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

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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

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Khmer women in divine context

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Angkor Wat Apsara and Devata : Khmer women in divine context is a rich and well researched online resource dedicated to the women of the Khmer Empire (9th-15th century). Being great builders, the Khmer filled the landscape with monumental temples, huge reservoirs and canals, and laid an extensive network of roads with bridges. Angkor Wat is the best known and most stunning temple. It is, in fact, a microcosm of the Hindu universe. Covering 200 hectares it is the world’s largest religious complex. Its construction was started by the Khmer king Suryavarman II around 1122 CE and took some 30 years to complete. The walls of Angkor Wat house a royal portrait gallery with 1,795 women realistically rendered in stone. Although the temple complex has been researched extensively in terms of architecture, art and archaeology, not much is known about these women.

Devata.org aims to provide answers to questions like:

∙ Who were the women of Angkor Wat?

∙ Why are images of women immortalized with the most prominent placement in the largest temples the Khmer civilization ever built?

∙ What did these women mean to the Khmer rulers, priests and people?

∙ How does the Cambodian dance tradition relate to the women of Angkor Wat?

∙ Do the women of Angkor Wat embody information important to us in modern times?

This online resource gives access to articles about books and authors relating to Khmer history, Cambodian dance, children of Angkor, women’s history and heritage preservation. The focus, however, is on the women of Angkor Wat and other Khmer temples. Features like an Angkor Wat Devata Inventory, the Devata Database Project, Facial Pattern Recognition of the Angkor Wat portraits, photo galleries and a range of research articles provide insight into the rich culture of the Khmer people.

An important book: “Cultural Property and Contested Ownership”

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We rarely present new books on this blog (simply because there are so many), but there is one recent publication not only art and museum curators, but also archivists and librarians should be aware of. The 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property concerns not only “ancient” works of art or cultural heritage, but also material which could be of a rather recent date. The Convention is not only relevant in regard of collection or acquisition, but also when cultural heritage material is being displayed publicly or made available through digitisation, for example.

The book Cultural Property and Contested Ownership, edited by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Lyndel V. Prott (London & New York: Routledge, 2017) provides long awaited insights and experiences from an interdisciplinary point of view by professionals working with cultural heritage material.

The publisher’s description of the book says the following:

“Against the backdrop of international conventions and their implementation, Cultural Property and Contested Ownership explores how highly-valued cultural goods are traded and negotiated among diverging parties and their interests. Cultural artefacts, such as those kept and trafficked between art dealers, private collectors and museums, have become increasingly localized in a ‘Bermuda triangle’ of colonialism, looting and the black market, with their re-emergence resulting in disputes of ownership and claims for return. This interdisciplinary volume provides the first book-length investigation of the changing behaviours resulting from the effect of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The collection considers the impact of the Convention on the way antiquity dealers, museums and auction houses, as well as nation states and local communities, address issues of provenance, contested ownership, and the trafficking of cultural property. The book contains a range of contributions from anthropologists, lawyers, historians and archaeologists. Individual cases are examined from a bottom-up perspective and assessed from the viewpoint of international law in the Epilogue. Each section is contextualised by an introductory chapter from the editors.”

The book is divided into three parts. Part one is dedicated to the theme Plunder, trafficking and return, and includes contributions by Keiko Miura on Destruction and plunder of Cambodian cultural heritage and their consequences, Alper Tasdelen on Cambodia’s struggle to protect its movable cultural property and Thailand, and Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin who discusses Looted, trafficked, donated, and returned: the twisted tracks of Cambodian antiquities.

The second part deals with Profit, authenticity and ethics, and contains contributions by Mai Lin Tjoa-Bonatz on Struggles over historic shipwrecks in Indonesia: economic versus preservation interests, as well as by Brigitta Hauser-Schäublin and Sophorn Kim on Faked biographies: The remake of antiquities and their sale on the art market.

Part three of the book looks at Negotiating conditions of return, and includes contributions by Barbara Plankensteiner on The Benin treasures: difficult legacy and contested heritage, by Anne Splettstößer on Pre-Columbian heritage in contestation: The implementation of the UNESCO 1970 convention on trial in Germany, and finally by Sarah Fründt who gives insights in Return logistics – repatriation business: Managing the return of ancestral remains to New Zealand.

