The culture and food of Straits-born Chinese — or Peranakans — have always held a fascination for many. Now, a 10-month exhibition on the kebaya worn by their women, is attracting the spotlight. The “Sarong Kebaya, Peranakan Fashion and Its International Sources” exhibition features more than 130 pieces of kebaya to showcase the hybrid nature of Peranakan culture.
Guest curator Peter Lee said: “One of the directions for the exhibition is to show that everybody was sort of Peranakan in the pre-modern age. “Funnily enough, nowadays, Peranakans have gotten back into a kind of boundary of its own, which it shouldn’t have, because in itself it is such a hybrid construct. “So this is to re-establish the fact that Peranakans were not unique and that it shared many common elements with other cultures”.
Assistant curator Jackie Yoong agrees. “There is this… perception that the Peranakans’ sarong kebaya is always brightly coloured; sometimes they say it features clashing colours; they always talk about bright motifs, and big motifs, and contrasting colours in that sense. “In this show, we try to show that this style that is popular with Peranakans today actually dates back to the 50s and 60s. “And so, in this show, we have shown the earliest forms of Peranakan fashion, which has been a surprise to some visitors. For example, lace kebayas — some of the local Peranakans they have given feedback to me that it’s actually Indonesian.
“Kebaya”The Indonesian Women Traditional Costume
Sarong Kebaya: Peranakan Fashion Exhibit