Curating Shadows: Malayan Shadow Puppets in the Asian Civilisations Museum
The Asian Civilisations Museum houses a large collection of shadow puppets (wayang kulit) from Kelantan, Malaysia, yet very little is known about them. Few records exist to explain the puppets’ entry into the museum’s holdings, or the social significance of the puppets to the museum and Kelantanese theatrical arts. Who made these puppets? How were they acquired? What stories do they tell?
In this talk, we examine these questions through a close examination of the collection from both aesthetic and curatorial angles. In situating the puppets within dynamic cultural, political, and historical contexts, we expand our knowledge of colonial museology and the poetics of cross-cultural encountering. Our talk foregrounds the museum object as dramatis personae in a fascinating play that showcases the interrelationship between history, performing arts, and materiality at one of the furthest peripheries of British-ruled Southeast Asia.
Irving Chan Johnson is an Associate Professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, where he teaches classes on traditional Thai painting, Balinese theatre, and cultural anthropology. He is also a Thai artist and has conducted workshops on Thai visual art in Singapore and the US.
Darryl Lim is an independent researcher. He graduated with a BA (Hons) from the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, where his research focused on the historiographies and social encounters of religious communities in Thailand.
Muhammad Faisal Husni is Assistant Curator for Island Southeast Asia at ACM. He holds an MA (Research) from the School of Art, Design, and Media, Nanyang Technological University. His research interests include multi-religious and multicultural heritage and spaces of worship, as well as religious art and traditions of Southeast Asia, with a focus on keramat graves in Singapore and the Malay World.
This lecture is free. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. No registration is required.
ACMtalks brings leading scholars in conversation with curators at ACM to explore our core curatorial themes: Maritime Trade, Faith & Belief, and Materials & Design. These lectures and discussions will illuminate aspects of the museum’s collection strengths in export art and sacred objects, as well as Asian fashion and textiles, lacquer and silver, jewellery, and ceramics.