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New issue of SEALG Newsletter published

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The latest issue of the SEALG Newsletter has been published recently and can now be downloaded from our group’s homepage at http://www.sealg.org/pdf/newsletter2020.pdf. Please feel free to circulate the link to anyone you think may be interested in reading the newsletter, which is an open-access publication freely available to anyone.

Contents of the newsletter include:

  • Researchers’ archives on the ODSAS platform: examples from Vietnam and Burma by Louise Pichard-Bertaux 
  • The Malay Studies Library, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Awang Azman Awang Pawi and Haslan Bin Tamjehi
  • Celebrating 50 years of excellence: Southeast Asia scholarship and stewardship at Berkeley, 1970-2020 by Virginia Shih 
  • The Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project by Annabel Teh Gallop 
  • Place names and descriptions of local landscapes recorded in the colophons of Shan Buddhist manuscripts by Jotika Khur-Yearn 
  • Textile book covers in the Shan manuscript tradition by Jana Igunma

Previous issues of the Newsletter that were published in electronic format are also available on the SEALG homepage.

(Jana Igunma)

The Lao Recitation YouTube channel of the National Library of Laos

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The Lao Recitation YouTube channel of the National Library of Laos recently went online, containing over 100 hours of traditional recitation and interviews with reciters. All recordings will also be available in the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts, where some are readings of manuscripts and can be listened to while viewing images of the texts. This will greatly assist in the study of the texts and in learning to read the more complex scripts which are restricted to manuscript use and typically unreadable without training. The channel is also an excellent learning resource for Lao monks and novices who are training in the recitation of texts. More recordings will be added over the coming months. The project was kindly supported by the German Embassy, Vientiane. The project team comprised David Wharton, Bounchan Phanthavong, Bouasy Sypaseuth, and Nouphath Keosaphang.

Image of a Lao palm-leaf manuscript on the cover page of the Lao Recitation YouTube channel. With permission of David Wharton, National Library of Laos.

Among the high-quality recitations is the complete ‘Lam Phavet‘ by Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang from Ban Pak Thang, Vientiane Capital. This Lao version of the Vessantara Jataka is the most popular of the Buddha’s Birth Tales (Jataka) not only in Laos, but across mainland Southeast Asia. The recitation in a variety of styles is in seventeen parts, and lasts over 11 hours. Separate sections of this same recitation are found under ‘Thet Mahasat‘ given by various monks in Luang Prabang: Sathu Nyai One Keo Kitthiphatho from Vat Pa Pha O, Sathu Chanthalinh Chinnathammo from Vat Phou Khouai, Sathu Bouavanh Pounyasalo from Vat Senesoukaham, Sathu Bouaphanh Phanthasalo from Vat Ban Sing, and Pha Sombath Sampanno from Vat Siphutthabat Thipphalam.

Another popular Buddhist text that can be found on the channel is ‘Nemilat‘, the Lao version of the Nemi Jataka, which is one of the Last Ten Birth Tales of the Buddha. It is well-known for its graphic descriptions of the Buddhist heavens and hells. Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang from Ban Pak Thang, Vientiane, recites this text in Vientiane style, and the duration of the ten parts of this text is about three hours.

Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang also presents a recitation in Vientiane style of the famous story ‘Sang Sinsai‘, a versified epic of the Lao of national significance which is also a much loved theme for theatre and dance performances. The recitation of fifteen parts has a duration of over six hours.

Kampha Kai Kaeo‘ is the title of another popular story in which the role of the hero, an orphaned boy, is similar to a Bodhisattva, or Buddha-to-be. This text in fifteen parts is recited by Achan Nouphath Keosaphang from Ban Sidamduan, Vientiane. This recitation from a manuscript in the Digital Library of Lao Manuscripts in hoi kaeo hoi kong style lasts over 3 hours.

Apart from Buddhist texts and folk stories there are also recitations of traditional ritual texts known as ‘Kham Su Khuan‘ (“calling the life essence”). The idea of khuan – the life essences of persons, animals, plants or objects – is a central element in Lao pre-Buddhist belief, and Su Khuan rituals are carried out on numerous occasions like weddings, well-wishing to new mothers (one month after giving birth) and of children, to support treatment of illness, blessing of a new house, well-wishing to new novice monks, blessing of rice, cows, buffalos etc. Following an introductory talk by Achan Maha Bounteum Sibounheuang, there are several recitations of ‘Kham Su Khuan’ in thamnong hai thammada style, lasting about two hours.

