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Strait(s) Ahead

Baba meets Nyonya in 2014

Programme Discription

The Baba and Nyonyas have their roots in the coming together of cultures and anchor their originality in the fushioning of cultures with other elements they are exposed to.

Some people refer to them as “open-minded”, for want of a better term but what is signifcant when looking at cultural artifacts owned by old Baba and Nyonya families is the influences that inspired the creation of said artefacts.

Whether it is the fusion of Chinese with local culture when some of them first arrived or borrowing from British and Dutch with designs, it appears that Babas and Nyonyas in general adapted to the current times they lived in.

So, in 2014, how would many of these artifacts look, feel or sound like? In this modern, global world we live in, how would elements of contemporary culture influence the creation of said artifacts? 

“Straits Ahead” brings together numerous artists to play the role of explorers – which the ancestors of the current generations of Baba and Nyonyas essentially were – to imagine how these artifacts would look like in 2014.

The artist themselves represent various cultures and backgrounds, allowing them to disrupt the journey with little of no history of the Baba and Nyonya heritage, allowing them to cross into a different world to produce their creations.

Niki Cheong, who conceptualised the project, collaborates with a number of young Malaysian artists working with various media to reimagine these artifacts in the form of photos, videos and sound.

Artist Statement

As an eighth generation Malaysian of Baba descent, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to imagine that I have a wealth of information about my culture and heritage at my fingertips. The truth is, however, as a first generation “Baba” living in Kuala Lumpur, my interactions with the culture has been limited.

This project has allowed me to explore many things that seemed familiar to me, yet are distant culturally. “Current Straits” has allowed me to revisit and rekindle some of these through the eyes of the creative minds  of artists from various backgrounds I have brought together to this new destination – methaphorically allowing us to recreate that moment in history where cultures met.

“Straits Ahead” is truly a collaborative experience, bringing together the expertise, experience and influences of different artists. I am grateful that they have been so generous with their ideas and wisdom that allowed this project to emerge.

Niki Cheong
Programme Information

Date & Time: 3 - 27 April (Daily) 11.00am - 9.00pm
Venue: Black Box, DPAC
Ticket: Free admission