Antique or reproduction - does it matter?
Few of us can have resisted the temptation to decorate our new homes
in Chiang Mai with traditional Thai and Burmese art objects - some of us may
even have bought genuine antiques from the various galleries around town -
at least, we will have hoped that they are genuine! But does it really
matter if they are reproduction, particularly as the West has been looting
the South East Asian heritage for a great number of years. Aren’t the
genuine antiques better left in the country whose national and religious
heritage they represent?
Bangkok, in particular, is famous as a major clearing house for many
different types of antique items, not only from Thailand, but also from its
surrounding neighbours, with Burmese, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and to a lesser
extent Laotian ceramics, bronzes, wood and stone carvings and textiles being
smuggled out of their countries of origin and into dealers’ hands.
Most Asian countries have strict laws which limit the export of certain
types of cultural property, particularly those linked with Buddhism, and
those representing crucial periods in each country’s history. And, of
course, rare and subsequently high value items such as those represented as
‘Important Cultural Objects’ in Japan. Yet these laws do not prevent a huge
number of antiques leaving their countries of origin illegally, aimed at
Western collectors’ and dealers’ appetites for new stock and examples.
In my own experience as a London dealer in Chinese and Japanese bronze
antiques, I was aware of several major galleries whose representatives came
regularly to Chiang Mai itself (via the antiques shops in Bangkok of
course), and returned with very fine and very rare antique Buddha carvings
which should never have left Thailand.
Provenance is a problem; in Burma for example, some of the finest items have
no records attached - the expert dealer or collector will have to satisfy
him or herself as to date and place of origin. Although knowledge of Chinese
and Japanese antiques is fairly widespread, particularly in the USA, South
East Asian items are somewhat of a minority field which can be difficult to
determine. They are also, now, widely reproduced across the region with, in
many cases, intent to deceive, although even simple decorative items are
often aged to improve appearance.
For the important items, museum authentication in the West is one answer,
but the major auction houses are not interested in provenance - unless it
will literally double the selling price and, therefore, their commission.
Profit, in this field, rules all, with the artistic and cultural
significance of an item taking last place.
Authorities across South East Asia are fighting to curb the smuggling of
important cultural items; many however are still getting through,
occasionally with ‘interesting’ results. For example, recently three Pagan
bronzes, sold at auction in the West for several hundred thousand dollars,
were found on further investigation to be recent and extremely clever
Burmese forgeries. Which you may well think, as I did, served everyone
So, what about our own feelings on this subject? Burmese antiques, in
particular, have been smuggled out of that unfortunate country for many
years, beginning with the colonial era when us Brits happily removed
everything that wasn’t nailed down, and some that were! Many of the genuine
pieces seen here in the city will be of Burmese origin – most, perhaps, no
more that 100 -120 years old, but some much older. Money, again, is the
source of the problem, and the excuse for destroying the little that is left
of the Burmese heritage.
For us, looking for something we consider ethnic and beautiful for our own
home, perhaps it’s a better idea to go for the most expertly produced
reproduction available. The reason being that, without demand, there will be
no supply, and, hopefully, the efforts being made to limit the illegal area
of the antiques trade in South East Asia will be more successful, leading to
more awareness of the link between cultural heritage, history and national
Of love, loss and hope
The Gate Theatre presents a heartfelt story
of human relationships
A scene from “Strange Snow.”
How does it feel to live life with loved ones having been lost in a
war? A war that was waged without knowing what costs it would bring. How
does it feel to live in the shadow of dreary memories that makes one forget
how to live life fully? When the unseen ties among people are threatened it
is not so easy to fall in love.
The Gate Theater Group brings yet another touching story “Strange Snow” to
the drama scene of Chiang Mai. Written by renowned American playwright
Stephen Metcalfe in 1982, the play has been brought to life on stage by
director Stephan Turner, who has already quite a few inspiring productions
to his credit in Thailand and abroad.