More recordings will be added shortly, including a complete reading of the epic poem Champa Si Ton by Achan Phouvong Soukchalern (Chan Kop) from a palm-leaf manuscript at the National Library of Laos, lasting over 25 hours. Several Lao-language video interviews with reciters will also provide additional context to the collection.

(Report by David Wharton and Jana Igunma)

Recitation at Boun Phavet festival, Vat That Luang, Luang Prabang, October 2020. With permission of David Wharton, National Library of Laos.

Asia – Pacific: Research Routes

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Exhibition on Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the Maison Asie-Pacifique in Marseille, December 9 to 19, 2019 – Now Virtual

Organized by the Maison Asie-Pacifique in Marseille, to celebrate its 20th anniversary, and on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the CNRS (the French National Centre for Scientific Research), the exhibition “Asia – Pacific: Research Routes” pays tribute to the research work carried out from India to Easter Island by members of the Institut de recherches asiatiques (IrAsia) laboratories and Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur l’Océanie (CREDO), and highlights the very specific and complementary skills of all research assistance professions at Maison Asie-Pacifique. By reflecting on themes developed by the IrAsia laboratories with regard to the different regions of Asia and the Pacific – history, anthropology, the study and translation of Asian literatures, etc. – the exhibition offers a closer look at the activities of the Maison Asie-Pacifique. Resulting from this collaborative endeavor involving the pooling of knowledge and know-how of all participants, the exhibition invites you to travel (virtually), to explore and to learn about the work of others.

The contribution of the head librarian of the Asia library at the Maison Asie-Pacifique consisted in the collective development of the exhibition, in supporting researchers on Asia according to their research areas, in the production of the various thematic posters (choice of themes, proofreading and corrections) as well as a summary of thematic bibliographies.

Posters concerning South East Asia in the exhibition:

  • The Irrawaddy, birthplace and fulcrum of Burma [L’Irrawaddy, berceau et pivot de la Birmanie]
  • City and literature in Thailand [Ville et littérature en Thaïlande]
  • Pencak and Silat: Malayo-Indonesian martial arts [Pencak et Silat : les arts martiaux malayo-indonésiens]
  • Transmission of shamanic knowledge among the Lebbo’ of East Kalimantan, Indonesia [Transmission du savoir chamanique chez les Lebbo’ de Kalimantan Est, Indonésie]
  • The petroglyphs of Sapa, Lào province, Vietnam [Les pétroglyphes de Sapa, province de Lào, Viêt Nam]
  • Ethnic tourism on Chinese borders [Tourisme ethnique aux frontières chinoises]
  • Cosmopolitanism: migration dynamics in Southeast Asia [Cosmopolitisme : dynamiques migratoires en Asie du Sud-Est]
  • Migration in Southeast Asia: growth and feminization [Les migrations en Asie du Sud-Est : essor et féminisation]
  • Vietnam, land of migrants [Le Vietnam, terre de migrants]

Southeast Asia is not the only region represented in this exhibition. Altogether 51 posters (with text in French language) expose a variety of exciting themes from across Asia. While the physical exhibition was open for only a short period in December 2019, it can now be viewed online to make it accessible to a wider audience, especially at a time when travelling is very restricted due to the corona virus pandemic.

(Report by Christophe Caudron, Maison Asie-Pacifique, Marseille)

Website of the virtual exhibition Asia – Pacific: Research Routes

New Thematic Portal online: The Southeast Asia Collection of Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin

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With over 100,000 volumes, the Southeast Asia Collection of Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin is the most extensive collection of its kind in Germany and one of the most important Southeast Asia collections worldwide. The collection includes publications from all eleven Southeast Asian countries. In addition to a wide range of western language literature on these countries, extensive holdings of original-language literature and more than 2,000 Southeast Asian manuscripts are particularly noteworthy. 

