Exhibiting in Peranakan Pathways
Over the years travelling to my parental homeland of Malaysia I have always felt ‘at home’ in the culturally mixed society. Malaysia has been colonised by different countries, but there are also those who have settled and married Malay people whose descendants are named Peranakans. Being of dual heritage I’ve felt a connection to them especially those so-called Eurasians as essentially that is my heritage.
This year I was invited to exhibit in the 11th Thailand-Malaysia International Women Artists Art Exhibition with 15 countries represented. I first exhibited in the Thai-Malaysian women’s art collaborative exhibition in 2017 as guest, and then last year they also invited others from countries, outside of Thailand and Malaysia, mostly from Asia but also Scotland, Norway, U.S.A. & Australia, so plenty of ground for intercultural communication.
This exhibition was opened by YB Yeoh Soon Hin, Penang State Exco; Professor Doctor Noraida Endut Director of University Science of Malaysia-Centre for research on women and gender equality; and Zolkurnian Hassan, Director Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah-where the exhibition was shown. In my painting Goddess of the Oceans (acrylic on paper) she is not only protecting the oceans but provoking action to keep the seas, rivers and streams flowing healthily for future generations as Water is Life. In the many cross cultural interchanges in an exhibition such as this there is opportunity to share common global concerns and heighten awareness.
Going back to the theme of the Peranakans I wonder what stories the Chinese brought to the Malay Straits and what they learnt that they didn’t know before. The male Babas and female Nyonyas were mostly wealthy and some set up mansions like the Peranakan mansion that we were able to dine in one evening. This housed wonderful features of carved lacy screens showing glimpses of tiled air wells and ancestoral halls, as well as exhibits of the traditional Nyonya Baja Kebaya showing the blend of cultures with the lacy embroided blouse and the Malay batik skirt. Whilst there is a place to preserve culture, there is also a place for the fusion and cross pollination of cultures creating a fertile earth for new cultural understandings, hopefully fed by our clean oceans.