I will read the book to her prior to the visit. I think this would engage her as she would be able to identify the items mentioned in the book. 

Besides the information given in the book, I thought the use of the character Mei was imaginative. I have never noticed the statue referred to in the book and I am still wondering if it really is at the museum. Read the book to find out who Mei is and what statue I am referring to. 

So, this is it - my humble thoughts on the Peranakan Museum. I am always happy at family outings so I would like to thank God for yet another enjoyable day out. 

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