One dark and stormy night in late January this year, we had the privilege to be two of 16 guests in a post-dinner card game played by Joavian Ng and Paloma Calle in the interactive performance, The Diary of Alice (presented by Theatreworks). We gathered around a long rectangular table in the dining hall of the Baba House sipping copious amounts of Whiskey as our female leads entertained us with their playful artistic exploration of ‘Alice’ and the fascinating universe of identities. The setting could not have been more perfect – as the plot intensified, so did the dramatic shift in weather conditions; rain pelted down right into the enormous air well beside the dining hall, which made for almost perfectly orchestrated sound and lighting effects.
At the end of the play, we were ushered back into the front of the house where a surprise was revealed – we would be given a free tour around the Baba House.
The Baba House is a 150-year-old three-storey traditional Peranakan pre-war terrace-house formerly owned by the same family for six generations until it was purchased by the National University of Singapore and lovingly restored to showcase the history, architecture and heritage of the Straits Chinese. The tour brought us into the various sections of the house, and provided us with an insider’s perspective into the Straits Chinese community’s material culture and customs in the early twentieth century. The first two storeys of the Baba House showcase the domestic interior typical of an affluent Peranakan household, while the third storey hosts temporary exhibitions where artists explore modern interpretations of Peranakan culture.
We returned again to the Baba House a week later during the day to take photos of this wonderfully restored house located in one of Singapore’s few surviving Peranakan residential enclaves known as the Residential Historic District of Blair Plain. We took the opportunity to walk around the surrounds of Blair Road, Spottiswoode Park Road and Everton Road, all lined with conservation houses bearing different identities left from the families who once inhabited these homes. One almost feels as though you have been transported to a different era – until you sight The Pinnacle @ Duxton through the thoroughfare at Everton Road – a surreal juxtaposition of yesteryear and today’s rapid modernisation.
Walk a little further down Blair Road and towards the end, the lovely restored conservation shophouse turned restaurant, SpeakEasy, awaits – a perfect way to round up your tour of the area, wine glass in hand.
The Baba House
157 Neil Road, Singapore 088883
Due to the limited space and the fragility of Peranakan wares in the House, visits are limited to small groups of 12 and by appointments only. Visitors are required to sign up for a heritage tour which can be arranged on Mondays 2pm – 3pm and Thursdays 10am – 11am.
For enquiries, please contact (65) 6227 5731
54 Blair Road, Singapore 089954 | (65) 9759 5111
Opening Hours: Wed-Sat 6pm – late, Brunch on Sat from 11am – 3pm