In addition, there are an introduction by the editors and an epilogue. Each article is accompanied by a detailed list of references which are useful for further study of the entire topic.

Front cover of the book “Cultural Property and Contested Ownership” (ISBN 978-1-138-18883-9)

 

EFEO Workshop on Academic Materials Pertaining to Southeast Asia, Chiang Mai July 2017

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More and more publications are being published worldwide. The last surveys show that within the 50 countries that publish the most, 5 are from Southeast Asia: #17 – Vietnam (24000+), #18 – Indonesia (24000+), #23 – Malaysia (18000+), #30 – Thailand (13000+), #35 – Singapore (12000+). Materials are being published, but are not necessarily easily accessible, for various reasons: small publishing company, small research center publishing its bulletin in a very small number of issues, geographical complexity, absence of bookstores that can cover an entire country/region, etc.

Furthermore, the process of building trust and cooperation with local partners can take a very long time. We all have our own connections and networks, but they might not cover all of Southeast Asia.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together all the actors concerned with Academic materials pertaining to Southeast Asia – publishers, librarians, scholars – to discuss how we could enhance access to these materials.

This workshop is planned to take place on 19 July 2017, just after the International Conference on Thai Studies (16-18 July) and before ICAS 10 (20-23 July) at the EFEO centre in Chiang Mai (École française d’Extrême-Orient, 131 Charoen Prathet Road, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand). A library tour could be organized for those interested.

Tentative Agenda:

9:30: introduction

10:00 – 12:00: roundtable

12:15 – 13:30: lunch break

14:00 – 17:00: small group discussions on area subjects and e-resources

17:30: wrap up

For details and registration please contact Antony Boussemart at antony.boussemartATefeo.net.

 

SEALG Annual Meeting 2017

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The AGM of the Southeast Asia Library Group will take place on Saturday, 19th August 2017, at the library of the Oxford Buddha Vihara, following our panel with the theme ‘Collecting, Preserving, Showcasing: Cultural Pasts of Southeast Asia’ at the 9th EUROSEAS Conference (16-18 August 2017, Oxford University).

For the AGM, we will meet on Saturday, 19th  August at 10 a.m. at the Oxford Buddha Vihara, which is located at 356-358 Abingdon Road in Oxford. The AGM will be followed by lunch and the opportunity to talk with Buddhist monks residing at the Oxford Buddha Vihara. In the afternoon we are planning a visit to the Ashmolean Museum with its temporary exhibition “Collecting the past: scholars’ taste in Chinese art”.

Directions and a more detailed timetable will be circulated nearer the time. For more information on the AGM and confirmation of your attendance, please contact Jotika Khur-Yearn by email to jk53ATsoas.ac.uk or Jana Igunma by email to jana.igunmaATbl.uk.

Regarding the SEALG panel at the EUROSEAS Conference – for which we are still accepting paper proposals up until 15 May 2017 – please contact Holger Warnk at h.warnkATem.uni-frankfurt.de.

Oxford Buddha Vihara

Mapping the Maps at Cambridge University Library

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Imagine maps as big as bedsheets, and then imagine the sheets big enough for beds made wide enough to sleep extended families. Only such a double stretch of the imagination can provide the scale of the three Burmese maps in the University Library’s collection, which have recently been made available online in digital format.

From bedsheet to map is not a great leap: all three maps are inked or painted on to generous lengths of cloth. Yet they do not depict lines on a map as the eye in the 21st century is accustomed to seeing them.  The most colourful of the three maps, the map of the Maingnyaung region [Maps.Ms.Plans.R.c.1] is the one which forces the most abrupt lurch, down from that comfortable view on high of modern mapping convention. Instead, the viewer is positioned near ground level, and invited here to view a stupa, there a crocodile down in the river, away in the distance a noble line of hills. Trees are no mere generic features. While the perspective is mostly from the ground, it co-exists with other even less familiar conventions. Pagodas and stupas either loom large or sit very small, their size and their sanctity apparently intermeshed. Towns and villages, rivers and streams are the sole features which come close to appearing from a bird’s eye view. Yet the neat tracings of brickwork, and of waves on the water’s surface, suggest they may be meant to convey not the lay of the land from the air but other rules of belonging, of enclosure or of flow.

