NUS Baba House [CultureHackSG 1.0]

Singapore Art Week 2015
This January, the NUS Baba House is collaborating with the National Arts Council to offer special site-specific programmes such as heritage tours, cyanotype workshops and a programme called CultureHackSG 1.0 during Singapore Art Week.


CultureHackSG 1.0 is a programme which will be launched at NUS Baba House as part of the Singapore Art Week 2015 (17 – 25 January). This inaugural instalment explores the idea of hybridity. Inspiration is drawn from two notable instances of hybrid encounters – an early 20th century (c. 1920) setting at NUS Baba House, and contents of recipe books written for European residents in Malaya.

NUS Baba House was previously the home of a Peranakan Chinese family. In the early 20th century, the Peranakan Chinese domestic culture encompassed a rich mix of Chinese, Southeast Asian and European elements. The absorption of ideas and practices from different ethnic origins gave rise to the community’s rich cultural heritage and formed the basis of its distinct identity.

European residents in Malaya were introduced to the region’s produce and local culinary traditions. European recipes were adjusted based to available ingredients while adaptations were made to indigenous dishes to suit the Western palette. The variety that has come about from this interaction is manifested in the range of fusion offerings at contemporary dining outlets.

The two instances demonstrate the outcomes from contact and exchange among diverse groups. Using food as a point of entry, this edition of CultureHackSG contemplates the possibilities when ideas are shared and adapted. The first segment of the two-part programme is the creation sessions where culinary and cultural specialists and participants experiment to generate new works. We imagine that the outcomes may take the form of edible concoctions but will only know for sure when the sessions are in progress! Three sharing sessions will form the second part of the programme where participants talk about the process and its outputs.


1. Friday, 23 January, 6.30pm - 9pm

6pm - Registration
6.30 - 9pm -
Talk: Consuming the Other: Colonial Foodways in Malaya by Janice Loo
Participant Presentations by Elizabeth Gan and Khir Johari
Culinary Creation Presentation: A culinary piece based on the International Cookery Book of Malaya by Lee Engsu,
Culinary Creation Presentation: Relish: Active Participation in the Creation, Promulgation and Consumption of Heritage by Robert Guth

Janice Loo is an Associate Librarian with the National Library of Singapore. Her current research interest is focused on women in history, particularly their roles and contributions to the building of empire and nation. She will share on her research on cookbooks written for the European residents in Malaya.

Lee Engsu is a private dining chef and a restaurant owner. He has two Grand Diplomas from the French Culinary Institute, in Classic Culinary Arts and Classic Pastry Arts. In 2008, he worked with the director of Culinary Technology at the French Culinary Institute to develop new methods and technology for culinary use. He will present a cooking piece based on the International Cookery Book of Malaya, and share his thoughts on the project.

Dr Robert Guth is best known for two things, firstly his ability to bake bread and secondly for his use of it as an integral part of participatory artworks (particularly swapping it for stuff). His practice as an artist and researcher is based in food and focuses on reciprocal relationships beyond the simply financial into the areas of social capital and larger networks of deferred reciprocation. All of that is a very "Chim" way of saying that he is interested in what we give and take other than money when we exchange stuff - PARTICULARLY FOOD. Starting with the cookbooks, Robert has researched recipes created to bridge the gap between Colonial Dutch food and the (sometimes Chinese) administrative classes in Yogjakarta. The outcome is a range of sambal and relishes that function to make sausages more locally acceptable when either eaten with rice or bread while maintaining European overtones. Robert will present this research and extend the discussion to incorporate the local Colonial British heritage and its interaction with the Peranakan culture.interaction with Peranakan culture.

2. Saturday, 24 January, 6.30pm - 9pm

6pm - Registration
6.30 - 9pm -
Of Currypuffs and Belacan - Researching Foodways by Bonny Tan
Talk: Seasons Greetings: Botanical Calendars in the Tropics by Lai Chee Kien
Participant Presentations by Ng Yi-Sheng and Celine Lim
Culinary Creation Presentation: Jempak Masak! by P!D & participants (Jasmine Adams, Tiffany Choo, Vicky Epps, Monica Kho, Lynda Lau, Derrick Lim, Annabelle Sim, Julienne Tan, Devisanthi Tunas, Devisari Tunas)

Bonny Tan is passionate about studying and eating local food. Working as a Senior Librarian at the National Library in Singapore gives her the advantage of poring over obscure materials to uncover insights into food.She will talk about her newspaper research on the humble curry puff, and how it is a mix of British, Indian, Chinese and Malay elements.

Dr Lai Chee Kien is at home in Southeast Asia, and relishes the histories of its art, architecture, settlements, urbanism, and landscapes. He muses on their ineluctable effects on contemporary life, and traverses its times and spaces whenever he can. Chee Kien’s presentation, Seasons Greetings: Botanical Calendars in the Tropics uses two examples to explore such transitions through botanical calendars for the overseas Chinese who migrated to Singapore.

