Home

New book on “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution”

Leave a comment

A new book that is of special interest to curators, archivists and researchers working with Southeast Asian collections has just been published by National University of Singapore Press, in collaboration with the SOAS Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (University of London), with the title “Returning Southeast Asia’s Past: Objects, Museums, and Restitution” (ISBN 978-981-325-124-3). Edited by Louise Tythacott (Woon Tai Jee Professor of Asian Art, Northumbria University) and Panggah Ardiyansyah (SOAS, University of London), the book contains contributions from Gabrielle Abbe, Jos van Beurden, Socheat Chea, John Clarke, Charlotte Galloway, Chanraksmey Muong, Duyen Nguyen, Phacharaphorn Phanomvan, Melody Rod-ari, Wieske Octaviani Sapardan.

The publisher’s announcement of the new book highlights that “The last 150 years has seen extensive looting and illicit trafficking of Southeast Asia’s cultural heritage. Art objects from the region were distributed to museums and private collections around the world. But in the 21st century, power relations are shifting, a new awareness is growing, and new questions are emerging about the representation and ownership of Southeast Asian cultural material located in the West.

This book is a timely consideration of object restitution and related issues across Southeast Asia, bringing together different viewpoints including from museum professionals and scholars in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia – as well as Europe, North America and Australia. The objects themselves are at the centre of most narratives – from Khmer art to the Mandalay regalia (repatriated in 1964), Ban Chiang archaeological material and the paintings of Raden Saleh. Legal, cultural, political and diplomatic issues involved in the restitution process are considered in many of the chapters; others look at the ways object restitution is integral to evolving narratives of national identity. The book’s editors conclude that restitution processes can transform narratives of loss into opportunities for gain in building knowledge and reconstructing relationships across national borders.” (Source: NUS Press)

The book contains eleven chapters on the following topics:

1. Introduction: Collecting and Returning Southeast Asia’s Past
Part I: Artefact Ownership
2. The Selling of Khmer Artefacts during the Colonial Era: Questioning the Perception of Khmer Heritage through a Study of Traded Khmer Art Pieces (1920s–1940s)
3. The Looting of Koh Ker and the Return of the Prasat Chen Statues
4. Who Owns Ban Chiang? The Discovery, Collection and Repatriation of Ban Chiang Artefacts
Part II: Object Biographies and Colonial Legacies
5. On the Road Back to Mandalay: The Burmese Regalia – Seizure, Display and Return to Myanmar in 1964
6. Bridging the Missing Gaps: The Politics of Display at the Dong Duong Buddhist Art Gallery
7. Restitution and National Heritage: (Art) Historical Trajectories of Raden Saleh’s Paintings
8. Returns by the Netherlands to Indonesia in the 2010s and the 1970s
Part III: Museums, Restitution, and Cultural Identities
9. The Return of Cultural Property and National Identity in Postcolonial Indonesia
10. Plaibat: Reclaiming Heritage, Social Media, and Modern Nationalism
11. Myanmar, Museums, and Repatriation of Cultural Heritage

The publication is available directly from NUS Press or can be pre-ordered from major book-sellers.

New issue of SEALG Newsletter published

Leave a comment

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)

Open-access resources on palm leaf conservation

Leave a comment

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

 

Remembering the black African heroes of World War II in Burma

Leave a comment

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

Stirring and Stilling: Dharma Songs from Cambodia

Leave a comment

Cambodia is one of the few countries with over 90% of their population practicing Buddhism. Since around the 5th century, Khmer people began to follow Mahayana Buddhism, and Theravada Buddhism has been the main religion since the 13th century. The only exception was during the Khmer Rouge period which resulted in the destruction and loss of much of the Buddhist cultural heritage of Cambodia. Therefore, the preservation of the surviving cultural treasures of Cambodia is of utmost urgency.

Among these treasures are Buddhist scriptures, classical Khmer literature, poetry, music, dance and theatre. Cambodian religious music includes chanting of certain Buddhist scriptures in Pali and the recitation of poetry rendered by monks and lay people alike. However, Pali (the sacred language of Theravada Buddhism), is rarely understood by the laity. The recitation of religious poems (smot) occupies a position between chanting and singing. Unlike chanting, poetry recitation may be accompanied by a solo instrument such as a flute or string instrument. The main themes of smot recitation are devotional and educational Buddhist texts and the Buddha’s Birth Tales. These poetic texts are composed entirely in Khmer language, or sometimes mixed with some Pali and Sanskrit phrases, but easily understood.

