Asia: the Land, the Men, the Gods | Part Three

Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Nat (guardian) Nakayain, protector of the Mon ethnic group (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

The golden land

Myanmar—former Burma—is called “the Golden land” by its huge amount of temples and pagodas covered by leaves of gold that enriches the whole country. It has an ancient history: the first settlements are from 13 thousand years ago. Myanmar is divided between many ethnic groups, and the fight for supremacy between them still did not allow the establishment of peace in the country. This struggle, by the way, has made it easier for the British to rise to power after two wars, in 1884 and 1885, in which they defeated the Konbaung dynasty and remained in authority until 1948.   [Fausto Godoy]

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Asia: the Land, the Men, the Gods (2018)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Nat (guardian) Min Kyawzwa, the lord of the brown horse (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

The Theravada line of Buddhism prevails in the area—and is practiced by 88% of its population. The violence of religious and inter-ethnic conflicts against the Muslim rohingya minority in the area of Rakhine / Arakan, in the southwest, has kept Myanmar on the covers of international newspapers, as well as the long and hard process of popular resistance to the military dictatorship, which only now shows signs of collapsing, mostly because of the struggle of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner in 1991, that, through her leadership, was kept prisoner in her home for almost 15 years.

Nat (guardian) Aung-zwa-ma-gyi, 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Disciples of Buddha (Sariputta and Moggallana), 18th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Nat (guardian) (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Myanmar’s Buddhism is “syncretic” and survives due to its narrow complicity to the animistic idols that prevailed in the region until the 11th century when Bamar tribe leader Anawrahta converted to teachings of Buddha and tried in vain to eradicate the adoration of nats—there are 37 main ones—supernatural entities that populate the mythical-religious universe of the population.

Since it was impossible to do so, nats were “assimilated” by Buddhism, transforming them in guardians of houses and people, temples and towns.

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Asia: the Land, the Men, the Gods (2018)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Harp in crocodile format (Mi-Gyaung) (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Harp in boat format (Saung-Gauk) (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Textile of the Chin ethnic group (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Clothing of the Naga ethnic group (20 – 21th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Puppet representing a prince (min-tha), 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Puppet representing a princess (min-tha-mi), 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Chest, 19 – 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Photographic Record of the Exhibition Asia: the Land, the Men, the Gods (2018)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Ceremonial vessel (Hsun-ok) with protective bird shape (Hin-tha), 19 – 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Ceremonial vessel (Hsun-ok), 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Vessel for ritual food (Daungbaung Kalat) (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Ceremonial vessel (Hsun-ok) (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Pumpkin-shaped food vessel (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Oil Storage Vessel (Hsi-o) (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Ceremonial vessel (Hsun-ok), 19 – 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Ceremonial vessel (Hsun-ok), 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Owl-shaped vessel, 20th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Turtle-shaped food vessel (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Photographic Record of the Exhibition Asia: the Land, the Men, the Gods (2018)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Box with a sutra (Sa-daik) (19 – 20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Buddha in the Bhumisparsha Mudra posture, 17 – 19th century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Buddha in the Bhumisparsha Mudra posture, 19th Century, From the collection of: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
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Portal of residence or madrassa (Koranic school) (18 – 19th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

The Cosmic Man

This room is a rundown of this exhibition and shows the relation between man and universe... [Teixeira Coelho]

Cosmic man of the Jain religion (Loka Purusha) (19th Century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Lokapurusha, the cosmic man, is its direct connection. The Jainist cosmology (India) describes the form and workings of the universe (lo–ka) and its components.

This form is analogous to a man with six substances: the live one (the soul, independent from the body; the conscience and knowledge); the non-living (matter); movement; stillness; space (which encases every other one) and an eternal substance (permanence) that holds them. This way, man is the universe and the universe is man.

Thangka with representation of Vajra Yogini (18 – 19th Century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

Between men lies Rama (Painting of the epic Ramayana) who conquers the right to marry the beautiful Sita and defeats many devils. But one of them, charmed by Sı–ta, kidnaps her and tries to seduce her. Sı–ta resists for almost ten months.

At the end, Rama manages to get her back: this is the legend of the man who seeks fame, power and the love of women (Freud).

Mandala (21th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

This cosmic man defines and places himself in the mandala (circle in Sanskrit) that represents the perfect universe...

Scene from the epic Ramayana (Early 20th Century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

...and there he lives with the Yogini, goddesses that are about to reach enlightenment, and therefore can give their lives to holy men (just like a certain woman gave birth to a certain holy man in the West—born in the East). What this exhibition shows is the narrative of a still enchanted world. The West, after Enlightenment, became disenchanted: reason and science replaced the magical thinking, without fully eradicating it. The East also embraced reason, maybe losing less of the magical thinking than the West.

...and there he lives with the Yogini, goddesses that are about to reach enlightenment, and therefore can give their lives to holy men (just like a certain woman gave birth to a certain holy man in the West—born in the East). What this exhibition shows is the narrative of a still enchanted world. The West, after Enlightenment, became disenchanted: reason and science replaced the magical thinking, without fully eradicating it. The East also embraced reason, maybe losing less of the magical thinking than the West.

Mosque Lamp (19 – 20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

The lamp in this last room cast a light filled with mystical sayings; or maybe it is the opposite, the mystical words cannot stop the light from passing through.

Rickshaw (20th century)Oscar Niemeyer Museum

The New Can Change the Past, which Remains in the Present 

Asia today is much more than what is shown here: the large Chinese 21st century cities, the Japanese hypermodern urban centers, India’s new physical reality, they all include many traces of modern world capitalism, of the western standards in an eastern version, of the future as a technical reality happening right now. But Asia still keeps the kind of relation to the past that can be seen in this exhibition: the founding gesture of this past remains active. And evolving. Just like every single culture. [Teixeira Coelho]

Credits: Story

Asia: the Land, the Men, the Gods

Curatorship: Fausto Godoy and Teixeira Coelho
Promotion: Oscar Niemeyer Museum
Room: 5

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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