The new thematic portal on the Southeast Asia collection provides an overview of the collection and allows an initial search of the collection, particularly of its modern part. Users are invited to search the online catalogue of the Staatsbibliothek and to explore further services of the “Specialised Information Service Asia” (FID Asia) and its portal CrossAsia

(Reported by Claudia Götze-Sam, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin)

Conference Announcement: EuroSEAS 2021

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The European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) will hold its 11th conference at the Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic from 7-10 September 2021.

EuroSEAS invites scholars and PhD students from all academic disciplines with an interest in Southeast Asia to submit panels that explore relevant research topics from an interdisciplinary perspective as well as discuss theoretical and methodological aspects of research generated in the field of Southeast Asian Studies.

Proposals are also invited for a limited number of roundtable discussions about recent developments in Southeast Asia; for a limited number of laboratories that would develop cross-disciplinary collaboration; and for screenings with academic discussion of documentaries or artistic movies on various topics from Southeast Asia.

Due to a limit on the number of participants (aprox. 400) during the 2021 EuroSEAS conference in Olomouc, the organizing committee will favour (but not limit its selection to) panels, roundtables and laboratories on language, literature, performing arts, postcolonial studies, and archaeology/material culture – fields that were underrepresented in previous conferences.

EuroSEAS and the Organising Committee will have to follow international, national and local regulations related to Covid19. In case a physical conference is not possible, the board would do its best to facilitate and organize an on-line EuroSEAS conference or series of activities.

Find out more detailed information from the EuroSEAS conference website.

The Palacký University Information Centre, known as the Armoury, in Olomouc.
Photograph by Michal Maňas. CC BY 4.0

Open-access resources on palm leaf conservation

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In the past decade we have seen an increasing number of projects to preserve and to digitize palm leaf manuscripts, especially in countries that historically have a strong palm leaf manuscript tradition. Hand in hand with digitization go registration and cataloguing of the manuscripts, as well as conservation treatment to restore damaged palm leaves and to preserve the original physical manuscripts for future generations alongside the digital images. The conservation of palm leaves is becoming increasingly important as large numbers of palm leaf manuscripts have been discovered in Buddhist temples and private collections in South and Southeast Asia. But also in library and museum collections in the West palm leaf manuscripts that need urgent conservation treatment have come to light. Whereas most library and museum conservators will have access to specialist and academic publications on the conservation of palm leaves, people who work with palm leaf manuscripts and those with a general interest in this material will find open-access resources on this topic useful.

Burmese Buddhist cosmology incised on palm leaves, 19th century.
British Library, Or 15283

A decade ago we published in our very own SEALG Newsletter an article with “Workshop Notes on the Conservation and Stabilization of Palm Leaf Manuscripts” by David Jacobs (SEALG Newsletter 2010). The former British Library conservator describes in the first part how palm leaf manuscripts are made. He then discusses preservation and conservation problems before presenting his experiences with British Library conservation treatments of palm leaves in more detail.

P. Perumal, former conservator at Sarasvti Mahal Library, Thanjavur, discusses in a blog on “Preventive conservation of palm leaf manuscripts” (2013) various factors that contribute to the deterioration of palm leaves. The article highlights the importance and methods of preventive conservation, including indigenous methods of pest management.

An informative short documentary film “Preserving Khmer Manuscript” (2014) was produced in connection with a project of the EFEO-FEMC for the preservation of Khmer manuscripts in Cambodia. It is estimated that only about 2% of the Cambodian literature heritage survived the destruction in the 1970s. The film (in Khmer language with English subtitles) looks at how Khmer palm leaf manuscripts were rediscovered, catalogued, scanned and restored.

The Preservation Lab reports about the examination, preservation and finding a suitable boxing solution for a “Nineteenth Century Buddhist Religious Treatise” (2016) from Burma. In this specific case, a physical surrogate was created for educational purposes to reduce the frequency of handling of the original manuscript. Both the manuscript and the surrogate were then stored in separate custom-made boxes.

