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There are two trains of thought and perceptions with regards to this matter. Members of the Peranakan Community are divided on this matter but most have pessimistic views rather than promising viewpoints. The concensus and agreement of anthropologists, cultural sociologists, linguists, researchers and experts on Peranakan Culture however share this pessimistic view.
THE CLASH OF OPINION
Peranakans and members of the Peranakan Association who support and fight a hard for the preservation of Peranakan culture say that yes Peranakan Culture will live on for prosterity. However the overwhelming majority of Peranakans outside and inside the Peranakan Association say otherwise. As they are more in touch with the wider Singaporean Community and are far more removed and disconnected with their roots, most Peranakans both young and old belonging to this group will have views that are pessimistic.
Most books and experts on Peranakan Culture give a dismayed and pessimistic account of the future and survival of Peranakan Culture. Even books written by well respected influential Peranakan Authors offer this depressing but certain account of the ever deteriorating state of Peranakan culture as a whole. Currently according to such experts Peranakan Culture is all but dead in Indonesia, it is fighting for survival in Chinese dominated Singapore and Penang and is doing only fairly well in Malacca. Below are 6 excerpts taken by such experts and authorities on Peranakan Culture:
This postscript taken by Felix Chia's book entitled The Babas gives us a pessimistic view of the future for the Peranakan Community. It si taken by the Chapter heading entitled Postscript on page 193 of the book. He was a very active member of the Peranakan association and wrote many Peranakan plays for the Peranakan and Gunong Sayang Associations. It is as follows:
(Para 1) What of the present day Babas? There is no future for them as a community, for as I mentioned at the beginning they are fast dissapearing with each passing generation. The Babas who marry Nonyas today do so more out of love than for propogation of babas nad nonyas. Even if there are die hards who marry amongst themselves, and who are optimistic about the continuation of the community, it is only a matter of time before it becomes extinct. A minority race which keeps on dwindling cannot hope to survive. But more important is the ignorance of Baba culture amongst the young. (Para2) Although it is gratifying to see some organisations striving hard to keep Baba Culture alive by staging plays and peagants such as the "Peranakan Night now and then, I still believe that they are fighting a losing battle...........
(Para 3)Publicity alone is no guarantee for the imbibling of culture, nurture and growth are also needed, and it is the young who have to nourish and flourish it. Although some of the younger Babas and Nonyas are actively participating in the promotion of their culture, curiosity and novelty of doing something which they either know of vaguely or are ignorant of are the reasons for their activity. But interest will be lost as soon as curiosity and fancy have been satisfied, and the older generation and desendants of Peranakans on both sides promote these functions only because they have a deep nostalgic feeling for the past.(Para 5) The Baba a product of an accident of history, is a time traveller, he has come and he must go. This I truly Believe but with equal sincerity, I hope it shall be proven wrong. (Para 6) The lot of the Babas now is to be assmilated by those around them, to continue in their inherent nature of integrating into different cultures.......
The below excerpt is taken by Mas Sepulo written by Doctor Anne Pakir a proffesor at NUS. Mas Sepulo is a Peranakan mini dictionary based on the Peranakan patois of yesteryear. She is a respected commentor and expert on Peranakan linguistics and culture. She gives us the following account of the future of Peranakan culture and Baba Malay on page xvi of the book::
The Baba identity as an inherited identity may persist for one generation or two given the interest in Baba langauge popularised through Peranakan plays, and the reminiscences of the community's golden past: The cultural identity is rapidly vanishing: in the words of a Baba himself " the Baba culture is an elaborate culture more suited for a sedate age. Much of this culture appears to be at variance with modern times. If what is ornate and complex in Baba culture cannot survive for much longer at least itslanguage can still be a testimony of its speaker's world......... Sentimental bonds do not save endangered langauges- they only serve a legitimate socio cultural purpose in making members of a community turn backwards to a common heritage. This is the phenomenon with Baba Malay is an endangered langauge, and wil dissapear in time like extinct species of lora and fauna on this planet earth. But at least one native speaker of the language (William Gwee) has put his mark by recording and documenting the linguistic heriatge of the community.