Phnom Penh pagoda Botum Vodei

Buddhist procession at Wat Botum Watey Reacheveraram in Phnom Penh, c.1919. Source: Base Ulysse, Archives nationales d’outre mer

Great efforts have been made in recent years to preserve Cambodian manuscripts through digitization and conservation. However, the preservation of oral traditions appears more difficult and is paid less attention to. One rare resource that aims to help to preserve and to publicize Buddhist poetry recitations from Cambodia is the website “Dharma Songs” by Trent Walker. Recordings of recitations in Khmer language with translations into English, performed by Trent Walker, are presented. The website offers a chance to learn about—and listen to—the Cambodian Dharma song tradition, smot. Associated with it is a multimedia online book  with the title “Stirring and Stilling: A Liturgy of Cambodian Dharma Songs” that was originally conceived as a printed book accompanied by a set of CDs. However, the text and recordings have been made available online to enable people from around the world to experience and appreciate this special musical tradition.

Dr Trent Walker, a scholar of Southeast Asian Buddhism, developed the resource based on six years of research into Cambodian Dharma songs as both a student and performer of smot himself. His English translations of sixteen Dharma songs are presented in this resource for the first time. Walker also works with Bangsokol, a multi-disciplinary stage production combining music, film, movement and voice.

 

New issue of SEALG Newsletter online

Leave a comment

A new issue of the SEALG Newsletter (2019) has been published and is now available online.

Included in the Newsletter is the report of our group’s Annual Meeting that took place in June 2019 in Leiden. In addition to this detailed report by Marije Plomp, the latest issue of the Newsletter contains the following articles:

  • A brief account of traditional Shan manuscript culture by Chaichuen Khamdaengyodtai
  • Calendars and horoscopes in mainland Southeast Asia by Jana Igunma
  • Two Bugis Manuscripts in the Library of Seminar für Südostasienwissenschaften (FB 9), Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt by Sirtjo Koolhof
  • Exploring Southeast Asia Scholarly Resources in Taiwan by Virginia Shih

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

newsletter2019frontpage

Marhaen: An Indonesian Journal from 1980s West Berlin

Leave a comment

In 2011 the Library of Southeast Asian Studies of Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt acquired the library of the Stiftung Asienhaus (“Foundation Asia House”, then located in Essen, now in Cologne), an association of several German NGOs working on Asia. Among the many uncatalogued materials of this collection we recently found three volumes of a small Indonesian-language leftist journal named Marhaen: Analisa & Berita Bulanan.

Marhaen - Ill 1-page-001 (1)

Marhaen volume 1, front cover

This journal was published in West Berlin and does not have any reference to a particular publisher, thus, it must have been published by the editorial staff themselves. As editors are listed Christin Litan, Sammy Litan, Mohamad Isa and Agus Darmadji. In Frankfurt, the volumes 1-3 of this monthly journal are available. As in volume 3 a fourth volume is announced, one can assume that several further issues have been published  (Waruno Mahdi, personal communication, 11.01.2019). However, there is only one further holding of this journal known to me: The German Berlin-based human rights group Watch Indonesia! keeps the first volumes of Marhaen in their collections (Alex Flor, personal communication, 21.01.2019; Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

There is no publication date found in all existing volumes, but as its contents contain citations from contemporary political magazines (such as Far Eastern Economic Review or Indonesie: Feiten en Meningen) from early 1985 it seems fair to estimate the date of appearance from 1985 onwards.

Marhaen - Ill 2-page-001

Marhaen volume 3, front cover

The last existing issue known to me is volume 6 from 1986, unfortunately not available in the Frankfurt collections (Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja, personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The text is completely written in Indonesian, the available issues consist of 10 pages (vols. 1-2) or 14 pages (vol. 3). Later issues became more voluminous, e.g volume 6 consists of 48 pages. They are among the last breaths of the pre-computer era, as they were type-written. The volumes contain some illustrations like photo-copied photographs or critical cartoons. As the volumes are small it is not surprising the articles and essays are usually very short and often bear the character of an annotation or footnote, in particular in the section “Berita & Ulasan” (“News & Commentaries”).

Not much is known about the editors except for the late Mohamad Isa (1922-2008). He became cultural attaché at the Indonesian Embassy in Prague in 1964 and was removed from this position in 1966. Mohamad Isa could not return to Indonesia after General Soeharto took over power in 1965. In 1967 he therefore moved to East Berlin to escape the harassments of the new representatives of the Indonesian so-called New Order-regime as there was no Indonesian embassy in the German Democratic Republic until 1976. He then worked until 1981 as lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University, until he was replaced by a former Indonesian student from Moscow and lost his work permit as well as his residence permit for the German Democratic Republic for political reasons. After his application for asylum was rejected in the Netherlands he and his family moved to West Berlin. Mohamad Isa’s daughter Reni became lecturer of Indonesian at Humboldt University in Berlin in 1989 (Keller 2014). The other editors are not known. For a good overview of Indonesian (student) activities in Berlin including their publications (but not Marhaen!) from the 1950s until today see Hasyim (2014). Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja thought that they might be of the same generation as Mohamad Isa (personal communication, 04.04.2019).

