« The Tale of Prince Vessantara », until 09 September 2018, Ashmolean Museum (University of Oxford)
The Buddha is believed to have had many lives before being born as Siddhartha Gautama. Stories of his past lives are known as jatakas (‘birth stories’). They play an important role in teaching Buddhist values.
The Vessantara Jataka is the last and most popular of the jataka tales. Here the Buddha was born as Prince Vessantara of the Sivi Kingdom, a very generous man who gave away everything, including his wife and children, to help others. His actions demonstrate the virtue of generosity, which in Buddhism is one of the ‘perfections’ required to achieve enlightenment.
The tale is often illustrated in Southeast Asian and Sri Lankan art. Buddhists can gain merit by making and commissioning these images. This display, drawn from the Ashmolean’s own collection, highlights a selection of Burmese and Sri Lankan drawings, paintings and woodcarvings of the story dating to the 19th century.
Ward Berenschot, « The Political Economy of Clientelism: A Comparative Study of Indonesia’s Patronage Democracy », 19/03/2018, Comparative Political Studies
What kind of economic development curtails clientelistic politics? Most of the literature addressing this relationship focuses narrowly on vote buying, resulting in theories that emphasize the importance of declining poverty rates and a growing middle class. This article employs a combination of ethnographic fieldwork and an expert survey to engage in a first-ever, more comprehensive comparative study of within-country variation of clientelistic politics. I find a pattern that poorly matches these dominant theories: Clientelism is perceived to be less intense in rural, poverty-prone Java, while scores are high in relatively wealthy yet state-dependent provincial capitals. On the basis of these findings, I develop an alternative perspective on the relationship between economic development and clientelism. Emphasizing the importance of societal constraints, I argue that the concentration of control over economic activities fosters clientelism because it stifles the public sphere and inhibits effective scrutiny and disciplining of politico-business elites.
« Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project launched by Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X » by Annabel Teh Gallop, 21/03/2018, Asian and African Studies Blog (British Library)
On 20 March 2018 Sri Sultan Hamengku Buwono X, Governor of the Special Region of Yogyakarta, visited the British Library to launch the Javanese Manuscripts from Yogyakarta Digitisation Project.Through the generous support of Mr S P Lohia, over the next twelve months 75 Javanese manuscripts from Yogyakarta now held in the British Library will be digitised, and will be made fully and freely accessible online through the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website. On completion of the project in March 2019, complete sets of the 30,000 digital images will be presented to the Libraries and Archives Board of Yogyakarta (Badan Perpustakaan dan Arsip Daerah Istimewa Yogyakarta) and to the National Library (Perpustakaan Nasional) of Indonesia in Jakarta. The manuscripts will also be accessible through Mr Lohia’s website, SPLRareBooks.
The 75 Javanese manuscripts to be digitised include 70 known or believed to have been taken by British troops following an armed assault on the Palace (Kraton) of Yogyakarta in June 1812 by forces under the command of the Lieutenant-Governor of Java, Thomas Stamford Raffles, as well as five other related manuscripts. The manuscripts primarily comprise works on Javanese history, literature and ethics, Islamic stories and compilations of wayang (shadow theatre) tales, as well as court papers, written in Javanese in both Javanese characters (hanacaraka) and in modified Arabic script (pegon), on European and locally-made Javanese paper (dluwang). Some of these manuscripts are by now well known, such as the Babad bedah ing Ngayogyakarta, Add. 12330, a personal account by Pangéran Arya Panular (ca. 1771-1826) of the British attack on the Kraton and its aftermath, published by Peter Carey (1992), and the Babad ing Sangkala, ‘Chronogram chronicle’, MSS Jav 36(B), dated 1738 and identified by Merle Ricklefs (1978) as the oldest surviving original copy of a Javanese chronicle so far known. Peter Carey (1980 & 2000) has also published the Archive of Yogyakarta, two volumes of court documents, correspondence and legal papers. However, many of the other manuscripts have never been published.
Certains de ces manuscrits sont d’ores et déjà accessibles en ligne sur le site de la British Library (voir ci-dessous).
« National Gallery Singapore brings major show of works by Latiff Mohidin to Paris’s Centre Pompidou » by Gareth Harris, 5 /03/2018, The Art Newspaper
The exhibition of 1960s works by the Malaysian artist is part of a long-term plan to turn Euro-centric Modernism on its head
The National Gallery Singapore is going global, presenting its first show at the Centre Pompidou in Paris as part of the joint Reframing Modernism initiative launched by both institutions. The exhibition in Paris, Latiff Mohidin; Pago Pago 1960-69 (until 28 May), includes more than 70 works by the eponymous Malaysian artist and poet drawn from private and public collections in Singapore and Malaysia.
Reframing Modernism “was developed in the spirit of re-examining the currents and perspectives which have shaped existing notions of Modernism”, write Eugene Tan, the director of the National Gallery Singapore, and Bernard Blistène, director of the Centre Pompidou’s Musée national d’art moderne, in the exhibition catalogue.
Both institutions are keen to “contribute to a more nuanced understanding of interactions between southeast Asia and Euro-America from a decentralised perspective”. In 2016, the Beaubourg gallery loaned works by artists such as Picasso and Chagall to the Reframing Modernism show held at the National Gallery Singapore, putting southeast Asian works in a new global context.
Prints, poetry, sculptural objects and writings on display reflect Mohidin’s multifaceted practice during the 1960s. The co-curators—Catherine David of the Centre Pompidou and Shabbir Hussain Mustafa of the National Gallery Singapore—demonstrate how Mohidin was exposed to movements such as German Expressionism and Cubism during his time studying at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in west Berlin from 1961 to 1964. Key works on show include Nature Morte I, Paysage de Berlin (verso; 1962), and the work on paper Un garcon (1963).
In the second half of the 1960s, Mohidin travelled across southeast Asia against a turbulent political backdrop whereby various nationalist movements had begun to prevail (Singapore split from the Malyasian Federation in 1965, for instance). The artist also forged important relationships with other avant-garde thinkers such as the writer Goenawan Mohamad in Jakarta. Mohidin dubbed this dialogue, and the new aesthetic taking shape regionally, Pago Pago.
Hussain Mustafa outlines the process, saying: “Mohidin evokes the consciousness that emerged through these travels with a phrase, Pago Pago, a manner of thinking and working that complicated Western Modernism through the initiation of dialogues with other avant-garde thinkers in southeast Asia.”
Mohidin describes how the Pago Pago works are made, saying in the exhibition catalogue: “Each Pago Pago object is constructed with a black contour… sometimes the colouring came after the shape had taken form. The bottom ground is uniformly the same colour, like the Berlin still-life paintings. In terms of the brush technique, although Pago Pago has fewer brush strokes, there is significant control over the form, the curves, the leaves.” His poetry of the time is, meanwhile, in free verse form, echoing the biomorphic aspect of his art.