An article published by the John Rylands Library looks at “Preserving Palm Leaf – A Sacred Manuscript Tradition” (August 2020) by highlighting some examples from their palm leaf manuscript collection and how they were created. Suggestions for the preservation of these precious manuscripts include storage in a climate controlled environment in acid-free enclosures, respecting the signs of wear, dirt and staining from oil and candles as evidence of their historical use, and minimal intervention to make manuscripts safe for handling, exhibition, digitisation and research while preserving their intangible value as sacred Buddhist objects.

The British Library’s conservation team reported about an interesting experiment to use leaf-casting for the conservation of heavily damaged palm leaves. The article “Magic in Conservation – using leaf-casting on paper and palm leaves” (October 2017) by Iwona Jurkiewicz describes in detail how the method of leaf-casting, which is mostly used in paper conservation, was applied successfully to repair a fragile Tamil manuscript.

Julia Poirier, Book and Paper Conservator at the Chester Beatty Library, writes in her article “Delaminating and fraying fibres: developing an advanced treatment approach for the conservation of a 12th century palm leaf manuscript” (March 2020) about the conservation work carried out on a very rare and fragile Buddhist palm leaf manuscript in Sanskrit language from West Bengal. Of particular interest is her description of a newly developed method to treat delamination of palm leaves.

Doriscat13
Fragment of the Buginese La Galigo epos on scrolled palm leaf (late 19th or early 20th century) . The strokes of palm leaves are sewn together to form one long stroke. Cod.Or. 5475. Image: Courtesy of Leiden University Libraries and KITLV collections

Particularly challenging is the conservation of rolled palm leaf manuscripts because even opening them without damage can be very difficult. The article “Conservation and digitisation of rolled palm leaf manuscripts in Nepal” (2005) by Naoko Takagi, Yoriko Chudo and Reiko Maeda provides details of the conservation, digitisation and safe storage in custom-made archival boxes of 400 rolled palm leaf manuscripts with clay seals housed at the Asa Archives in Kathmandu.

An article in the International Academic Forum’s Journal of Literature and Librarianship on the “Sustainable Preservation of Lanna Palm Leaf Manuscripts Based on Community Participation” (July 2020) written by Piyapat Jarusawat highlights a problem that many temple libraries in Buddhist countries face: the large numbers of palm leaf bundles in these collections, often thousands or even tens of thousands, require a different approach towards conservation which does not rely on a small team of manuscript conservation professionals. The author examines the traditional method of involving Buddhist lay communities in the preservation and conservation of manuscripts.

A talk by Ignatius Payyappilly on “Palm-leaf Manuscripts: The Legacy of Traditional Preservation and Conservation” given at Hamburg University (recorded August 2018) presents traditional methods of palm leaf preservation, including adequate storage, cleaning and oiling, repairing damaged palm leaves, use of natural insect repellents, fungicides and protective cloths and manuscript boxes.

The conservation of birch bark presents similar challenges as that of palm leaf. British Library conservator Elisabeth Randell explains in her article “The Mahārnava, Conservation of a 19th Century Birch Bark Manuscript“(May 2020) how a fragile birch bark manuscript from Kashmir was treated, focusing on how delaminated layers of bark, large tears and cracks were repaired.

For a more in-depth study of palm leaf conservation “A Selective Review of Scholarly Communications on Palm Leaf Manuscripts” (2016) by Jyotshna Sahoo is particularly useful. It encompasses a selective range of researches on palm leaf manuscripts published in academic journals, conference proceedings, commemorated volumes, reports of different projects and case studies that have appeared during a period coverage starting from 1947 to 2013. The literature reviewed is organized into five related themes: Antiquities, types and nature of manuscripts – Process of seasoning and writing over manuscripts – Factors of deterioration, preservation and conservation – Cataloguing, metadata standards and subject access to Manuscripts – Digitization of manuscripts.

Last but not least the Palm Leaf Wiki offers a “Bibliography on palm leaf preservation and conservation” which lists publications up to the year 2014.

Community participation in the preservation of palm leaf manuscripts (wrapping manuscripts with protective cloth) at Wat Sungmen in Phrae, Thailand, 2020. Photo credit: Wat Sungmen Manuscript Temple

 

International Conference on Thai-Tai Language and Culture, 20 July 2020

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The 2020 Chulalongkorn Asian Heritage Forum invites to an international online conference on the theme Thai-Tai Language and Culture in commemoration of Prof. Dr. Khun Banchob Bandhumedha on her 100th Birthday Anniversary.

