West Sumatra, 1912
Cotton and silk velvet embroidered with glass beads, needle-woven edges
National Museum of Singapore [G-0808]
Nyonya beadwork from Sumatra
Early 20th-century nyonya beadwork from West Sumatra has a consistent look. They are characterized by flat, block-like colours, naively rendered figures, and symmetrical designs. The use of light blue, yellow, and white backgrounds suggests a relationship with beadwork from Penang.
Flat colours and stiff repeating motifs suggest that this belt is from West Sumatra. Two hands point to a Chinese name, Kwee Ng Soen. Dutch flags flank the year “1912.” In the preceding three years, the nationality of the Peranakan Chinese became a contested issue between the Chinese and Indies governments, resulting in a Dutch decree in 1911 whereby locally-born Chinese would be considered Dutch subjects. This belt is a powerful reminder of the questions of identity that faced the Peranakan Chinese in the Indies.