6.2.11

Welcoming the Year of the Rabbit

Talk about timing:

On Wednesday, the eve of the Lunar New Year (除夕, chu xi), my reading for class was a chapter by Arjun Appadurai, in which he discusses what he calls "the global production of locality", i.e. how through technology, the media and diasporic flows, the identity of a locality or particular place is communicated, shaped and shared on a global scale, and some of its resonant implications for nation-states and modern society.

Earlier in the week, I'd just seen Civic Life: Tiong Bahru, a fictional short film by UK filmmakers Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy, set in and inspired by the people they met in that neighbourhood in Singapore. In other words: a non-Singaporean take on Tiong Bahru residents' take on their neighbourhood and place in Singapore.

And then it was the Lunar/Chinese New Year. In lieu of reunion dinner on 除夕, I met some friends for a very British-style celebration: drinks at a pub, followed by a late dinner of Lebanese food (and more wine). On the first day of the New Year, for dinner I made a big pot of soya sauce chicken, which isn't remotely a traditional Chinese New Year food, but has been one of my favourite foods from my mother's repertoire since I was a child (also one of the easiest to make). On the second day of the New Year, I had to go to school, so I threw on a red cardigan over the greys and blacks that populate my winter wardrobe (wearing red is for luck, traditional during the New Year; sombre colours are for funerals and unlucky days).

Aspects of Chinese-New-Year-in-Singapore which I have not "reproduced":
  • dong-dong-chang music that can drive you batty (although I might get a dose of it, if I drop in at the Trafalgar Square/Shaftesbury Avenue festivities tomorrow)
  • mahjong sessions
  • kibitzing for hours while snacking on bak kwa, pineapple tarts and mandarin oranges
  • getting a sore throat by the third day from eating too much "heaty" food
None of which have that much to do with Appadurai's observations (which are more about the tensions inherent in the "global production of locality"), but I'm toying with his concept of framing and then reproducing an idea-of-a-place-in-time, and reminding myself about traditions and authenticity and why we do the things we do and what we're arguing about when we argue about it.

(Not that I've been party to any arguments recently.)

Tomorrow I'm going to 拜年 (bai nian, pay a New Year visit) to a close friend, with oranges and red wine. Bringing oranges is traditional. Bringing red wine is not.

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