Peranakan culture to light up event

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2012
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Peranakan art will feature as the unique landscape design project at this year's Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular.

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A touch of South-East Asia's Peranakan culture will illuminate New Plymouth this October.

Shapes of flowers, spheres and cones, screen-printed with designs of traditional Peranakan art will feature as the unique landscape design project at this year's Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular.

It will be the second international outing for the Peranakan Lights, after they were a main feature at the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix early this year.

Dating back to the 16th century, the Asian Peranakan culture is known for its rich and opulent designs in ceramics, embroidery, screen-printing and architecture.

Its heritage will be portrayed in a display of more than 50 inflatable lights on Pukekura Park's Brooklands Lawn during the 10-day event.

Festival manager Lisa Haskell said the landscape design project played an important role each year in adding a different dimension to the festival.

Last year's unique project was John Pugh's painted garden in the Huatoki Plaza, while in 2010 it was the vertical garden on the outside of Taft.

Ms Haskell said day or night, the Peranakan Lights would be a stunning visual experience.

"We are very excited about these lights coming to the region. There's been a lot of work behind the scenes to secure them and we hope everyone will enjoy viewing them within one of New Zealand's most majestic parks."

The lights are a collaboration between Singaporean artist Sarah Martin and Italian artist Paolo Maimone.

Martin said the Peranakan culture was struggling to maintain its identity, its richness and its beauty in light of rapid modernisation, so to show the lights around the world gave it new hope.

"It is simply amazing that the Peranakan Lights will come to Taranaki, a place that holds natural beauty and culture close to the heart," she said.

"The lights reflect elements of their design in architecture, in their traditional cloths, in their jewellery, and bring it all together to reflect the gentle beauty that is the Peranakan culture."

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the festival which is set to run from October 26 to November 4.

About 50 gardens will be open to visitors.

PERANAKAN FACT BOX

The Peranakan culture originated from the inter-racial marriages that took place between immigrant Chinese men and Malay women throughout Malaysia and Indonesia.

Peranakans speak Baba Malay – a mixture of Malay and Hokkien, a Chinese dialect.

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The Peranakan community has lost about 70 per cent of its original culture over time through death, emigration and the decline of tradition.

Female Peranakans are called nyonyas, and the men, babas.

Peranakans are well known for their designs in ceramics, embroidery and screen-printing.

- Taranaki Daily News

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