Through the Eye of the Needle: 300 Years of Nyonya Beadwork and Embroidery

Ixora Room, Peranakan Museum
22 Mar 2017
6 pm

In 1675, a Danish visitor to Banten in northwestern Java marvelled at the “most beautiful pearl embroidery and needlework” made by the Chinese women there. Some 340 years later, the intricate and colourful beadwork and embroidery of the nyonyas continue to capture our imaginations.

Drawing on a range of sources, this talk provides an introduction to three centuries of nyonya needlework. It highlights the involvement of male embroiderers and orphans, missionary intervention, non-Peranakan patrons and craftspeople, and the commercial context for this craft, challenging popular perceptions of nyonya needlework as a primarily domestic activity practised by young nyonyas.

About the speaker

Dr Cheah Hwei-Fen is guest curator of the Nyonya Needlework exhibition. She was a lecturer and visiting academic at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory, Australian National University, from 2007–16. Her book Phoenix Rising: Narratives in Nyonya Beadwork from the Straits Settlements was published in 2010.

This lecture is organised in conjunction with the exhibition:

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6—6.45 pm: Presentation, “Through the eye of the needle: 300 years of nyonya beadwork and embroidery”
6.45—9 pm: book signing and reception

Limited seating available in Ixora Room for the talk – please RSVP by Monday, 20 March to to reserve a seat.
For reception and book signing in museum lobby, no reservation necessary.

Image: An embroiderer. Woodbury and Page. Photograph. Java, 1870s. National Museum of World Cultures, Netherlands [TM-60003370]