Set in the heart of an area that is synonymous with the Chinese Peranakan community in Singapore, Joo Chiat, is a little gem of a place that awaits discovery – The Intan, which in Malay translates to ‘rose-cut diamond’. The Intan is a Peranakan home-museum which is owned by an antique collector, Alvin Yapp and is set in a somewhat nondescript house that is typical of the area. It is only in stepping through the door that the pure delight of the place becomes evident as one sets foot in a world where the rich culture of a forgotten time awaits discovery.
The house that The Intan is set in, is typical of houses that are associated with the community. It is long and narrow – an architectural feature that takes one back to a time when taxes to be paid were determined based on the number of windows a house had. Once inside, the soft light that filters through its narrow openings and skylights reveals the wealth of what The Intan holds – a superb collection of all things unmistakably Peranakan. This includes larger items of furniture, very distinctly coloured Peranakan pieces of porcelain, as well as personal items that include jewellery, embroidery and kasut manek (beaded slippers).
The collection and the acquisition of knowledge of the culture for Alvin started when back as a teenager, watching a play triggered an increased awareness of his cultural background. This brought about a quest to understand a sub-culture that was fast being diluted by the gravitation towards a common Chinese identity. With requests received from friends first to view his collection which extended to requests to sample food from the kitchen, the idea to convert his home – then a flat in Marine Parade, into a museum. The Intan itself was started in 2003 and today hosts visits (by appointment only for a minimum of eight persons) for tea or dinner which includes a guided tour of the house, a sharing of insights into the Peranakan culture as well as a sharing of some fascinating personal stories. The Intan also hosts private functions, art sales and small concerts. More information on The Intan, which was invited to become a member of the Museum Roundtable and won the Best Overall Experience Award at the Museum Roundtable Awards 2011, is available at their website www.the-intan.com. Appointments can be made by calling +65 6440 1148.