Thai-Tai conference 20-07-2020

The conference has three parallel panel sessions which will be streamed live online via the panel session links below. Each session starts at 13:45 Bangkok local time and ends at 16:15 Bangkok local time. The time schedule for the presentations is as follows:

PARALLEL SESSION I (Presentations will be given in Thai):
Thai Language and Culture. 
Moderator: Prapaipun Phingchim

13.45-14.15
The Journey of the “Conjunction” in Thai Language
Debi Jaratjarungkiat (Chulalongkorn University)

14.15-14.45
The Thai Notion of Self-construal and Some Linguistic Evidence
Natthaporn Panpothong, Siriporn Phakdeephasook (Chulalongkorn University)

15.15-15.45
The Grammaticalisational Relationship Between Comitatives and Instrumentals in Thai: A Diachronic Typological Perspective
Vipas Pothipath (Chulalongkorn University)

15.45-16.15
Distinctions in the Linguistic Encoding of Caused Separation in Thai
Nitipong Pichetpan (University of Sydney and Thammasat University)

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PARALLEL SESSION II (Presentations will be given in Thai):
Thai-Tai Folklore
Moderator: Arthid Sheravanichkul

13.45-14.15
The Telling of Tai Folktales by Professor Dr. Khun Banchob Bandhumedha in Satri San
Poramin Jaruworn (Chulalongkorn University)

14.15-14.45
The Tai Women: Representations in Myths and Rituals of Tai People in Central Mekong Basin Communities
Pathom Hongsuwan (Mahasarakham University)

15.15-15.45
The Route to Heaven: Cosmology and World Narratives of Tai Dam from Funeral Manuscripts
Pichet Saiphan (Thammasat University)

15.45-16.15
“Roots of the Tai” in “Thailand’s Songkran Tradition”: Tai Cultural Inheritance and Creativity in Thai Society
Aphilak Kasempholkoon (Mahidol University)

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PARALLEL SESSION III (Presentations will be given in English):
Tai Languages
Moderator: Nattanun Chanchaochai

13.45-14.15
Constituent Order in Tai Khamti: New Data from Myanmar
Rikker Dockum (Swarthmore College)

14.15-14.45
Lanna Tai of the 16th Century as Attested from Chinese Source
Shinnakrit Tangsiriwattanakul (Chulalongkorn University)

15.15-15.45
Proto-Shan, Old Shan and the Making of Ahom Writing System
Pittayawat Pittayaporn (Chulalongkorn University)

15.45-16.15
Analysing Phonological Variation in Tai Khuen
Wyn Owen (Payap University)

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Dr. Banchob Bandhumedha was a female academic who devoted all her life to the research and teaching of Thai language in and outside of Thailand. Born on April 9th, 1920 in Tambon Baan Moh, Amphur PhraNakorn, Pra Nakorn province, she was the seventh of eleven children. She passed away on 21st March 1992 at the age of 72.

She graduated with a Master’s of Arts degree from Chulalongkorn University in 1944, and later received a scholarship from the Indian government to pursue a PhD degree in philology from Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi, India. Dr. Banchob followed in the footsteps of her father who was also a teacher. She spent her whole life teaching, researching, and writing books to share her knowledge. Her teaching career began at Satri Wat Rakhang School, after which she went on to teach at Amnuay Silpa School, Secondary Teacher Training School, and Chandrakasem Teacher College. Her last teaching job was as a part-time teacher in the Department of the Thai Language, Ramkhamhaeng University, teaching Thai and foreign languages in the Thai language program. Dr. Banchob received an honorary doctorate degree in Thai language from the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University, an honorary doctor of philosophy degree in Thai language from Ramkhamhaeng University, a Golden Prakeaw Award from Chulalongkorn University for promulgating knowledge of the Thai language in 1986, and the Outstanding Researcher Award in Philosophy from the National Research Council of Thailand in 1987.

