The Shan New Year Event and the Exhibition of Shan Manuscripts at SOAS, University of London: A Report

By Jotika Khur-Yearn|December 21, 2015|South East Asia|0 comments

Shan Kinnari Bird Dance at Shan New Year event (SOAS, December 2015).
Photo credit: Qingniao Li

The Shan New Year event, held on 13th December 2015, was attended by about 70 people from different parts of the UK. As in previous years, the event programme comprised a mixture of academic presentations and cultural performances.

The remark of the event this year is that, with the support from the SOAS Committee Board of the Alphawood Fund for the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programmes (SAAAP), we were able to bring in a high profile speaker in Prof. Dr Barend Jan Terwiel (Germany), an outstanding professor in Tai studies, who gave an excellent talk on magical Shan manuscripts (see picture  below). In addition, Dr Susan Conway (SOAS), Dr Angela Chiu (SOAS) and Dr Andrew Skilton (King’s College London), also gave their excellent talks on Tai magic, Tai art objects from the British Museum collections and the project for an online catalogue of Shan manuscripts respectively.

Prof. B.J. Terwiel giving his presentation at the Shan New Year event
Photo credit: Angela Chiu 

Another significant part of the event was that, with the initial idea from Prof. Ashley Thompson (Chair of SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies), the organisers were able to make a small exhibition of Shan manuscripts from SOAS holdings of its special collections and from a group of Shan manuscript projects. The exhibition of Shan manuscripts from SOAS holdings was arranged under the supervision of Christine Wise (Assistant Director for Research Library Services of the SOAS Directorate for the Library and Information Services). Thanks to colleagues in the SOAS Archive and Special Collections, especially archivist Lance Martin, who helped assessing the condition of the manuscripts and necessary arrangements for transportation of the manuscripts from the Archive storage to the event, making sure that the manuscripts are carefully handled and well protected during the exhibition. Also thanks to colleagues at the Senate House Library of the University of London, especially Alexandra Bruce and Angela Craft for helping with all necessary arrangement of lending the library’s secured display case for the exhibition. In addition, a recently produced new Shan manuscript was also on display at the event. This new manuscript was kindly loaned by Prof. Kate Crosby (King’s College London), a leading member of projects for cataloguing Shan manuscripts. The intention of having this new manuscript in the exhibition is to show the continuity and survival of the manuscript traditions in Shan communities.

Exhibition of Shan Manuscripts. Photo credit: Jotika Khur-Yearn

Also, as usual, members of the Shan Cultural Association in UK presented their cultural performances such as New Year songs and traditional dances. The art performances include the traditional Kinnari Bird dance, Toh dance and New Year songs.
In brief, it was another successful Shan New Year event co-organised by the SOAS Centre of South East Asian Studies and the Shan Cultural Association in UK.

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