Friday, October 5, 2012

Pair Of Beaded Slipper (Kasut Manek) Faces

This pair of beaded slipper faces, made to be used as the toe covers for a pair of slippers to be worn by a Straits Chinese woman or Nyonya, most probably to a traditional Straits Chinese wedding, are decorated with multi-coloured rocaille glass beads so that each face shows a swimming swan against a pink geometric bead background. The patterns are the reverse of each other with the two swans facing opposite directions.

The beads have been sewn to a layer of stiffened fabric which has been attached to a layer of hand-made, unmarked paper, then finally to more fabric. The ensemble has been finished with bright green beads edging.

The bead work is in excellent condition. There are no losses and the beads have remained bright and lustrous.

Rocaille beads were made in Southern France and were widely used in Singapore and the other Straits Settlements for beading slippers, wedding pillow ends, betel set mats and other paraphernalia associated with Baba and Nyonya culture. The Straits Chinese referred to the beads as 'manek potong' (cut beads) and acquired them from street peddlers and specialist merchants for the purpose of beading and embroidery.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Baba And Nyonya Silver Chopsticks

Silver chopsticks can be found as table settings in several Asian nations, and people may also use them for formal Asian style dinners in other regions of the world. Asian markets and specialty importers can often obtain silver chopsticks for people who want them, and in some cases, they may be passed down as family heirlooms, just like the silver flatware in the West. They can also be custom made by a metal smith upon request.

There are a number of reasons to use silver for chopsticks. As in the West, silver is associated with formal dining, making silver chopsticks a specialty item which may be brought out on special occasions and for special guests. Silver has a nice weight and balance which can lend a weight of gravity and formality to the occasion, and silver chopsticks may be simple, with smooth surfaces and clean lines, or more ornate.

Some people have personal chopsticks made from silver which they may eat with most meals or even carry with them. Historically, silver chopsticks were used in some parts of China out of fear of poison. According to popular belief, silver chopsticks would rapidly tarnish in the presence of poison, so someone who feared poisoning would carry silver chopsticks as a form of poison detection. Royalty ate from silver for this reason as well.

In the modern era, poisoning is not a large concern for most diners, with silver chopsticks being used for formality, or out of tradition. The chopsticks may be solid silver, or silver accents may be used on chopsticks made from other materials, such as wood. The pattern can also be coordinated with silver serving utensils such as spoons for communal dishes and soups, for people who like their tableware to match.

Pictures below show a pair of Baba and Nyonya silver chopsticks found in Penang. It is believed to have been used at the wedding for the bride and groom (usually with two pairs) to show the status and wealth of the family.

Length : 23cm.

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