Exhibition: “Nyonya Needlework” | Singapore

Nyonya Needlework 3 Nyonya Needlework

The Peranakan Museum in Singapore, an ASEMUS member, presents an exhibition entitled “Nyonya Needlework: Embroidery and Beadwork in the Peranakan World”, between 24 June 2016 and 26 March 2017.

The exhibition celebrates the art of nyonya needlework, a vibrant part of Peranakan Chinese heritage. The term ‘nyonya’ refers to women in the Peranakan community – that is, the community formed by Chinese groups who moved to the Malay archipelago between the 15th and 17th centuries, and their descendants.

Spectacular curtains and hangings, delicate purses, handkerchiefs, and slippers were painstakingly stitched with tiny beads, silk, and gold and silver threads for special occasions and as gifts.

Some of the finest examples of nyonya needlework, from the Peranakan Museum and major international collections, including from the Rijksmuseum and the National Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands, are displayed in the exhibition. Visitors can discover the ingenuity and skill embedded in the art, the importance of tradition, and the innovations inspired by the dynamic, multicultural environment of the region.

One of the key highlights is a beaded wedding bed valence from the National Museum of World Cultures in the Netherlands, which is the earliest reliably dated embroidery in the exhibition – made around 1848 in Indonesia. It shows early influence and adaptation from Chinese embroidery.

Visitors will also be enchanted by a European-styled, glass-beaded table cover from the 1900s, with wedding toast verses stitched in English along its borders, and magnificent ankle boots with gold embroidery, of a style worn by women and men at the turn of the 20th century. This extensive display in the exhibition will debunk conventional perceptions of the beloved traditional artistry that is more common in the Southeast Asia region. It’s not just beaded slippers and wedding purses. Previously unexamined and lesser-known techniques of Nyonya needlework are given a spotlight at this exhibition.

The show is divided into five sections that range from auspicious emblems and symbols, creative hands: makers and methods, and materials, to the diverse styles of Indonesia, Malacca, Singapore, and Penang.

In the context of the exhibition “Nyonya Needlework”, the Peranakan Museum has also planned a set of curator tours, family events, workshops and other activities.

For additional information about the exhibition, please visit http://peranakanmuseum.org.sg/exhibitions/nyonya-needlework

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