via Prestige Online, 27 February 2021: Interview with Norman Cho, author of The Bejewelled Lives of the Peranakan.
Dazzling luxury connoisseurs is a new coffee table book by Peranakan jewellery collector Norman Cho. Yanni Tan receives a valuable lesson from him, and his book, on our unique yet little-known bejewelled heritage.
“More is more,” says Norman Cho with a chuckle, when I asked him about the colourful and bold aesthetics of the Straits Chinese. I am at his apartment to view his collection of vintage jewels when he shows me around to introduce, for a deeper understanding of the culture, other aspects of Peranakan art to me – furniture, porcelain, fashion, and even ornamental and worship objects.
Like many Singaporeans, my understanding of this unique ethnic group is mainly limited to their cuisine. Sure, most of us who have ever visited the Peranakan Museum in Armenian Street would have an inkling of the elaborate rites and ornate adornments. The lucky few who have attended traditional Peranakan wedding ceremonies may have even witnessed the full display of extravagant finery in person.
However, beyond museums, pictures and stories from the elders, the heritage of the Straits Chinese has remained quite mysterious to the regular Singaporean. And to turn the tide against the culture’s gradual disappearance is Norman, a 49-year-old fourth-generation baba who has been passionately collecting vintage Peranakan jewellery for nearly three decades.