Lee (third from right) is flanked by the presenters at the launch of her book. They are (from left) Vivienne, Song, Foo, Dr Hall and Mano.
IT was sarongs galore as guests came dressed in the colourful pieces of garments for the launch of Dr Lee Su Kim’s latest book, Sarong Secrets: Of Love, Loss and Longing.
Keeping with the dress code, “Come in sarongs or something Malaysian-flavoured”, guests sportingly donned sarongs in various styles such as Baba Nyonya, Malay, Indian, Balinese, Hawaiian and contemporary, or variations of Malaysian traditional costumes.
The colourful outfits lent a lively touch to the cosy, Peranakan-style ambience at the event.
Sarong Secrets is a collection of short stories and a sequel to Lee’s bestselling book Kebaya Tales: Of Matriarchs, Maidens, Mistresses and Matchmakers.
Lee said many Malaysians regarded the sarong as a garment one wore at home to sleep or during confinement after childbirth.
The founding president of the Peranakan Baba Nyonya Association of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor said her book, inspired by the life stories of the Peranakan community, celebrated the beautiful and highly versatile sarong and gave it the status it rightly deserved.
The stories are accompanied with inserts of poetry, Baba and Hokkien idioms and photos of vintage sarong taken by Lee Jan Ming and contributions from family albums.
Guests at the book launch were entertained with a hilarious yet informative sequence where five of Lee’s selected friends and relatives had to peel off one sarong after another and demonstrate to the crowd the use of the sarong.
Mano Maniam and Dr Stephen Hall demonstrated how to wear the sarong toga-style and in the Javanese fashion, respectively, while Ruby Song showed how the sarong could be worn to a beach party.
Vivienne Lee showed how the nyonyas bathed with a sarong tied around their body (mandi berkemban).
Lee’s 82-year-old uncle, Foo Yat Chin, was given the honour of unveiling the last sarong to reveal her book.
This was followed by Lee giving a short reading from Sarong Secrets.
Guests were treated to an English afternoon tea of sandwiches, cakes and scones, along with delicious nyonya kuih that were specially brought from Malacca.
Lee also announced that her book Malaysian Flavours that featured a collection of essays that celebrated the uniqueness of the Malaysian identity, would be launched as an e-book soon.
Sarong Secrets is available at all major bookstores in Malaysia and on amazon.com. It is priced at RM39.90.