An intoxicating scent of the bunga rampai (an assorted flower potpourri prepared for Peranakan weddings) is in the air.
Alluring traditional folk music plays in the background.
Step through the doorway of the heritage townhouse, and one is transported to the early 20th century ancestral home of a Straits Chinese family.
At the National University of Singapore (NUS) Greater Good Series event titled “NUS Baba House – An Intricate Journey”, veteran actor Mr GT Lye, who is also a consultant on Peranakan Chinese cultural practices, brought guests through the history and culture of the Peranakans room by room.
From the front room where family guests are usually entertained, to an open-air courtyard, to the quaint little kitchen, guests admired the community’s material culture through the ornate furniture as well as portraits and household objects displayed in an original context.
A richly decorated wedding bed sits in the bedroom upstairs, while a surprise is hidden in the floorboards of the bedroom: peepholes were built in for the occupants of the room to check on the guests downstairs.
The third floor has been adapted as a gallery for exhibitions and projects that foster contemporary engagements with Peranakan culture and the history and architecture of the house.
To complete the experience, guests were treated to exquisite Peranakan cuisine by none other than renowned chef and food connoisseur Ms Violet Oon, who enlightened her audience with interesting tidbits on the type of food Peranakans enjoyed daily and during special occasions such as weddings. The menu included Peranakan favourites with a twist – Babi Pongteh canapés and Buah Keluak crostinis. The townhouse was acquired with a gift from Ms Agnes Tan, the youngest daughter of prominent Straits Chinese community leader Tun Tan Cheng Lock, to the University. It was officially opened in September 2008 and facilitates appreciation, reflection and research into the Straits Chinese history and culture.
For students, Singaporeans and even tourists who can have access to this piece of heritage, the value of this gift is immense.
As Violet puts it best, “We cannot have a future without knowing the past.”
NUS Baba House is managed by NUS Museum, NUS Centre For the Arts.
The NUS Greater Good Series features talks by leading minds on topics related to philanthropy. These include generosity, giving and service to the community, as well as leadership, personal well-being and mental resilience. The Series aims to raise awareness of philanthropy and its impact on society. The Series was made possible thanks to a generous gift from Newsman Realty Pte Ltd.
For further information on the NUS Greater Good Series, contact the Events team at email@example.com.
For information on making a gift to NUS, contact us at 1800-DEVELOP (1800-338-3567) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.