The below excerpt was taken on page vii of Mas Sepulo. It was written by the then Life President, T W Ong of the Peranakan Asscoiation. it says the following:
Perhaps in one or two generations the Babas will die out as a recognised sub ethnic identity within the Chinese race. Therefore I feel that we must thank William Gwee Thian Hock who happens to be a cousin of mine, for having taken the trouble and for his preseverance in compiling this scholarly book.
The excerpt below is taken by the book entitled Rumah Baba. It is taken from the alst paragrah of page 23 of the book:
Today with the deluge of cross cultural influences in Singapore and Malaysia, Peranakan culture sems to have lost its place in modern life and it remains to be seen if the younger generation can redefine its identity and relevance and reassert its influence.
The below excerpt was taken orally and written down. It is stored in the National Archives. It was said by an elderly well respected Baba well known in Peranakan circles. in his very own words, he was also a prominent member of the Peranakan Association:
Peranakan culture is not relevant, it is not suited to a modern day westernised and christianised lifestyle. Most of the older generation, my generation, did away with the old culture and old practices a very long time ago. We were all educated in convent and Christian mission schools, we were not traditional anymore in our thinking and outlook in life, unlike our parents and forefathers before us, we were modern and westernised. The old culture cannot be revived nor can it be in existence for prosterity, we did away with the old. Its time has come, and the sun has set on our very own culture. The golden age has passed us by. Some Peranakans are fighting on for its survival while the majority of sensible and practical Peranakans have already accepted the fate of our culture with acceptance and open arms. To say that Peranakan Culture and traditions will survive and live on for eternity is merely wishful thinking. It died a peaceful death a very long time ago, it died when we the older generation modernised and embraced Christianity. Going back to all that now is merely done as a reenactment of a culture to be found only in museums. Ours is not a living culture it is not present in our daily lives and in our families. It is only to be found in museums. Only dead cultures are found in museums, documentaries and exhibitions, living cultures arent found in such places, dont you know? Isnt that a testament to the present state of our culture already??
Many other authors such as books written by Peranakane expert Dr Ho Wing Meng, the sociologist and anthropologist Jurgen Rudolph and many many other Peranakan experts and authors have come to the same negative and depressing conclusion.As the majority of Peranakans have this opinion and know that the death of our culture is certain without a doubt, some believe that a revival is underway and that that revival will help to spur interest in a bygone era, that it is already non existant or not practiced by the Peranakan community at large.
Of course many more Peranakans view this with comtemplation but believe that there is a future for the Peranakan Community. They believe with much earnest anticipation that Peranakan Culture will be rejuvinated and will exist for many more decades to come. But sadly most young Peranakans are not very involved in the promotion or participation of the culture as a whole. Only a few are, the bonds of community spirit and kinship in the Peranakan Community has faded, and once those bonds have been broken, a community is not strong socially or culturally.
So what about the future you may say? Well the future is very unexpected and nothing is ever certain. Inspite of such depressing and discouraging analaysis, the future of Peranakan Culture as we know it now may or may not survive the ravages of time. Each person has an opinion and belief and each person is entitled to his or her own beliefs. The majority of Peranakans now know this and have accepted this fate.We can only hope that the future will not be as bleak and as discouraging as most believe. We hope that our beloved culture will survive the passage of time, but ultimately that is all we can do, to hope for the best and let the future take care of itself. To each his own, thats what it should be. As everyone has different opinions and thoughts on this critical and important question, it is ultimately up to the individual, what he really thinks the present circumstances are to form his or her opinion.
There is therefore no right or wrong answer. To one person Peranakan Culture is extremely vibrant and alive as testified by the many plays, heritage exhibitions and the claim of many that they are part or are three quarters of Peranakan heritage. The person might also say that Peranakan Culture is currently being revived. Many others believe that the culture is dying, albeit slowly, nevertheless Peranakan Culture is certainly undergoing a revival in the present, though many experts and anthropologists on culture feel that cultural revivals like spiritual revivals do not last a lifetime. At best they will be reenacted once in a while of an era of a bygone past, for the sake of the memory of an era that has passed us by.
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