Singapore-based Baba Nyonya Literary Festival returns on March 19-20 at the National Library Building across the Causeway. The good news is that this year's edition of the festival will include a cross border collaboration and fringe programme in Melaka, starting on March 18.
"The Peranakan Association Singapore, which organises the Baba Nyonya Literary Festival, wanted to see how it could expand and invite other Baba Nyonya communities in the region to participate in the fest in some form - digital or in-person. This is the first time the Melaka Baba Nyonya community has an official representation - as a fringe programme - at the festival. It's an exciting restart for the pandemic-hit traditional arts and culture scene in Melaka, especially with the chance to showcase Baba Nyonya traditions and multicultural links," says Melissa Chan, the founder of The Bendahari, a creative heritage hub in Melaka.
Peranakan Association in Singapore is working with its Melaka-based partners The Bendahari, Persatuan Peranakan Cina Melaka (PPCM), Persatuan Peranakan Baba Nyonya Malaysia and The Baba and Nyonya Heritage Museum.
On-site events in Melaka include The Art Of Pantun workshop/performance (starting 5.30pm) by dondang sayang master Datuk Mohd Baharim Sharip at The Bendahari on March 18.
The traditional Malay art of dondang sayang is still practised in Melaka by four communities: the Malay, Baba Nyonya, Chitty and Portuguese communities. The practice combines elements of music (violins, gongs and tambourines or the tambour), songs and chants, and features beautiful melodious strains of poetry.
In celebration of International Women's Day, the Melaka event will also see a special poetry reading of American Chinese poet-author Shirley Geok-Lin Lim's works by local author Audrey Lim Swee Peck, a retired teacher and founder-member of Malacca Theatre Group.Shirley, who was born in Melaka, is known for her poetry, fiction, and literary works. Her first collection of poems, Crossing The Peninsula, published in 1980, won her the Commonwealth Poetry Prize, a first both for an Asian and for a woman.
Shirley's poems will be read by Audrey in-person at The Bendahari on March 19. In 2018, Audrey published a memoir about her own family history in Memories Of A Malaccan, a narrative about her father, set against the backdrop of WWII.
The ‘Soul Food’ workshop on documenting stories by Dr Sanghamitra Dalal and Dr David Neo will also be held on-site at The Bendahari on March 19.
On March 20, a new original screenplay, called Rosie’s Big Day, by Melaka-based creative platform Krate and performance duo Dua 2 Bibik Melaka will make its debut at The Bendahari.
On March 19 and 20, the festival events in Singapore will be streamed live at The Bendahari, bringing a range of activities to local audiences.
This includes a panel discussions, featuring Khir Johari and Christopher Tan, who will be examining the Malay influence on Peranakan cuisine; a nostalgic look at the bygone lifestyles of the Peranakans; and a discussion by Peranakan cooks on how modern techniques can be incorporated into traditional recipes.
There will also be readings by authors such as Josephine Chia, Walter Woon, Robert Yeo, Sanjay Kuttan and Desmond Sim, who have written historical fiction and non-fiction books that feature colourful Peranakan personalities.
All workshops and live screenings at the Bendahari are free, while the food activities are paid events. Seating is limited and guests are required to take RTK saliva tests before attending.
More info on how to register for the in-person events in Melaka here.
For those who can’t make it to Melaka or Singapore, tickets for the talks streamed online are available for sale here.
The festival, which started in 2019, aims to showcase the written works of both Peranakan and non-Peranakan writers to propagate Peranakan culture.