Dr. Banchob had a keen interest in the study of Thai dialects and foreign influences in Thai language. She wrote three textbooks on Thai language namely “Laksana Phasa Thai”, “Pali and Sanskrit languages in the Thai language” and “Foreign languages in the Thai language”, which is considered one of the finest Thai language textbooks. Her research and analysis of Thai language in relation to Tai languages in and outside Thailand, as well as other foreign languages, has been praised as being accurate, based on credible evidence and beneficial to the Thai language studies.

Remembering the black African heroes of World War II in Burma

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World War II ended 75 years ago. This was commemorated in numerous events, speeches, ceremonies, writings, interviews and film documentations during the past weeks. However, not much has been done to remember black Africans who served in the Allied Forces in Burma. Their names and their sacrifices have been absent from the combat narratives of World War II, and primary sources to find out about these heroes are limited and not easy to find and to access. Most of these servicemen are no longer alive, and there are no statues, monuments or street names to remember their names.

 

81st West African Division

Soldiers of the 81st Division Recce Regiment in Burma, c. 1944. © IWM IND 7049

As a result, Southeast Asian historians still struggle to acknowledge the African involvement in Burma during the last three years of World War II, although the African divisions played an important role in the battle against the Japanese forces, most especially in the capture of Myohaung, the ancient capital of Arakan. The British colonial possession of Burma was a rich prize for the Japanese – partly on account of its natural resources, partly as a stepping stone westward to India, and partly as a buffer against the Chinese in the North and Northeast. Japanese troops had reached Burma in December 1941, and had consolidated their position there by the end of 1942. Recapturing the country would take the Allies’ 14th Army, which had nearly one million men in its service, three years of desperate fighting. Thirteen divisions were under control of the 14th Army: eight Indian Divisions, two West African Divisions, two British Divisions, and one East African Division. Little of this is commonly known today, let alone discussed in history lessons and textbooks.

A few publications, however, stand out of the sea of silence.

In his 2001 academic publication “War Bush. 81 (West African) Division in Burma 1943-1945” (Norwich: Michael Russel) John A. L. Hamilton gives a detailed account of events of the war in Burma, but focuses on the involvement of  the 8lst (West African) Division of the 14th Army, which was made up of about 23,000 West Africans from Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and the Gold Coast, who joined the Allied Forces as volunteers. Hamilton’s research is mainly based on records and personal notes of the British involved in the war in Burma. A few memories of the Africans were investigated, too, but the Burmese view itself is missing completely. Some poems by African soldiers have been included to give an impression of the precarious atmosphere in the jungle.

War Bush Hamilton

Hamilton criticises that in the British annals of the Burma campaign much emphasis is put on the Indian Divisions, but the efforts and successes of the West African troops are either completely ignored or underrated.  Not only does Hamilton’s work provide very detailed information on the involvement of Africans in the Burma campaign and many facts concerning the movements and the battles, it also describes the natural environment and aspects of everyday life of the African soldiers, their experiences in the jungle and in villages, their anxieties, and their relationship with their European (mostly British and Polish) officers. A ten page bibliography lists the primary sources analysed by the author, and gives important bibliographical data for further reading and research. As such it is a valuable source for further investigation.

Nearly a decade after the publication of Hamilton’s book, the journalist and film-maker Barnaby Phillips located a rare treasure in the library of the Imperial War Museum in London: Isaac Fadoyebo’s memoir “A Stroke of Unbelievable Luck” (Madison: University of Wisconsin African Studies Centre, 1999). Nigerian Fadoyebo enlisted in the Army in January 1942, aged 16. Once in Burma, he was assigned the job of medical orderly but found himself thrust into active combat in March 1944. After he was seriously injured and spent a precarious time the jungle, a Muslim family in Burma provided support and concealed him and a friend from Japanese patrols. After the war Fadoyebo suffered from impaired mobility due to the wounds he received in Burma, but later recovered and he went on to work in the civil service back home in Nigeria. He was fortunate to find work – many servicemen who returned from Burma struggled to find work and to cope with the trauma of their experiences in the war. Fadoyebo’s memoir offers a unique record of one African soldier’s war service in Burma and tells the story of how he relied on the kindness of a Muslim Rohingya family to survive. Barnaby Phillips’ interview of Fadoyebo resulted in a TV documentary with the title “The Burma Boy” which was published in 2012, not long before Fadoyebo’s death in 2013.

