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31 August

the Baba Bling exhibition is

under the patronage of Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy, President of the French Republic and Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore

Around the exhibition

Children area, multimedia game, audio guide, visits, workshops, performances, All Saints Day holiday programming....

everything about the Baba Bling exhibition programming

Baba Bling

Interior signs of wealth in Singapore

  • Jardin Gallery
  • temporary exhibition ticket or twin ticket

from Tuesday October 05th, 2010 to Sunday January 30th, 2011

general curator

Kenson Kwok, founding director of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore

associate curator

Huism Tan, Deputy Director, Curation and Collections of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore

the exhibition

The exhibition tells the fascinating story of how the Chinese immigrant community of Singapore influenced the customs and beliefs of their adoptive country.

In Singapore, “Baba” means “Chinese man”, and by extension, also refers to the descendents of Chinese communities who settled in Southeast Asia as early as the 14th Century and who, over the centuries, integrated several aspects of Malay culture into their culture of origin. “Baba” also means the head of the family who’s integrated elements of European culture through parents and grandparents during colonial times.

The intercultural integration triggered by this process is a lesson in open-mindedness and tolerance, that have never been more relevant than today. The exhibition features approximately 480 artefacts of the luxurious and refined culture of the Peranakan Chinese established in Singapore.

The artefacts - furniture, beaded and embroidered textiles, porcelain, etc. – are inspired by the shapes, motifs and colours found in Chinese and Malay cultures and illustrate the Peranakan identity. Most date back to the end of the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century, a time of significant economic growth that brought great wealth to many Singapore Chinese families. It was then that the Peranakan communities reached their peak, which translated in part as an art de vivre revolving around the home, its most important display.

the Peranakan's mixed culture

For centuries, Southeast Asia was a commercial hub that attracted many traders. Some settled in the region and married local women. The Malay word “Peranakan” means “child of” or “born to” and refers to the children born into these mixed marriages. By extension, it also designates the various communities from ancient immigration to Southeast Asia who have integrated several aspects of Malay culture into their own.

The Peranakan include several ethnicities of Indian and Chinese origin. The exhibition presents a collection like no other in the world, a collection of the Peranakan Museum that focuses on the Chinese and Malay Peranakans: the Baba, their largest group. After WWII, large homes occupied for generations by entire “Baba” families were sold and abandoned when individual apartments became the norm. This is when the Peranakan influence began to decline.

Decorative objects, ornaments and luxury furniture passed from father to son were then dispersed or abandoned as they no longer matched the style and interior design of apartments of the 60s, neither in function nor in style. Under the threats of seeing the “Baba” culture fade away, Malay conservators started to collect artefacts, often auctioned in the 80s. Today, to bring their culture back to life, the “Baba” express it through theatre, literature, poetry and music.

Exhibition itinerary

Since the “Baba” culture was partly expressed through an art de vivre revolving around the home, its most important display, the home is also the common thread of the exhibition, Baba Bling The Chinese Peranakans of Singapore. The “Baba” home is the most concrete representation of the “Baba” cultural identity because of its architectural features, colours, room layout and exposed objects. The exhibition takes visitor on a path following “period rooms” with an original scenography based on specific atmospheres unique to this culture. Indeed, the colours, (like pink and green), interior design and furniture and pieces blending Chinese, European and Malay styles represent the “Baba” lifestyle and unique history.

Each room seeks to surprise visitors to pull them into a very personal and intimate atmosphere that fully immerse them in the “Baba” world.

Nathalie Crinière’s scenography features alternately realistic, eccentric and fantastic designs with different shaped rooms, divided rooms, staircases, windows on each side, artificial plants, different perspective levels, colour schemes, etc. to create a more lively and spectacular staging of the reconstructed rooms.

Adjacent spaces follow different logics. In the course of the visit, visitors go through functionally arranged rooms (objects presented in the “Baba” room where they would be used), thematic rooms (wedding reception, gifts, preparations) and formally dedicated rooms (jewellery, beaded slippers, embroidered textiles, porcelain).