The other two maps, the map of the Royal Lands [Maps.Ms.Plans.R.c.3] and map of Sa-lay township [Maps.Ms.Plans.R.c.2], are less colourful than the first, but in some respects even more intriguing. Like the Maingnyaung map, they take many of their bearings from ground level. Manmade landmarks use scales which vary, apparently, according to their importance rather than their physical size. With vegetation, there is an insistence on specifics. Yet both maps feature grids traced carefully and evenly across the entire surface. These maps present two worlds at once. There are vistas to be contemplated and meaningful features to be explored in the landscape. But there is also a view from on high, where trees were counted and areas under crop were calculated, and probably, somewhere off the surface of the map, converted into tax exactions.

Photographing the Burmese maps was quite a challenge for the Library’s Digital Content Unit. The smallest map was made of 126 images, the largest of 420 and it had to be stitched into 9 parts first before being put into one piece. Some parts of the process took a few hours to complete for the computer with 64 GB RAM memory and 3Ghz 8 core computer. The biggest challenge was obviously handling. It was impossible to move the map without changing the arrangement. Hence the last map, the largest [Maps.Ms.Plans.R.c.3] took a long time to prepare as they had to experiment with different stitching methods.

Great credit goes to the Map Department of the UL, both in finding the will and securing the resources to have the maps conserved and digitised, and to the Cambridge Digital Library, for producing digital pages so effortlessly navigable that they take nothing away from the joy of poring over them. They make it easier, in fact, to hover over the details, whether you are contemplating the view from the ground or from on high. What’s more, the speed of the internet has improved to such an extent in modern Myanmar, that these massive cloth maps can be viewed with ease in Yangon or Mandalay. Maps such as these are rare, non-existent even, in the location where they were originally made. No such maps produced on cloth are known to have survived within Myanmar today. This only adds to the hope and expectation that they will be pored over, enjoyed, and further studied and interpreted from quarters near and far.

To read the full article on these three maps and their provenance written by Natasha Pairaudeau, please visit the Cambridge University Library Special Collections website.

SEALG Panel at EUROSEAS Conference Oxford 2017 – Call for Papers

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The European Association for Southeast Asian Studies (EuroSEAS) will hold its 9th Conference from 16 to 18 August 2017 at the University of Oxford. As an international and multi-disciplinary organisation, EuroSEAS invites scholars and PhD students from all academic disciplines with an interest in Southeast Asia to submit papers on research in the field of Southeast Asian Studies.

SEALG proposed a panel with the theme ‘Collecting, Preserving, Showcasing: Cultural Pasts of Southeast Asia’ which was accepted by the conference organisers. The panel is convened by Holger Warnk (Frankfurt) and Doris Jedamski (Leiden), with some assistance by Jana Igunma (London). The SEALG Annual Meeting will take place in connection with the EuroSEAS Conference – detailed information will be sent to all members by email separately.

Panel description:

Globalization, new communication technologies, digitization – all buzz-words to some extent – are both stimulating and challenging the world of library collections and archives. The act of collecting itself has tremendously changed in nature, so have the expectations of users of collections. Over the last two decades, the phenomena behind those buzz-words showed an undeniable impact on the ways sources and materials from other cultures were collected, preserved, made accessible and showcased to the public.

At the same time – and at least as importantly – those developments have been shaping and changing the user experience. With a focus on collections from, in, and on Southeast Asia, this panel seeks to explore the changing dynamics of the interaction between the collection/archive holders and their

clientele but also the change in physical aspects, storage, and presentation/showcasing of the collections. Hence one question might be: What kind of sources will survive longer – physical or digital? And what impact does this have on prioritization of certain technologies, or on preservation – related decisions?

Participants in this panel will address the challenges related to collection management and major shifts in library and archive policies, but they will also reflect on the shifts in the actual and/or desired usage of such collections. This panel seeks to facilitate the exchange of experiences between representatives of the library/archival sphere, museums and the scholarly world. Therefore participants from all three fields are welcome.

Please email paper proposals by the deadline 15th May 2017 to Holger Warnk (h.warnk@em.uni-frankfurt.de) and Jana Igunma (jana.igunma@bl.uk), and kindly copy in Dr Doris Jedamski (d.a.jedamski@library.leidenuniv.nl).

We are looking forward to hear from you and to receive interesting paper proposals.

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