Nationality: Chinese and Cambodian
Date of Performance/Collection: 1/8/16
Primary Language: English
The Main Piece
The Banba Doll, the name the Tan family has given it, is said to have the power to “affect the way your day will go. It has seven sides, one for every day of the week and you’re supposed to change its side every day.” This folk practice and object has been performed and passed down for generations. If one forgets to turn the Banma Doll, then the “Banma Doll will forget to give you your blessings.” It is also a metaphor for being sure one has all their belongings and double checking one has done everything necessary before leaving the house. Since the person was so forgetful, repercussions will come. The object has different Chinese characters on each side, each representing one day of the week. Rachel went on to state the importance of turning it over on the right day. “I’m not exactly sure why we had to turn it over on the right day, my grandmother never explained that part to us, but I remember her specifically saying that if we didn’t turn it over on the right day, then we might as well have not turned it over at all.” This action represents the idea that if one is going to do something, then they should do it right.” This is both a folk object and practice as it has been passed down from generation to generation and is a practice done daily.
My informant is Rachel Tan, a current undergraduate student at USC. Although she has left it in her home in Singapore while she is away at college, whenever she returns home she is sure to turn the doll over. She says it has become common practice for her ever since her mom gave it to her. “I’m not sure where it all started, I just know it’s been in my family for what seems like forever and no one can seem to get rid of it.”
We were discussing traveling over the summer and she brought up the fact that in her room there is the Banba Doll. I had no idea what that was so she continued to tell me more about it and the significance it held in her family.
I found it odd for families to uphold such tedious practices with a background they were unknowledgeable on. It shows the power folk objects such as the Banba Doll can have on people. I personally would not partake in this practice, but perhaps it is because of its age and ancestry that the practice continues and I am simply unable to relate.