SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

Miss Daphne Ang

BA (Open University), MA (SOAS)
  • Research


Daphne Ang Ming Li
Miss Daphne Ang
Email address:
Thesis title:
The Production and Patronage of Portraiture in Colonial Singapore
Year of Study:
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Daphne Ang is presently a PhD candidate in the department of History of Art and Archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is also a research fellow at the National University of Singapore Museum. 

Her doctoral research investigates the production of portraiture under the patronage of the Straits Chinese in Colonial Singapore. She has presented at international conferences such as the 26th Baba Nyonya Convention (2013) in Kuala Lumpur, and the Postgraduate Symposium in History of Art and Visual Culture at the University College London (2012). 

She also conducts a Master’s course in Arts of Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asia at SOAS, and is the author of “The Portrait Project”, an online project established to locate and archive photographs from the personal family albums of Singaporeans.

PhD Research

Surviving portraits of early Chinese settlers in Malacca and Penang are testimony to the existence of a tradition of image making in the older colonial constructs, of which are antecedents of Singapore.  

The first were descendants of Chinese sea-faring merchants who settled in the Nanyang colonies such as Batavia (Jakarta) and Penang and Malacca, where some of the earliest portraits still survive. The Straits Chinese did not only established themselves in the Straits Settlements but also in many parts of the archipelago where they were equally as prominent and firmly established. Hence, Colonial Singapore and the Straits Settlements cannot be talked about separate from other Straits Chinese communities from other colonies. The paintings and photographs in the NUS Museum Straits Chinese Collection and the Peranakan Museum’s Straits Chinese Chinese portrait collections has formed most of the content of this study.  As these are the first of these types of pictures to be studied and seen rigorously, this study is limited to portraits of the early Chinese residents in Singapore and the older colonial settlements such as Malacca, Penang and Java.

This early period of artistic production that warrants requisite attention and should be situated at the very threshold of early modernities in Singapore’s History of Art. A revision of this historiography is therefore deservedly requisite. These recent discoveries of early pictures germane to this study will therefore be a pioneering attempt at establishing a new framework for Singapore’s History of Art.


'Inherited and Salvaged: Family Portraits from the Straits Chinese Collection', exhibition catalogue, December 2013 -July 2014, National University of Singapore (NUS) Museum, Singapore.


  • Visiting Research Fellow at the (NUS) National University of Singapore Museum, working on an exhibition on Straits Chinese Portraits since late 2011
  • The Peranakan Museum (Asian Civilisations Museum): working on a project involving digital archiving of images
  • The Peranakan Association, Singapore


History of Art, 19th Century Photography, History of Photography & Portraiture, Art and Archaeology of Southeast Asia, Modern & Contemporary Art of South & Southeast Asia, Curating.