19 Jun 2020 - 5 Jul 2020

Whole day

Getting here





a prelude to a collection of new works by Alecia Neo, inspired by these personal stories.



The betel quid is a curated explosion of flavours.

Unlovable at first bite, but ultimately an addiction that cannot be denied.

A time-travelling Neolithic experience.


It is a constellation of our shared worlds in balance:

The warmth of friendship extended to a stranger,

The alliance between lovers, the approval of the family clan,

The promise of progeny, beauty, health, nobility,

And reverence for that, which is larger than us.


All that we believe in.

                        An elaborate exercise in diplomacy.



Echoing through the Indo-Pacific,

The betel quid’s pervasive breath dances around Oceania,

Southeast Asia, South Asia, Madagascar,

And the curl of the Mediterranean.


In our city, time compresses—

The royal courts savour a chewing as the humble farmers do,

Albeit under their flamboyantly trimmed shelters.

Lithic pressure, like the haunting red faces of betel juice cascading violently into each other;

Memories fading into whispering walls on Market Street.



The home-made quid meticulously prepared by womenfolk,

Makes way for pre-packed, silvered and flavoured areca fragments.

Or provisions may come forth via the convenient labour of street stalls along Geylang Serai, 

Or Desker Road.



              Where do we go from here?


betelboxred web2
Betel set. Malay Peninsula, mid-20th century. Natural fibres. ACM,XXXX-10779



Take a closer look at the unassuming betel box. You or your grandparents may have one at home. Nowadays it serves mostly as a decorative item. Only a few might know that it harbours countless customs of comfort and conviviality. Artist Alecia Neo traces the evolution of regional hospitality rituals, performed by women, centred around the betel leaf (an evergreen creeper vine), revealing how the ancient act of chewing on a betel quid reverberates through our past, present, and future.


Rites and symbols associated with betel leaf practised across South and Southeast Asia are evoked by two performers who engage in an unspoken dialogue of bodily correspondences, hand gestures, encounters and partings. The voiceover weaves together pantuns, written and recited by octogenerian Peranakan Baba GT Lye, and women's stories that speak of rites of passage, acts of kinship, and the labour of caregiving. Pulsing with different tempos, ramah-tamah enacts a cross-generational dialogue about legacy and ageing, autonomy and women’s neverending quest for aliveness.






Meet the creative team and the people behind the stories.


Click on the images below to hear sound clips from some of the contributors!


 ramahtamah_gtlye2    ramahtamah_kamini
"...sacred item, and not something to play with..."   “…a way of asserting that “I am still alive””
 Baba GT Lye    Kamini Ramachandran
 ramahtamah_kumar2   ramahtamah_samantha 
"...something that we cannot separate from her."   "...this ceremony is symbolic, it's spiritual..." 
Vimal Kumar     Samantha Tio (Mintio)














           betelboxsilver web
Betel set.  Malay Peninsula, Kedah, mid-19th century.
Silver, bronze, iron. ACM, 1999-00147




Chew On This: Discussions & Collaborations


Saturday, 27 June 2020

2.30 to 3.30pm

Online. Free.

Follow the event here.


Get insights from artist Alecia Neo as she shares her inspiration and experience conceptualising and producing ramah-tamah. Alecia will be accompanied by guests Baba G T Lye and Dr Geoffrey Pakiam, who will share thoughts on betel chewing and other hospitality and food rituals.


Saturday, 4 July 2020

2.30 to 3.30pm 

Online. Free.

Follow the event here.


Get up close with ramah-tamah artist Alecia Neo, performers Sandhya Suresh and Kyongsu Kathy Han, director of photography Khairul Amin, and composer Li-chuan Chong. Hear from this creative team about their interpretations, inspirations, and processes that went into the making of ramah-tamah.



Join us for these interactive sessions where you can ask questions, express your thoughts, or make comments. More details of these online talks will be provided soon.



© 2020 Alecia Neo.  All rights reserved. 

About Singapore Heritage Festival at ACM
In conjunction with Singapore Heritage Festival this year, ACM presents Home, and Away, to showcase histories and personal stories of people who have crossed borders and relocated from one home to another. Explore exchanges of ideas and cultures via trade and migration as Singapore grew and developed as a multicultural society. Discover and share stories of home, and away.
  • A Memoir

    Read stories from ACM staff and docents whom you may have seen at the museum. Appreciate ACM through their eyes in this series of personal accounts.

  • Events
    Stories of Home

    What is that one item that reminds you of home while you're away from home? Let us know your story and we’ll share it with the world.

  • Whispers from the Past

    Be one of the first to listen to ACM’s new audio descriptions of highlights in our galleries.

Organised by
A Museum of 
Part of
Supported by
Festival Supporter
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