Port cities in southeast Asia have been characterised as being flexible and amorphous for centuries. As heir to this ancient tradition, Singapore still carries on this exuberant heritage of mixing up things in an ambiguous way. Join Peter Lee as he traces this cultural lineage from the starting point of rojak, through the mayhem of regional culinary history where influences randomly passed back and forth between families and communities, to the wonderful way people expressed themselves in cooking, dressing, music-making, architecture and interiors. Accompanying this exploration are fascinating archival and family photographs, and echoes of the rojak in local musical tastes.
About the Speaker:
Peter Lee is an independent researcher, and the Honorary Curator of the NUS Baba House – a historical house museum managed by the National University of Singapore. He co-authored The Straits Chinese House with Jennifer Chen, published by the National Museum of Singapore in 1998 and 2006. In 2008, he produced Junk to Jewels — The Things that Peranakans Value, an exhibition and catalogue for the Peranakan Museum. He co-curated Sarong Kebaya, which opened in April 2011 at the same museum and a book he wrote on the subject was published in 2014. In 2018 this book was shortlisted for the Singapore History Prize. The 2013 exhibition, Inherited and Salvaged: Family Portraits from the NUS Museum Straits Chinese Collection comprised largely portrait paintings he had assembled. He also contributed an essay to the exhibition catalogue that was published in 2015. In 2016, he co-curated Singapore, Sarong Kebaya and Style at the Fukuoka Art Museum and the Shoto Museum in Tokyo. He was the guest curator of Port Cities: Multicultural Emporiums of Asia, 1500-1900 at ACM, which opened in November 2016, and co-authored its exhibition catalogue. In 2017, he was the historical consultant for a Peranakan-themed short film launched at the Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 4. Peter was also the guest curator of Amek Gambar: Peranakans and Photography, an exhibition held at the Peranakan Museum from 2018 to 2019. In 2020, The Mark of Empire, a four-part documentary in which he features as the series’ host, was broadcast regionally by Channel News Asia, Singapore, and uploaded on Youtube.