Burma has been in the spot light in recent times, with Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize and the current seemingly rapid opening up of the country. Many TAASA members have already visited or are planning to visit Burma, so will hopefully find a number of articles on Burma in this issue of interest.
Sally Bamford shares the result of her research into a less well known aspect of Burmese spiritual life: a belief in the nats or guardian spirits that evolved from ancestor worship and a belief in supernatural forces residing in the landscape. Illustrated by her own photos, she paints a vivid picture of how a belief in nats still permeates Burmese society, as evidenced by the many shrines and images found throughout the countryside and in homes and businesses as well as Buddhist temples.
Art historical research on Burma has been impeded due to political upheaval from the 1950s and restricted access to information in the second half of the 20th century. This makes collections of research material such as, in this case, that of Burmese specialist Dr David Pfanner donated to the Menzies Library at the Australian National University, all the more valuable. Charlotte Galloway has waded through this collection to give us some interesting insights into the kind of information, sometimes off beat, such collections can offer.
Three shorter pieces provide further differing perspectives on Burma. Our regular feature, In the Public Domain presents a lovely Mandalay style marble Buddha at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery by curator Cheryl Farrell. Pamela Gutman reviews a 2011 publication Sacred Sites of Burma by Donald Stadtner, while Merry Pearson reviews a Burmese produced DVD of songs in the Mahagita, Burmese classical music tradition, featuring Yuri Takahashi as singer and Mahagita musician Ye Naing Linn.
Just a note on terminology in relation to Burma. Alert readers will notice that some authors in this issue have used the current UN recognised terminology for Burma, namely Myanmar, Yangon and Bagan, as against the older style Burma, Rangoon and Pagan. This is a very sensitive issue and there are arguments for both approaches. My editorial approach has therefore been to allow each author to adopt the terminology they prefer.
This September issue also offers a range of Indian related topics. Melanie Eastburn previews an NGA exhibition Divine Worlds starting 1 September which is the first exhibition dedicated to the NGA’s own extensive Indian painting collection. TAASA is organising a members’ event to view this exhibition in Canberra, together with a major contemporary Chinese portrait exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (see Members’ Diary on p 29).
Textile enthusiasts will enjoy Carole Douglas’ fascinating account of the life and work of contemporary ply-split braider Erroll Pires, who is also co-ordinator of textiles at the National Institute for Design at Ahmedabad. Cineastes will enjoy Jim Masselos’ lively take on this year’s Focus on India films at the 2012 Sydney Film Festival. Finally, Narayani Gupta’s erudite review of the latest publication from the Alkazi Collection of Photography, Power and Resistance: The Delhi Coronation Durbars, allows the TAASA Review to dip again into this wonderful archive of 19th and early 20th century South Asian photography.
Following his recent presentation at the University of Sydney, I’m delighted that Martin Polkinghorne has been able to report in this issue on the outcome of recent excavations led by the Angkor Research Program of the University of Sydney at Angkor, Cambodia. He points out that up until now, the manufacturing methods and activities of the artists who made the great Angkor sandstone and bronze sculptures have been unknown. For the first time, these excavations have focused on two sculpture ateliers at Angkor, with fascinating results such as the discovery of a bronze workshop, the first of its kind, not only in Cambodia but in Southeast Asia.
Two final contributors will be familiar to TAASA Review readers and both present articles with a Buddhist theme, though in entirely different contexts. Joanna Barrkman discusses the use of cosmic mandala designs in Balinese devotional art. Jackie Menzies offers us a tantalizing preview of her current research on Mongolian Buddhist art, in preparation for a proposed major exhibition at the AGNSW on this subject next year.
On p28 you will find a report on TAASA’s 2012 AGM where new TAASA Committee members Charlotte Galloway, Susan Scollay, Todd Sunderman and Margaret White were welcomed, and outgoing members of the Committee Sandra Forbes, Philip Courtenay and Lucie Folan, were heartily thanked for their contribution to TAASA. Sandra Forbes remains a member of the TAASA Publications Committee.
Josefa Green, Editor
4 THE NATS OF MYANMAR
7 SCULPTURE WORKSHOPS O F ANGKOR : TWO RECENT EXCAVATIONS IN CAMBODIA
10 FROM CAMEL GIRTH TO CONTEMPORARY GOWN: PLY-SPLIT ARTIST ERROLL PIRES
12 ACTS OF DEVOTION – BALINESE MANDALAS
14 BUDDHIST TREASURES IN MONGOLIA
16 DIVINE WORLDS: INDIAN PAINTING AT THE NGA
18 RESEARCHING BURMA: THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
20 FOCUS ON INDIAAT THE 2012 SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL
22 BOOK REVIEW: THE DELHI CORONATION DURBARS
24 BOOK R EVIEW: SACRED SITES OF BURMA
26 IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: A BURMESE BUDDHA AT THE Maitland Regional Art Galler y
27 YURI ’S BURMESE DVD: A REVIEW
28 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
29 DR MICHAEL BRAND
29 TAASA Members’ Diary: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2012
30 WHAT’S ON IN AUSTRALIA AND OVERSEAS: SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2012
Compiled by Tina Burge