‘Efffigies of our Ancestors’: Seminar at the Peranakan Museum

Effigies of our Ancestors
28 May 2014 (Wednesday)
7 to 8.30pm Ixora Room, Peranakan Museum
Singapore 39 Armenian Street, Singapore 179941
Speaker: Daphne Ang

To the Chinese, death is regarded as a point of transition and not a final absolute. Despite Singapore’s rapid modernisation, ancestor veneration remains an important component of religious practices today. This lecture sheds light on the particularities of Chinese death rituals amongst the Peranakan Chinese community in Singapore.

The spatial dynamics of a traditional Peranakan home is testament to the importance of ancestor veneration. Rituals are performed in halls assigned exclusively as spaces for ancestor worship, where filial descendants place food offerings at the family altar bearing the portrait scrolls, framed paintings or photographs of their forefathers. The first part of the lecture discusses these issues.

As the power of the living person is believed to reside in his/her portrait after death, the Chinese ancestor portrait functions as both an effigy as well as a reliquary. This lecture discusses the cultural significance of domestic mortuary rituals and the role of the ancestor portrait as a point of intercession. The speaker will also comment on the various styles and functions of portraiture produced under the patronage of the Chinese in Colonial Singapore.

Image linked from official event page

About the speaker Daphne Ang is presently a PhD candidate in the department of History of Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is also a research fellow at the National University of Singapore Museum. Her doctoral research investigates the production of portraiture under the patronage of the Straits Chinese in Colonial Singapore. She has presented at international conferences such as the 26th Baba Nyonya Convention (2013) in Kuala Lumpur, and the Postgraduate Symposium in History of Art and Visual Culture at the University College London (2012). She also conducts a Master’s course in Arts of Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asia at SOAS, and is the author of “The Portrait Project”, an online project established to locate and archive photographs from the personal family albums of Singaporeans.

This lecture is free and organised in conjunction with the special exhibition, Auspicious Designs: Batik for Peranakan Altars. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. No registration is required.

Visit the Peranakan Museum here.

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