NIU Art Museum, Center for Burma Studies to host Sept. 18-19 symposium

Image of Kachin couple, anonymous, nd, watercolor on paper, from an ethnographic album, “Tribes of Burma”, circa 1900, h. 11 in. x w. 13 in, 2005 Purchase, Founders Memorial Library at NIU.The NIU Art Museum and Center for Burma Studies, with support from the Allen Series Fund of the Division of Art History in the NIU School of Art and Design, extends an open invitation to a free public symposium, Imaging the Others: The Art of Ethnography in Modern Burma,” scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 18, and Friday, Sept. 19.

The program is offered in conjunction with the exhibition, Dressing Difference: Exploring Ethnicities in Modern Burma,” on display at the NIU Art Museum through Nov. 15.

International scholars engaged with visual materials were invited to address the topic of depiction of minority communities in historic Burma/Myanmar (and environs) during this symposium. Several chose to explore the idea of imaging from within and from outside a culture through the ethnic representations presented in 19th century watercolors found in bound books, as well as through photographs from the early 20th century.

The symposium will begin with an informal curators’ talk in the museum gallery and a mini-reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 18.

Catherine Raymond, director for the NIU Center for Burma Studies and curator for the Burma Art Collection, will be joined by co-curator Sherry Harlacher, director for the Denison Museum at Denison University in Granville, Ohio, to welcome guests and discuss the curation of “Dressing Difference: Exploring Ethnicities in Modern Burma.”

The full-day symposium on Friday, Sept. 19, will begin with a light breakfast from 9 to 9:45 a.m. in Altgeld 315 to be followed by welcoming remarks before a keynote presentation by Laura Hostetler, chair of the history department at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Catherine Raymond and Richard Cooler
Catherine Raymond and Richard Cooler

Morning sessions will include presentations by professors Raymond and Harlacher, as well as by Richard M. Cooler, NIU professor emeritus and former director and curator of the Center for Burma Studies. Topics will include “Illustrating Ethnicity in Modern Burma” (Raymond); “ ‘Short Pleated Skirts’ and ‘Coloured Cloth Gaiters’: Fred W. Carey and His Trek through the Chinese Shan States” (Harlacher); and “Collecting Hill Tribe Jewelry in the 1970s” (Cooler).

Following a lunch break, sessions will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. with presentations by Sandra H. Dudley of the University of Leicester in England; Bernard Formoso of the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in France; and Susan Conway of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. Their topics will include: “Where are the Karen? Visualizing and Losing the Subject in Local and Outsider Representations” (Dudley); “Costumes and Symbolism on the Sino Burmese Border: The Cases of Lahu and Kachin” (Formoso); and “Dress and Ethnicity: Portrayal of the Tai in the Albums of Northern Illinois University” (Conway).

The symposium will conclude with commentary presented by Professor Emeritus F.K. Lehman (aka Chit Hlaing) of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A complete schedule of symposium events is available online. Parking for the symposium is available in the Visitor Lot off Carroll Street ($5) or in Lot 3 at the northeast corner of Gilbert Drive and College Avenue.

For more information, contact Jo Burke at the NIU Art Museum at (815) 753-1936 or jburke2@niu.edu; or Beth Bjorneby at the Center for Burma Studies at (815) 753-0512 or bbjorn@niu.edu.

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