The title Marhaen indicates the closeness to the Sukarno-style form of socialism Marhaenisme, which the first President of Indonesia Sukarno labeled after a Sundanese peasant named Marhaen whom he had allegedly met in the 1920s (Sukarno 1970: 157, for deeper analysis of Sukarno’s form of socialism see Mintz (1965) and Mortimer (1974)). Thus, it is not very surprising that most of its contents and articles are highly critical towards the dictatorial regime of his successor Soeharto.

Marhaen - Ill 3-page-001 (2)

Example of a type-written page from volume 3 of Marhaen

For example, there is an article on the Roman emperor Caligula, seemingly unfavourably indicating a comparison to the former Indonesian dictator. Another essay is entitled “Betina yang Paling Kaya di Dunia” (“The Richest Woman in the World”), but the Indonesian term betina for ‘femaleness’ is used for animals only and here refers to Soeharto’s wife Siti Hartinah (called ‘Ibu Tien’), widely known for her greediness (Schulze 2015: 164). Other articles discuss contemporary developments in Indonesia such as “1985: Jakarta Bebas dari Becak” (“1985: Jakarta is Trishaw-Free”) or “ABRI lawan ABRI” (“ABRI Fights ABRI”, ABRI is the Indonesian acronym for the Indonesian National Armed Forces). Further essays e.g. are entitled “Moral dan Anti-Moral” (“Moral and Anti-Moral”), “Rasisme terhadap Cina” (“Racism towards the Chinese”), “Suharto di atas Punggung Macan” (“Suharto on the Back of the Tigers”) or “Teori-teori Kaum Penindas” (“Theories of the Suppressors”).

The existing issues of the journal “Marhaen” in Frankfurt are available under the shelf mark “ZS 1082” and can be ordered to be viewed in the reading room at Universitätsbibliothek J.C. Senckenberg.

References:

Hasyim, Syafiq (2014): Challeging a Home Country: A Preliminary Account of Indonesian Student Activism in Berlin. In: ASEAS – Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies 7 (2), 183-198.

Keller, Anett (2014): Ziviler Ungehorsam als Lebensprinzip. In: Südostasien 30 (4), 34-36.

Mintz, Jeanne S. (1965): Mohammed, Marx and Marhaen: The Roots of Indonesian Socialism. London: Pall Mall Press.

Mortimer, Rex (1974): Indonesian Communism under Sukarno: Ideology and Politics 1959-1965. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Schulze, Fritz (2015): Kleine Geschichte Indonesiens: Von den Inselkönigreichen zum modernen Großstaat. München: C.H. Beck.

Sukarno (1970 [1957]): Marhaen, a Symbol of the Power of the Indonesian People. In: Indonesian Political Thinking 1945-1965 (Herbert Feith, Lance Castles, eds.), 154-160. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

 

by Holger Warnk

J.W.Goethe-Universität, Library of Southeast Asian Studies

(Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Alex Flor, Pipit Rochijat Kartawidjaja and Waruno Mahdi for their help and for providing much background information.)

Buddhism Illuminated – A new book on manuscript art from Southeast Asia

Leave a comment

I would like to draw your attention to a new book with the title Buddhism Illuminated – Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia which is a fully illustrated guide to Southeast Asian Buddhist manuscript art based on the British Library collections. Many years of research and digitisation have resulted in this major publication that goes far beyond Buddhist manuscript illustration. The book consists of six chapters covering all aspects of Buddhist manuscript art in mainland Southeast Asia. A brief overview of the contents is below:

  • Introduction: The British Library collections – Some aspects of Buddhism in SEA – The Burmese manuscript tradition – Manuscript production in Khmer and Tai cultures
  • Buddha: The Enlightened One – The names of 28 Buddhas – Previous Lives of the Buddha – The Life of Gotama Buddha – The future Buddha
  • Dhamma: The Righteous Way – The Tipitaka and commentaries – Kammavaca ordination texts
  • Sangha: The Monastic Community – Ordination in Theravada Buddhism – Interaction between the Sangha and the lay community
  • Kamma: Cause and Effect – The thirty-one planes of existence – The sixteen sacred lands of Buddhism
  • Punna: Making Merit in Everyday Life – Royal donations – Death and afterlife – Pagodas and monasteries – The Buddha’s footprints – Monasteries during Buddha’s long ministry – Communal festivals

Buddhism Illuminated – Manuscript Art from Southeast Asia includes over 200 coloured photographs of Buddhist manuscript art from the British Library’s collection, relating each manuscript to Theravada tradition and beliefs, and introducing the historical, artistic, and religious contexts of their production. It is the first book in English to showcase the beauty and variety of Buddhist manuscripts in Southeast Asia and reproduces many works that have never before been photographed.

