L E C T U R E S 


ai li’s recent once upon a cherita . . . lecture
at the Peranakan Museum, Singapore
on Monday 7 January 2019


one of the many cherita i shared with the museum audience :



the tea pavilion
now deserted

steam from osmanthus buds
my embroidered sleeve
older than this century


ai li

my original blurb for the peranakan museum :



Facade of the Peranakan Museum, Singapore taken by me on 5 January 2019 – two days before my lecture.

The Peranakan Museum is the major museum for the Straits Chinese, and not only does it explore the art and culture of Straits Chinese communities in South East Asia, but it houses one of the finest & most comprehensive public collections of Peranakan objects. Peranakan simply means ‘local born’ in Malay. The Peranakan Chinese are the offspring & descendants of traders from the southern ports of china such as Amoy [now Xiamen], who then settled & made their homes in the Dutch East Indies [now Indonesia] & the Straits Settlements of Malacca, Penang and Singapore. As early as the 14th century, these foreign traders married local women, likely to have been of Javanese, Balinese or Batak origin.

I am Straits Chinese or Peranakan as we call ourselves, from my mother’s side of the family and I was hugely honoured by the invitation for me to give a presentation at this prestigious museum where a large number of my late mother’s personal collection of fine kebayas, sarongs, and related accessories have found a permanent home.


One set of my mother’s large collection of sarong and kebaya displayed in the museum’s glass cabinet, two mannequins down from the off-white cheongsam or qipao of Kwa Geok Choo,  the wife of Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore and the mother of Lee Hsien Loong, the third and current Prime Minister. This photograph was taken by me on 5 January 2019, two days before my lecture. 






Thank you for a beautiful and spiritual evening at the Peranakan Museum. You transformed the Ixora at the start of 2019 with soft but powerful words, inviting reflections beyond Peranakan culture on Life, Love, Loss and Renewal. The pace and pairing of the images with the poems were touchingly evocative.

Jackie Yoong, Curator, Peranakan Museum, Singapore





I would like to thank you for the inspiring session last Monday at the Peranakan Museum.

Denisonde Simbol, Events Organiser, Peranakan Museum, Singapore




I just wanted to write to thank you again for your reading at The Peranakan Museum. I hadn’t heard of the Cherita before but after your talk, it seemed to me that it is so clear and necessary for this form to exist (I feel it is especially beautiful when used to express the nuances of the archipelagic thought.)

Amrit Dhillon, Singapore and UK




Glad to hear it. Cherita is regularly in the submissions for ATPO. You’ve created a form with staying power.

M Kei, USA




Close to the time of your talk at the Peranakan Museum, i have been thinking of you in the recent days and now. I hope it has been a heartwarming emotionally deep and satisfying time for you! . . . Sending love and cherita joy to you from afar. Wish I could be there in person. My heart is with you, and hopefully we can meet in person in UK this year.

Kathabela Wilson, USA




It was a pleasure to hear you at the PM. What a great introduction to your writing and it made me travel far in my head ! I loved being introduced to your family.

I will go back to the museum with interested eyes !

Charlotte Thesiger, Singapore




Congratulations!!! Of course I knew you would bring the roof down . . . I hope you’re having a fab time . . .

Caroline Skanne, UK





. . . I enjoyed the reading very much. I love all the old pictures. Your reading voice was soothing and very calming.

Irene Cheng, Singapore




Marvelous, ai li. Been thinking about you.

Larry Kimmel, Godfather of Cherita, USA



. . . you must be relieved it is over and that it went so well. What a wonderful start to 2019.

Robert Horrobin, UK



That’s good news, ai li, and doesn’t surprise me. Enjoy your visit to Singapore in the days to come.

Michael McClintock, USA




Wow, congratulations, my dear ai li!

Of course I had absolutely no doubt that you’d shine! I wish I could’ve been there to soak up the energy you would’ve created.

Samantha Sirimanne Hyde, Australia




Oh, I am so happy (and not surprised at all) to hear this wonderful news, my friend! You are an inspiration, and you deserve every success that comes your way.

Debbie Strange, Canada




So happy to meet you, but the timing was too short and no time to talk.

 . . . your presentation was perfect and the audience appreciated your knowledge and experience as a professional of Cherita and more in the History of your family.

You are a perfectionist !

Anne-France Salmon Stevenson, USA



wish u could come to the usa and do it.

stanford forrester, usa




I hope all went well and no doubt your pleased to be safely back in Blighty.

Alan Cousins, UK




I have missed you and know that your presentation went amazingly well.

Daniela Becher, UK



Absolutely lovely Ai Li, to read your account of your Singapore visit.

Keep it up.

kala ramesh, india




And lovely to read in greater detail about your lecture in Singapore…and to know you are giving it in March in London.. where I’m sure it will be equally well received.

Maryalicia Post, Ireland





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