Another Mans War

Fadoyebo’s story is also included in Stephen Bourne’s “The Motherland Calls. Britain’s Black Servicemen and Women 1939-45” (Stroud: The History Press, 2012), alongside other black service personnel who joined the Allied Forces like Ulric Cross (Trinidad), Cy Grant (Guyana), Billy Strachan and Sam King (Jamaica), Peter Thomas (Nigeria), Johnny Smythe (Sierra Leone), ‘Joe’ Moody, Lilian Bader and Ramsay Bader (Britain), Connie Mark and Allan Wilmot (Jamaica). Fadoyebo’s account is also the main subject of Barnaby Phillips’ debut book “Another Man’s War: The Story of a Burma Boy in Britain’s Forgotten African Army” (London: Oneworld Publications, 2014). Despite Fadoyebo’s fame as the subject of a TV documentary and two popular books by white authors, his memoir “A Stroke of Unbelievable Luck” is barely known and has remained out of print for many years since its publication in 1999.

Nigerian-born playwright, filmmaker and novelist Biyi Bandele gives a voice to the thousands of Africans who fought in Burma – including Bandele’s own father – who have not been properly memorialised until today. In his novel “Burma Boy” (London: Random House, 2007) he tells the story of the main character, Ali Banana, a fourteen-year old Nigerian blacksmith apprentice who finds himself behind enemy lines in the jungle in Burma, a dangerous place riddled with Japanese snipers, ambush, infection and disease. And most of all, leeches. In the end, it is the jungle that lays bare the truth that black and white are not different after all: all capable of courage, cowardice, compassion, selfishness, intelligence and mindlessness, all human. The brutality and privation of fighting in Burma was a leveller of hierarchy. Bandele’s tragicomic novel is a story of real-life battles, of the violence, the madness and the sacrifice of World War II’s most vicious battleground. Biyi Bandele was named one of the fifty Best African Artists in The Independent in 2006.

Burma Boy Bandele

Report by Jana Igunma

DREAMSEA: A programme to digitise Southeast Asian manuscripts and to safeguard cultural diversity

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DREAMSEA stands for Digital Repository of Endangered and Affected Manuscripts in Southeast Asia, which is a Programme that strives to preserve the content of manuscripts in the entire region of Southeast Asia by way of digitisation, and to make this content fully and openly accessible online. The Programme is carried out by the Center for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta State Islamic University (UIN) Jakarta, Indonesia, in cooperation with the Centre for the Study of Manuscripts Culture (CSMC), University of Hamburg, Germany. The digital repository is presented in collaboration with the Hill Museum and Manuscripts Library. The Programme is supported by Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, based in the UK.

Southeast Asia is a region with a high rate of cultural diversity. Since the aim of this Programme is to safeguard this diversity, it accommodates manuscripts written in any script and field of study as long as the manuscripts originate from Southeast Asia. The basic principle in the DREAMSEA Programme is to preserve Southeast Asian manuscripts that are under threat to be damaged or lost (endangered manuscripts), and whose condition already may have been affected by natural/environmental conditions or socio-political circumstances in Southeast Asia (affected manuscripts).

Although the Programme was only initiated in 2017, thousands of manuscript pages have already been digitised and made freely available online. In the first stage, high resolution images of 593 manuscripts containing 20,129 pages have been made available along with the metadata. They originate from three different collections: the legacy of the Kingdom of Buton in Baubau (Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia), the collections of a Muslim community in Kuningan (West Java, Indonesia), and the collection of manuscripts of Buddhist monks in Luang Prabang (Laos). In 2018-2019, DREAMSEA executed fifteen digitisation missions  and managed to safe the contents of 57 collections in eighteen cities in Indonesia, Laos and Thailand. Up to now, around 119,000 manuscript pages have been digitised and subsequently these will be made available to the public in the Programme’s  Repository, which offers search options by country, city/province, collection, project number, title, subject matter, author, language, writing support, and script. Both the quality and quantity of metadata provided for the digitised manuscripts deserve much praise, especially the often very detailed content descriptions and translations of colophons which are extremely useful for carrying out further research.

