2015, Tarpaulin, stretched canvas, beer bottle, plastic bag, stool, 100cm x 30cm x 30cm

By LIM BOON ENG, Gan Eng Seng School

 

In Peranakan tradition, one of the most prized material possessions of a Nyonya is the kerongsang serong (literally ‘brooch slanted’ in Malay), which comprises one large elaborate kerongsang ibu (‘mother’) and two smaller kerongsang anak (‘child’). As well as reflecting the family and aesthetic values of the Peranakan community, wearing these precious, long-lasting materials on a daily basis also signifies a strong belief in their display as a symbol of power.

Today’s social context speaks of this materialism in a different fashion. The presence of otherwise insignificant, disposable materials found in the Joo Chiat district, known for the many well-preserved pre-war Peranakan architecture and culture today, is overwhelming. Kerongsang Serong Refound: New Offerings by the Treasured Past explores a new material entity that exudes from it. As a trio, these found objects hint at a state where social values are in transit and compel a rethinking of our ‘Peranakan-ness’.

 

 

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