Martha’s (Veronica Guarino) life gets stirred one day by an unexpected
visitor, Megs (Robert Young), who is a talkative, lively and life loving
survivor of the Vietnam War and a long lost friend of her brother David
(Nathan Kieffer). David is seemingly an angry, alcoholic, ‘good for nothing’
kind of a guy who has gone silent on the subject of war.
The lives of Martha and David get transformed with the challenging presence
of Megs who recommends ‘a beer’ with breakfast to sweep away all the mental
cobwebs, especially on this pre-dawn ‘Opening of trout season’. David,
whilst being wary of Meg’s presence as a reminder of losing a mutual friend,
Bobby, in the Vietnam War, disapproves of the attraction between Martha and
Megs. However, during the conflict of the play, he rediscovers his own
affection for Martha. The encounters force David to revisit the memories of
war and reconcile with the loss, while Megs and Martha overcome the bitter
past to eventually fall in love.
All the actors were able to bring the emotion and complex history of these
characters to stage in the most creative ways. Veronica Guarino, as Martha,
was the only female presence and served as an emotional connection between
the two male characters very well. Her natural manner and way of expressing
herself as Martha made her an identifiable character for the audience.
Veronica, being a young and first-time actor, was able to bring a fresh
perspective to the way she interpreted the role and kept the audience hooked
during the entire play.
Similarly Nathan Kieffer, as David, was very natural and communicated the
touching attributes of his character quite smoothly. David, subtle in his
peculiar way of expression, brought out the feeling of alienation due to his
experiences, and his ‘not so apparent’ love for Martha and Megs was played
well. Nathan was able to show the diversity of his acting skills having
previously performed the role of Nick the bartender in “The Dodo Bird” with
the Gate Theater earlier in 2008.
Robert Young, playing the central character of Megs, was able to invoke
sympathy and love for his ever-so-lively and somewhat off center character.
His spontaneity in relating and interacting with both the characters made
his performance entertaining and touching at the same time. Robert’s
association with the Gate Theater group is not new. He co-produced The Gin
Game this past summer, and has also been involved behind the scenes with
“The Dodo Bird”. His previous experiences in the arts show through in his
thoroughly convincing portrayal of the psychologically injured Vietnam War
The Gate Theater Group, under the guidance of Stephan Turner, has yet again
managed to bring a vibrant piece of literature to stage and is taking giant
steps towards making English language theatre a mainstay in Chiang Mai. For
those who love and crave artistic expressions in English language, be on the
lookout for a restaging of this powerful stage play sometime in 2009.
Note: Naveen Quayyum writes for various publications around Chaing Mai.
Kad Theatre 2009 season to open with Thai musical version of Romeo and Juliet
The Kad Theatre at the Kad Suan Kaew complex will open its 2009
season on January 24 at 2.p.m.with the world premiere of a new Thai musical
version of Romeo and Juliet. The young drama students at the Institute of
Theatre Arts at the Kad Theatre, assisted by adult actors in the roles of
the Montague and Capulet parents, will debut this completely new musical
version of the Shakespeare classic. Following performances will take place
at 7.p.m.on the 24th, and again on Saturday 31st at 2.p.m. and 7 p.m.
The script of the new musical was written by Busaba Weseho, with the music
and lyrics composed and created by Kamonpat Pimsaan. Since this is a
production by drama students, there will be three different couples playing
Romeo and Juliet, creating opportunities for all three pairs to gain
theatrical experience. Wongchaikan Wongchan will play Romeo to Nalinee
Awut’s Juliet, Benjamin Warnee will partner Natalie Calberra, and Sirawit
Khamrapit, winner of the ‘Best Actor’ prize in the 2008 Dutchie Contest will
have as his Juliet Supaphon Awut, who was Miss Teen Chiang Mai in 2007. The
production also features Saleen Awut, who was Miss Teen Chiang Mai in 2008,
and Paisan Tadook as Paris.