P!D (Participate in Design) is a non-profit design organization dedicated to engaging and enabling people in shaping their everyday environments and local communities. Founded on the firm belief that everyone has the right to participate in and influence the design and planning processes that affect them, P!D provides services in designing and facilitating the public participation and engagement process for communities in Singapore. P!D and our CultureHackSG 1.0 participants will participate in a cookout at the NUS Baba House following 6 recipes from the cookbooks. The dining table will be the art installation for the co-creation which will showcase dishes cooked by participants and the stories behind them. These dishes and their accompanying stories will be shared with audience, evoking the experience of dining in a typical Peranakan household.

3. Sunday, 25 January, 2pm - 4.30pm

1.30pm - Registration
2 - 4.30pm -
Talk: The Idea of Heritage: Between the Tangible and Intangible by Wong Chee Meng
Talk: Edible Weeds in Singapore by Michelle Lai
Participant Presentations by Isacc Kang and Bianca Polak
The Culinary History of Singapore Performance Art by Lina Adam

Dr Wong Chee Meng received his PhD in heritage studies in BTU Cottbus, Germany with a thesis that explored the use of intangible heritage as a medium for intercultural dialogue in Singapore, by applying a framework derived from social systems theory. His research interests in the field of cultural studies also include theater, dance and film as an articulation of cultural identity, values and ideology. Dr Wong will discuss the notions of heritage in relation to what we view as tangible and intangible heritage.

Lina Adam is a multi-disciplinary artist and has used various mediums such as performance, printmaking and art installation. She is the co-founder of Fetterfield, Singapore Performance Art Event, a site-specific performance art festival (founded in 2006) and Your Mother Gallery, an alternative art space in Little India (founded in 2004). She is a committee member of The Artists Village since 1998. Lina will re-present The Culinary History of Singapore Performance Art , offering a carefully created tasting of various foods, focusing on the gustatory system, the sense, high culinary skills and good company.

Michelle Lai works with urban farming social enterprise Edible Garden City, and her interest inedible weeds and forgotten plants was piqued having wondered about foraging in Singapore. Her experiences interviewing the elderly and consulting books on traditional Chinese medicine have honed her appreciation for these local edibles.

Other programmes at NUS Baba House during Singapore Art Week 2015

  • Heritage Tours - bhtours.peatix.com
  • This one hour heritage tour introduces visitors to the history and architectural features of the House, the Straits Chinese domestic culture and the exhibition at the gallery on the third floor.

    The tour is free and advanced booking is required. Please register at bhtours.peatix.com.

  • Cyanotype Workshops - bhcyanotype.peatix.com
This two hour workshop will allow participants to get hands-on exposure in creating a cyanotype print on fabric - one of the methods used by Mintio and Kabul in creating the artworks displayed in the exhibition at the NUS Baba House.

Fees are $30 per participant and include all workshop materials. Recommended for ages 13 and above. Please register at bhcyanotype.peatix.com.

About Singapore Art Week
Singapore Art Week (17 – 25 January 2015) is an initiative by the National Arts Council, in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board. The Singapore Art Week reinforces Singapore’s position as Asia’s leading arts destination. It is a nine-day celebration of the visual arts, offering a myriad of quality art experiences, including blockbuster art fairs, exciting gallery openings and lifestyle events, world-class exhibitions, public art walks, as well as enriching discussions. www.artweek.sg

About NUS Baba House

Built around 1895, 157 Neil Road is a townhouse located in Singapore's historic district of Tanjong Pagar. Once the ancestral home of a Straits Chinese (Peranakan Chinese) family, the property was acquired by the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2006 from funds donated by Ms Agnes Tan, a lady of Peranakan Chinese descent.

Archaeological excavations and detailed studies of architectural features and construction materials were carried out followed by conservation and restoration works before the premises officially opened on 4 September 2008 under the stewardship of NUS Museum.

Named 'Baba House', the project is conceived as a heritage house facilitating research, appreciation and reflection of the Straits Chinese history and culture. This is articulated through the architectural conservation of the townhouse and reconstruction of a domestic space which exhibits the community's material culture dating back to the early 20th century.

The third floor is a gallery for hosting exhibitions which allow academic researchers and art practitioners to explore and present evolving narratives about the Peranakan Chinese community, and a variety of other disciplines including social and urban history, traditional architecture and building conservation.

  • The event description was updated. Diff#70911 2015-01-19 08:47:11
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Jan 23 - Jan 25, 2015
[ Fri ] - [ Sun ]
6:30 PM - 9:30 PM SGT
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NUS Baba House
[Sharing session] Friday, 23 Jan, 6.30 - 9pm SOLD OUT $10.00
[Sharing session] Saturday, 24 Jan, 6.30 - 9pm SOLD OUT $10.00
[Sharing session] Sunday, 25 Jan, 2 - 4.30pm SOLD OUT $10.00
Venue Address
157 Neil Road Singapore
NUS Baba House