The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections

By Special Collections, SOAS Library|4th July 2014|Collections & Research|0 comments

A new and exciting exhibition in the Foyle Special Collections Gallery of the Brunei Gallery, entitled The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections, is now running until 2 July 2016. The exhibition highlights the breadth of the region’s cultures as represented in the SOAS collections. It demonstrates the long-term engagement of SOAS Staff and Alumni, whose research and travels have brought this variety of objects to the School. Curated by Anna Contadini (School of Arts), the exhibition constitutes an important further stage in the “Treasures of SOAS Project”, designed to highlight and encourage research of the SOAS collections.

Devas (heavenly divinities). Tipitaka (Buddhist Canon), Thailand, mid-19th century. SOAS Library OS MS 41906 © SOAS

The objects displayed, many for the first time, have a wide chronological span, are diverse in nature, comprising manuscripts (written on bark, palm leaves, copper sheets and paper), rare books, textiles, sculptures, metalwork, ceramics and paintings, and reflect the variety of religions, cultures and languages to be found across this vast area. The objects come from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar (Burma), the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and range in date from circa 1000 BCE to the twenty first century.

The manuscripts and rare books displayed are taken from the SOAS Library and the Archives and Special Collections. With around 400 items, the SOAS collection of Southeast Asian manuscripts is one of the most important and extensive in Europe.

The exhibition is organized around four broad themes that touch upon a number of important aspects of Southeast Asian life and culture:

  • Religion
  • Magic and divination
  • Literature
  • Contacts with East and West.

Within this framework the objects displayed reflect the range of Southeast Asian arts, their innovations and traditions to be found in the SOAS collections. As this exhibition is a long-term project, the display will be periodically updated by highlighting further items from the collections.

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About Special Collections, SOAS Library

Broadly speaking, our collections reflect the British interaction with Africa, Asia and the Middle East over the last 250 years, and include archives of missionary societies, NGOs and campaign groups, and business organisations, as well as papers of individuals, including diplomats, campaigners, and academics. If you have any questions, or comments, please get in touch! email: special.collections@soas.ac.uk tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4180

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