In addition, the Programme has opened its own Youtube channel of DREAMSEA Manuscripts on which short films document the work that has been carried out to digitise and preserve manuscripts in Indonesia and Laos.

Dreamsea

(Information provided by DREAMSEA)

Southeast Asia in historical photographs: Vietnam

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The National Overseas Archives in Aix-en-Provence (ANOM) have opened up to the public an ever growing online database called Base Ulysse, thereby making a variety of digitised materials from the Archives and their library available for research. Begun in 2002, this database currently makes available well over 45,000 individual photographs, albums, postcards, posters, drawings and maps.

These materials document on one side the history of the French colonial empire in general, but on the other side they are a rich source for the study of the cultures, traditions and everyday life in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in historical perspective. The materials mainly originate from public records (state secretariats and departments that managed French colonial territories from the seventeenth century until the mid-twentieth century, general government offices, etc.) and private archives, but also from donations, purchases, and bequests.

The digital collection contains over 3000 photographs from Vietnam which include 1935 images related to Tonkin, 886 images related to Cochin-China, 615 images related to Annam, and 463 images categorized under Vietnam. Most of these images are photographs from the first half of the twentieth century, but the oldest images date back to the 1880s. Interestingly, they do not only document the French colonial influence in Vietnam, but also Vietnamese traditions, ceremonies and everyday life. In addition, the cultures of ethnic minorities and religious communities in Vietnam are depicted in these photographs. The Cao Dai religion, Buddhism and Islam and their rituals are well presented in this collection, as well as the cultural traditions of the Thai ethnic groups in north Vietnam, the Cham in south Vietnam and the Chinese in Saigon, Hanoi and other large cities. Some of the images document how these photographs were taken by French colonial officers and photographers.

Some examples that illustrate the wide range of topics covered by the collection of photographs from Vietnam are presented below. All images were sourced from the Base Ulysse.

Tonkin Hanoi street view 1897-98

Street view in Hanoi, Tonkin, c.1897-8

Tonkin Vietnamese woman 1884-85

Studio photograph of a Vietnamese woman in traditional costume, Tonkin, c.1884-5

Tonkin group of dancers 1892-96

A group of Vietnamese dancers, Tonkin, c.1892-96

Tonkin orchestra 1884-85

Traditional Vietnamese orchestra, Tonkin, c.1884-5

Tonkin Buddhist nun and novice 1919-26

Buddhist nun and novice, Tonkin, c.1919-26

Tonkin land surveyors 1884-85

Land surveyors with traditional measuring instruments, Tonkin, c.1884-5

Tonkin Hanoi two young Chinese men 1894-85

Studio photograph of two young Chinese men, Hanoi, Tonkin, 1884-5

Tonkin Thai ethnic group 1895-99

Members of the Thai ethnic group, Tonkin, c.1895-9

Annam royal ceremony at royal palace in Hue 1919-26

Ceremony at the royal palace, Hue, Annam, c.1919-26

Annam mandarin 1884-85

Studio photograph of a Mandarin, Annam, c.1884-5

Annam colonial photography taking photos of Moi ethnic group at Djiring by Rene Tetart 1919-26

Colonial photographer taking pictures of ethnic minority men at work, Annam, c.1919-26

Cochinchina maritime fishery at Cau Gio 1921-35

Maritime fishery near Cau Gio, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

Cochinchina Cham fishermen in the Mekong Delta 1921-35

Cham fishermen in the Mekong Delta, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

Cochinchina traditional art school at Lai Thieu 1919-26

Traditional art school at Lai Thieu, Cochin-China, c.1919-26

Cochinchina theatre stage at the pagoda of Hocmon 1921-35

Theatre stage at the pagoda in Hoc Mon, Saigon, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

Cochinchina Beng Angsa Khmer Buddhist pagoda 1930-54

Khmer Buddhist temple Soctrang at Beng Angsa, Cochin-China, c.1930-54

Cochinchina Buddhist monks on alms round 1921-35

Buddhist monks and novices on alms round, Cochin-China, c.1921-35

Cochinchina Mosque at Threa with worshippers 1930-54

Mosque at Threa with teachers and students, Cochin-China, c.1930-54

 

 

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