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Category: southeast asia

Promoting contemporary Southeast Asian art

28 January, 2008 (05:00) | contemporary, southeast asia | By: xensen

vicente manasala, philippines mother and child

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and Yayasan YDY Nusantara of Indonesia have announced a partnership for research and programming at a new facility to be called the New Contemporary Art Centre (NCAC) located in Songzhuang, Beijing (23 km east of the city, not far from the Beijing international airport). Art critic Li Xianting (who coined the terms Cynical Realism and Political Pop) will chair the NCAC’s academic center. The facility will open late in 2008.

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Source: Singapore Art Museum & Yayasan YDY Nusantara’s Partnership to Promote Southeast Asian Art | Art Knowledge News

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Tribes of Burma

22 January, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

tribes of burma: tai

This image is said to represent costumes of the Tai people of Burma, according to A Hand Painted Manuscript, in Color, of the Kaw, Lahu, Kwi, En, Ahko, Hpin, Tai-Loi, Yang Hsek, Palawng, Kachin, Wa Lu, Lem, Tai-no, Lisaw, Hkun and Tai tribes. Hand drawn, hand colored ethnographic manuscript showing people from various ethnic groups in Burma at their daily chores and in their native costume, ca. 1900. It has been slightly cleaned by BibliOdyssey, from which I have taken it; on that site several more examples are presented.

The manuscript comes from the South East Asia Digital Library at the Northern Illinois University Libraries, Special Collections. The paintings are charming in themselves, and also provide a valuable ethnological record.

BibliOdyssey notes “The 60th anniversary since Burma achieved independence from Britain passed by on 4 January 2008. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal to celebrate.”

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Jades analysis indicates lively ancient sea trade

10 December, 2007 (05:00) | ancient, ceramics/metal/stone, china, southeast asia | By: xensen

ancient feng tian jade

A Reuters story by Tan Ee Lyn reports on an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to the report, an international team of scientists performed X-ray spectrometer analysis of 144 jade ornaments in museums in southeast Asia. The jades were thought to date from 3000 BCE to 500 CE. The analysis determined that at least 116 of the jades were made from stone that originated in Fengtian in eastern Taiwan. Fengtian jade is typically a translucent green mottled with dark spots.

The article quotes lead researcher Hung Hsiao-chun, who noted that one of the Fengtian jades found in the Philippines dates to 2000 BCE:

There was a very huge workshop in Fengtian, dating back to 3,000 BC. Before, researchers thought all the jade in the Philippines was from China or Vietnam. With our analysis … we found that most of the ornamental jade in the Philippines was from Taiwan…. Their seafaring methods must have been very superior, even back then.

Shown is an ancient Fengtian nephrite earring unearthed in the Philippines. The image is from ABC News in Science, where the source is listed as PNAS/Yoshiyuki Iizuka.

Prajnaparamita

5 December, 2007 (05:00) | medieval, sculpture, southeast asia | By: xensen

prajnaparamita of java

Yestersay I attended a lecture by Natasha Reichle, the Asian Art Museum’s associate curator of southeast Asian art, on the subject of this beautiful 13th-century stone sculpture from Singhasari, East Java. Prajnaparamita is a term meaning wisdom or learning, one might almost say scholarship. The goddess is the embodiment of of transcendental wisdom.

The sculpture is nearly symmetrical, except for the lotus at the right in the image, which holds a book of sutras, and the hands in the center, which are in the form of the gesture of “wheel-turning,” that is, the turning of the wheel of the dharma, representing the Buddha’s teachings.

Most Javanese view the sculpture as a representation not of Prajnaparamita but of Ken Dedes, the beautiful woman who gave birth to the fateful Singhasari (1222–1292) and Majapahit (1293–1500) dynasties.

Monks with Traits of a Crow

28 November, 2007 (05:00) | contemporary, paintings, southeast asia | By: xensen

monks with traits of a crowThis painting by Anupong Chanthorn (sorry I haven’t been able to find a higher-resolution image) has caused quite a stir in Thailand. Entitled Bhikku Sandan Ka (Monks with Traits of a Crow), it suggests immoral behavior (avarice, it would seem) among some of Thailand’s Buddhist monks. The title comes from a phrase attributed to the Buddha to describe a kind of immorality.

When the painting was awarded a prize and an annual art exhibition in Bangkok, some monks staged a protest. Led by Satian Wibhroma, a member of a Buddhist group known as the People’s Network to Protect the Nation, Religion and the Monarchy, they accused the painter of insulting Thai monks. They asked Silpakorn University to revoke the prizes awarded to Anupong, which the university refused. The story is told in Asia Times Online.

An editorial in Thailand’s The Nation asserts that

People who consider themselves good Buddhists, who really care about their religion, should thank artist Anupong Chanthorn for creating a pair of award-winning paintings that honestly reflect the precipitous decline of Buddhism in this country.

Buddhist temples used to be centres of learning, and monks were the guardians of our cultural heritage, but many temples have turned into dens of iniquity. The failure to reform Buddhism and keep it up to date with the drastic social and economic changes has not only resulted in the religion’s diminished influence as a force for good but also contributed to corruption and social decay. Thai society needs more artists and lay Buddhists like Anupong, who care enough about Buddhism to criticise, to satirise, to put pressure on the monastic order to reform. These people deserve praise, not condemnation.

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Faces

23 November, 2007 (19:10) | literature/performance/film/music, southeast asia | By: xensen