SOAS University of London

Southeast Asia’s Art Histories II 2022 Study Tour

22 April 2022

The intensive five-day Study Tour at the heart of the MA module Southeast Asia’s Art Histories II took an exceptional turn this year by integrating a wide range of visits to Southeast Asian institutions and archaeological sites - all impressively hosted by Alphawood alumni and colleagues. Organisers maximised the opportunities offered by online platforms to balance our usual visits to Southeast Asian museum collections and research archives in France and the Netherlands with explorations in Phnom Penh, Sambor Prei Kuk, Đà Nẵng, Mỹ Sơn, peninsular Thailand, the Shwezigon of Yangon, Malaysia’s Bujang Valley, Singapore and Java. Some hosts experimented with delivery by guiding participants through archival collections, new museum installations and inside ancient temple sanctuaries. Others narrated videos or powerpoints and animated discussions with equally remarkable care. Everyone – hosts, students and teachers - gave generously of their time and knowledge to make for a marathon of collective learning.

Nguyen Duyen with Vietnamese students

Professor Ashley Thompson, who led the tour with invaluable support from Dr Joanna Wolfarth, commented: 'The virtual juxtaposition of visits to Europe and Southeast Asia was thought-provoking in many ways, pushing us all to consider complex histories of object fragmentation and dissemination, to measure the importance of site and frame in object interpretation and to discern paths for further collaborative research in the Southeast Asian art historical, archaeological and museological fields.'

Khun Sathal inside the National Museum of Cambodia

A number of staff, studens and alumni in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology contributed to the particular richness of this year's tour. Drs Stephen Murphy and Christian Luczanits made key contributions on maritime Southeast Asia and esoteric Buddhist art and architecture. Alumni hosts included Khun Sathal (MA 2016), Deputy Director, Department of Museums, Cambodia; Nguyễn H. H. Duyên (MA 2015), Education Officer, Da Nang Museum of Cham Art, Vietnam, and current Alphawood PhD scholar; Nguyễn Văn Thọ (PGDip 2018), Conservator, Management Board for Mỹ Sơn Cultural Heritage, Vietnam; Conan Cheong (MA 2018); Curator, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore; Heidi Tan (PhD 2020), Senior Teaching Fellow and Postdoctoral Research Associate, SOAS; Panggah Ardiyansyah (MA 2017), Education Officer, Borobudur Conservation Office, Indonesia, and current Alphawood PhD scholar). The current Alphawood MA scholars – Shahira Banu, Hnin Oo Hlaing, Thaw Zin Latt and Kezia Permata – infused the 16-student-strong group with their unique educational, professional and familial backgrounds. The trip leaders observed that it was deeply inspiring to work hand-in-hand with alumni to put our joint professional skills at the service of the dynamic 2022 student cohort.

Panggah Ardiyansyah