The book is available from British Library Press and University of Washington Press, as well as all major book sellers and online suppliers (ISBN 9780712352062).

A free review copy can currently be requested from Newbooks Asia.

Read a short article revealing some more details about the book on the British Library’s website, and a short promotional film (part 1) can be viewed online.

blog01 front cover full

New issue of SEALG Newsletter published

Leave a comment

The latest issue of the SEALG Newsletter has now been published and is available freely on our homepage www.sealg.org.

It includes articles on Thai royal editions of the Buddhist scriptures by Larry Ashmun, two previous exhibitions in Mandalay and Rangoon by San San May, special collections at the Southeast Asia Studies Library in Frankfurt/Main by Holger Warnk, and on the preservation of endangered archives (and manuscripts) in Southeast Asia by Jana Igunma and Jody Butterworth.

Previous issues of the electronic newsletter which covers all aspects of Southeast Asian librarianship, curation, collection, custodianship and research can be accessed on http://www.sealg.org/newsletters.html.

Tribal Music Asia – An online source for traditional music, ceremonies, and culture of the ethnic groups of Southeast Asia

1 Comment

Created by American researcher, documentarian, and musician Victoria Vorreiter for over a decade, Tribal Music Asia is the home of the Resonance Project, a dynamic multi-media archive that aspires to record and preserve the traditional musical heritage of the indigenous peoples living in the mountains of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, and China, who have depended for millennia on “the mother tongue method” to transmit their ancestral knowledge, history, and beliefs. Numbering over 130 groups and subgroups, most of these communities continue to live close to the earth, to practice animism, and to maintain a vital oral tradition. Culturally and sonically, this is one of the most extraordinary places on the planet.

Xob Lwm Vaj and Friends
Performing the Qeej at the New Year Festival
at Ban Tan, Phongsali Province, Laos
December 2005.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

By interweaving a variety of visual, aural, and tactile components, the Resonance Project spotlights these highlanders’ astonishingly rich soundscape—springing from a vast repository of songs, chants, invocations, and instrumental music—to demonstrate music’s vital role in charting human emotions, celebrating cycles of seasons, marking the arc of life, and animating ritual enactments. It is hoped that in giving voice to cultures that may seem remote, this project contributes to an awareness of our world that transcends borders.

The Resonance Project first produced the Songs of Memory: Traditional Music of the Golden Triangle multi-layered project (April 2009), consisting of the Songs of Memory Book, Compact Disc, and Multi-media Exhibition of photographs, films, musical instruments, artifacts, and textiles for a family (father, mother, son, and daughter) of the six major ethnic groups in the region: Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Hmong, and Karen.

“Songs of Memory”, front cover of the book.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

The Songs of Memory collections have been hosted in such prestigious venues as the East-West Center, Hawaii; the Jim Thompson Center, Bangkok; the University of Mandalay, Myanmar; the Golden Triangle Gallery, Chicago; the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center; and numerous international conferences at Chiang Mai University, Thailand.

In recent years, the Resonance Project has specifically delved into Hmong traditions, producing the Hmong Songs of Memory: Traditional Secular and Sacred Hmong Music archive, based on the Hmong Songs of Memory Book and Film (December 2016), which offers readers, viewers, and listeners an in-depth experience of Hmong music and its primal role in propelling their rites.

Cover of the “Hmong Songs of Memory” film.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter.

To bring the book and film alive, the Hmong Songs of Memory, Hmong Threads of Life Exhibition was launched, providing visitors with a variety of integrative components—photographs, film, a comprehensive collection of Hmong musical instruments, artifacts, detailed text panels, and full textiles of the four major Hmong subgroups in Laos and Thailand.

“Hmong Songs of Memory”, front cover of the book.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

The Tribal Music Asia website provides access to recordings of Akha, Lahu, Lisu, Mien, Hmong, and Karen music, various publications and reviews, photo galleries, and layouts of recent and previous exhibitions. It is possible to directly order books, CDs, note cards, and documentary films.

Lahu Shi Man and Grandson
Celebrating the Harvest Festival at
Wan Kong Pyak Tae, Keng Tung, Myanmar, 2005.
Copyright: Victoria Vorreiter

Older Entries