We walked into the Peranakan Museum welcomed by a slew of bibiks in kebayas, setting the tone for the rest of the evening. With the promise of food and performance, which media partner can resist attending the launch party of the inaugural Peranakan Arts Festival? Organized by festival director Joyce Lim and artistic director Richard Tan, the five day festival steps out on Empress Place this November, featuring the premiere of a new play by Desmond Tan, a visual arts exhibition, an aptly titled ‘Baba-zaar’ selling all manner of Peranakan paraphernalia and a musical comedy sequel to Richard Tan’s 2001 play Bibiks Behind Bars, where nyonyas adapt to modern day life – with gambling at Marina Bay Sands. Bibiks Behind Bars…Kena Again! Will guest star veteran actress Koh Chieng Mun of Under One Roof fame. The launch party was a jaunty event, with Lim, Tan and Desmond Sim chairing the pre-party press conference and explaining in detail about the need to have a greater connection to Gen Z, and make Peranakan culture relevant again. Said Joyce Lim: “Desmond joked that nowadays, modern bibiks don’t have time to go and grind up the spices – just use a blender lah!” “We want this to be a no holds barred event, like at the forum, we want to have an open, honest discussion about the state of Peranakan culture in today’s time. For example – what does it mean to be a Peranakan? And most importantly, is it still relevant now?” The festival was first conceptualized when Joyce suggested to Richard to write a sequel to Bibiks Behind Bars for the upcoming annual Peranakan Conference, to be held in Singapore this year. Joyce, who was previously marketing director for the Esplanade, decided to tack on to the SG50 celebrations and declared that the whole thing might as well be an arts festival with a focus on Peranakan arts. Said Richard Tan (insert RC’s part here) Of course, after the press conference, we moved on to the launch party itself. Personally, I had a very scintillating conversation with festival advisor Alan Koh, who talked about the Peranakan disapora in Australia, and the sense of loss overseas Peranakans felt with regards to their identity and finding an avenue to express their own culture. Food and wine was served (though not as much Peranakan food as expected), and we were treated to a preview of both plays with a lively, audience engaging performance by the casts of Pintu Pagar and Bibiks Behind Bars…Kena Again! Particularly outstanding was Kimberly Chan, who’s apparently a triple threat – trained in song, dance and acting, who portrayed her character with fierce independence, yet comical young nyonya. A delightful performance that ended off on a high note, with a song and dance routine everyone put their all into. Overall? I think the festival’s going to have a ot of heart, engage with the community, and is completely welcoming to anyone and everyone – whether you’re a full blooded Peranakan, or a stranger to the culture without an ounce of Peranakan blood in you. But as Alan Koh says: “Nowadays, the word Peranakan has lost its meaning. It’s how you choose to define and identify yourself that really matters now.” Peranakan Arts Festival, 4-8 November, Empress Place/Victoria Concert Hall/Victoria Theatre, for more information visit http://www.peranakanfest.com. Peranakan Arts Festival, 4-8 November, Empress Place/Victoria Concert Hall/Victoria Theatre, for more information visit http://www.peranakanfest.com.