Although there may be no one iconic pattern that best represents Singapore, there are many motifs we relate to. The one motif which I feel that most Singaporeans can definitely relate to is the peony flowers on the batik sarong on the Peranakan traditional costume. The batik sarong has a rich history and culture behind it.
Singapore, as a leading trade center for these Southeast Asian countries, offers a wide variety of batiks. The Babas and Nyonyas are a unique sociological and cultural phenomenon that occurred in an era of momentous transition. They have significantly enriched the Malaysian and Singaporean cultural heritage, cuisine, fashion and the arts.
Hence, I chose to package the beautiful Nyonya Batik Sarong, which could be a great gift from Singapore to be given to our overseas friends and share with them the rich culture and history behind these beautiful textiles.
THE HISTORY OF PERANAKAN
The peranakan culture evolved in the fifteenth century when the Chinese arrived in Malacca and intermarriage with local women took place. These Chinese traders did not bring their womenfolk along, and many intermarried with local women. Peranakan culture is a “rare and beautiful blend” of two dominant cultures – Malay and Chinese – with some elements from Javanese, Batak, Siamese and European (specifically English) cultures.
Three terms are commonly used to describe this community: the Peranakan, the Straits Chinese, and the Babas and Nyonyas. The males are referred to as Babas and the females as Nyonyas. The origins of the word Peranakan actually come from the word anak or child. The word Peranakan therefore in its full meaning means to give birth to a child. This means that the children of such mixed intermarriages were called Peranakan meaning that they were born locally and were of mixed blood.
PERANAKAN IN SINGAPORE
Many Indonesian Peranakans intermarried with the Singapore, Malaccan and Penang Peranakans as well. Many families in Singapore therefore have Malaccan, Penang and Indonesian Peranakan ancestry. The first settlement of Chinese traders was in Malacca. With the advent of colonialism, Peranakans immigrated from this area to other areas such as Singapore, Penang, and other parts of Malaysia such as Kelantan and Kedah. Peranakan communities can still be found in these areas.
Batik is a wax-resist fabric-dyeing technique. The word batik originates from the Javanese-Indonesia “amba” means draw, and “tik” and means to dot.
Batik Sarong refers to the bottom fabric with patterns created using the batik technique, which the Nyonyas wrap around their waist as a skirt. The traditional Nyonya costume was the Baju Panjang which can be traced to Javanese origins. It consisted of a long loose calf-length top with long sleeves worn over a batik sarong. The collar is Chinese and the dress is fastened by a set of kerosang (brooches). By the end of the 1920s, young Nyonyas abandoned the old-fashioned austere baju panjang for the more modern nyonya kebaya. The word kebaya is derived from the Portuguese word kobaya. The short kebaya was more flattering, as it was figure-hugging and shapely, with intricate embroidery at the neckline, sleeves and hem. The use of lace on kebayas may have been an influence from Portuguese and Dutch women who wore blouses with lace trimmings during colonial times. The kebaya is worn with a batik sarong. Nyonyas preferred Pekalungan batik from Java because of its vibrant combination of colours, and motifs of flowers, birds, insects, and other animals. Some of these batik sarongs can be really expensive and exquisite because they are hand made and hand drawn.
LOGO & NAME
For the logo, I picked the peony flower as a motif to represent the peranakans. Peonies are common motifs on batik sarong worn by peranakans as well as the peranakan pottery. Esteemed as one of the most exquisite flowers, the peony is a symbol for nobility and value. The peony became popular in the imperial palaces during the Sui and Tang dynasties, and earned the title of the “king of flowers.” A symbol of spring, it is also used as a metaphor for female beauty and reproduction. Pictured in full bloom, the peony symbolises peace.
I took reference from the peony prints on the batik sarongs and simplified the flower into a more graphical form. I then added dots at certain areas of the petal to bring in the idea of Batik which originates from the Javanese-Indonesia “amba” means draw, and “tik” and means to dot.
The logo is a symbol of the peranakans as well as the batik used to decorate the batik sarong worn by the Nyonyas. The brand name is called NYONYA SINGAPURA, which highlights the culture of the peranakans in singapore. Singapura stands for Singapore in the Malay language.
For the packaging, after much discussion with my professor, we decided to package the batik sarong such that it increases the value of the Batik sarong. I thought that hand made items will automatically increase the value in the product, so I created the box by hand myself, each piece of board was trimmed and cut to precision and placed together. I then used a black piece of textured paper to wrap the entire box. The box was made to have a tray-like design, so as to make it look like a stage to hold the Batik sarong. The first time i made a box, I took almost a day and I failed because the measurements and folding made the box really bulky. I then tried using individual pieces of boards to build my box for the second attempt. I kept it simple and neat. The whole box-making process took me 12 hours because I was really making sure that every measurement is precise and accurate. At last, it worked out!
The front of the box has a golden peony, which was also hand carved. What I did was that i carved the peony flower silhouette from the black paper, and placed a gold paper behind it and then use that to wrap the box.
I included a sleeve for the box on the outside, to show the brand. And inside as well, to wrap the Batik Sarong in place.
The packaging comes with a card which explains the value of this piece of Batik Sarong, and its story behind it. The history and information about the cloth also adds value to the product.