The show itself is being produced by the Kad Theatre, with Busaba Weseho as
the overall director, and will be choreographed by Chutima Jankajawnchai,
with the fight scene being directed by Denchai Waengwan. The musical
director and voice coach is Pairote Puterbaugh, Winyuu Jansome is art
director, and the stage management team is composed of Thapanee Janin,
Thienchai Gamphanat and Thanagone Thanomnanthakun.
Tickets are available from Kad Theatre and are priced at 200 and 500 baht,
with a student discount ticket also available at 100 baht.
“Elephant King” paints provocative portrait of Chiang Mai
Award winning Thai- American movie opens January 15
So you think you know Thailand in general and Chiang Mai in
particular? A controversial new film – Elephant King – may just
The brainchild of American writer/director Seth Grossman, it is the latest
release for the Thai company De Warrenne Pictures, which has its offices in
Chiang Mai and Bangkok, or “Where the action is,” according to producer Tom
Waller, who gave an interview to the Chiang Mai Mail during the run
up to the film’s countrywide release.
producer Tom Waller poses for a photo in Chiang Mai with his mother, Nilawan
Waller. (Photo Andy Archer)
Waller, who was born in Chiang Mai, is a producer for the company, which is
fast becoming one of the busiest in Thailand. Since Elephant King,
shot here and in New York, they have released Soi Cowboy to much
acclaim at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, and they begin shooting a new film
in the next few days. But for now, the concentration is on the Thai launch
of Elephant King, which opens simultaneously in Chiang Mai, Pattaya
and Bangkok and, hopefully, in further cities after that.
Waller (pictured with his mother - a Chiang Mai resident) explained how the
movie came about: “I met the director for the first time when he returned to
Thailand. He already had a script – based to some extent on his experiences
here while working in the north of the country – and was looking for
finance. I read it and saw the potential, especially since the company has
offices up here where much of the action is set. We set up the finance and
Seth directed his first feature after a number of short movies and
Filming concentrated in and around Chiang Mai, including some of the city’s
most famous night spots, and also features some New York scenes. The story
tells of a young guy who leaves home for Thailand – and trouble. His mother
(played by Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn) sends his younger brother to find out
what’s happening to the boy.
“The main theme of the film is the relationship between the two brothers,
Jake and Oliver,” said Waller. “It’s a kind of victim-bully relationship
between the younger, more introvert Oliver (Tate Ellington) and the party
animal Jake (Jonno Roberts) which develops against the exotic background of
the city. There’s a third main character, Lek, played by a very beautiful
Franco–Thai, Florence Faivre, who naturally contributes to the turmoil
between the two brothers.
“Some aspects of the film are controversial and show the underside of Chiang
Mai and Thailand, but we hope it’s a revealing and entertaining portrait of
what happens when expats and Thais collide and the two cultures shed new
light on each other. It is set in one city but the themes relate to
anywhere, whether it is Bangkok or Phuket, or even another country where
interaction leads to human conflict,” he added.
The ‘indie’ feature has also opened in the U.S.A. and has been shown with
great success at international festivals, where it picked up six different
awards including ‘best film’ at both the Sacramento and Brooklyn festivals.
An award that especially pleased the makers came from the audience at Oxford
in the U.K. where they voted it ‘most popular film.’
Grossman has already gone on to complete another feature, The Butterfly
Effect, scheduled for release later this year. Meanwhile Waller and his
colleagues start shooting their new production soon after Elephant King
and Soi Cowboy open. Sadly, the latter is only opening in Bangkok at
present, although it will hopefully be seen more widely later.
As a side-note, during the filming of Elephant King, Seth Grossman
came with Tom Waller to the annual Hillside Rooftop Charity party as guests
of Tom’s mother, who does much to promote the event. During the party they
spotted a number of people who went on to become extras in the movie, “so
they will be able to see themselves on screen next week,” said Tom. Who
knows, come along to the next party on January 10 and you might find
yourself cast in the up-coming production!
Elephant King opens at major cinemas (including Chiang Mai Airport Plaza) on
Thursday next, January 15.