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Nyonya Cultural Show

Nyonya cultural show at Little Penang capped the final day of the inscription of George Town as UNESCO's World Heritage City.


Nyonya dance tarian kipas
Nyonya dancing with the Chinese fans

On the last day, I did not miss out the good opportunity to join in the fun with my two young children for the last leg of the program. Here is what we experienced that day, including photos of the two days that we went.

Because of the size and number of the photos, this page may load a bit slower.

The program was held at a tourist flea market called Little Penang which is located at the Upper Penang Road. There were several tents offering local hawkers' food, trinkets and souvenirs. And, an artist to entertain the kids, helping them with making their own paintings.

We were a bit late coming in that morning that we missed out an awesome performance of "Kuda Kepang". It was a Malay traditional dance by male dancers striding two-dimensional horses made out of cow's hide.

Johanna and the master
Johanna and Shamsul Bahari working together

Anyway, we came in the middle of some show by Nyonya dancers.

They were wearing their traditional costume of short jackets called kebaya, with tight batik sarongs.

Complete with embroidered slippers sewn with tiny beads.

In this Nyonya cultural show, they were doing a slow dance called "sapu tangan". It means handkerchief in Malay. Yes, you are right, they danced with colorful chiffon handkerchiefs. Later, sapu tangan was followed by tarian kipas, a dance using Chinese fans.

One thing unique about this dance was, it was performed by mature ladies. Even though some of them were senior citizens, they moved with grace.

This group of dancers call themselves "Nyonya Belles". They are led by Johny Chee, a Baba who was passionate to promote Baba-Nyonya Penang culture. He also wrote a very good book about Baba and Nyonya poetry

Johan is the more detailed artist Lion Dance in Front of the Yap Temple in Penang
Children happily painting; Lion dance in front of the Yap Temple

Other shows after that mostly appealed to the elder generation. Crooners singing dondang sayang and also some lullabies were heard. Dondang sayang is a slow song, in Malay, but sung by the Babas and Nyonyas.

Later, Indian classical dancers paraded on the stage and presented us with several dances including the peacock dance. These were young performers but their skills were already quiet impressive.

Indian Indian drummers 1 Indian stick fighters 3
Kollattam performers with their hypnotic drummers

Naturally, my six year old daughter liked the peacock dance very much. My ten year old son, lamented the fact that we missed the kuda kepang. Never mind, there should be other events that would include that dance in their programs.

It looked like a lot of dignitaries and important people were present at the Nyonya cultural show. A luncheon buffet was laid out by the E&O Hotel for them, with the menu mostly from Nyonya cuisine.

Actually, the day's event was made in honor of Cikgu Baha, who had been nominated as a Living Heritage in 2005. Living Heritage nomination and acknowledgement was handled by Penang Heritage Trust with the funding supported by HSBC.

Cikgu Baha was a performer, teacher and a historian who combined humor and education in his art. He passed away on 28th June 2008. Surely it was a big lost to the performing art community in Penang.

Drummers and stick fighters Chinese opera all the way from mainland China
More Indian drummers; a Chinese Opera by actresses from China

We mingled around and finally stopped at the artist's corner. Children were invited to paint with a painter, Shamsul Bahari, there. Shamsul Bahari is a local Penang artist who was doing a solo art exhibition at Dewan Sri Pinang's Penang Art Gallery. The exhibition was entitled "Penang:- Heart and Soul".

Both children had the honor to make paintings with the artist.

Giant drummers having fun Fierce dancers with their red fans
Giant drums, drummers and their dancers

The highlight this time must be when both of their paintings were given the finishing touches by the master complete with his autograph.

Below are some of the images captured when we joined in two of the three days of the celebration, including part of the Nyonya cultural show.

These photos are sweet reminder of the fun we had during the celebration of Penang Heritage City. I hope you can have an idea of the atmosphere that we enjoyed during the celebration by browsing some more photos.

Happy lion galloping on the street Amazing Chingay Performer
Another lion prancing on the street; Chingay acrobatic show

Boria group singing and dancing Ghazal party singer
Boria; Ghazal Parti

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Johny Chee

Johny Chee presevers the Nyonya tradition. He is often guest at the Little Penang market and wrote an excellent book about the Nyonya culture of Penang.

Johny Chee and the Nyonya ladies

Johny Chee

Nyonya Beaded Shoes

From Dr. Farish A Noor's private collection, a beautiful set of traditional Nyonya beaded shoes:

Nyonya Beaded Shoes

Nyonya beaded shoes

Litte Penang

The Little Penang market is held every last Sunday of the month. There are performances, activities and local market stalls with typical Penang food and other things.

Little Penang

Nyonya Kebaya Materials for SALE here!

Click on these thumbnails to view the intricate patterns (kerawang).

Nyonya Kebaya

Nyonya Kebaya

Nyonya Kebayarichred
Rich Red

Nyonya Kebayamauve

Nyonya Kebayapeacock
Peacock Green

Nyonya Kebayawhite

Nyonya Kebayared

Click here to order the kebaya.

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