Textile Texts – A talk about Burmese manuscript binding tapes by Ralph Isaacs

Saturday 22 March 2014, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Public talk 2-3.30pm, Book launch from 4pm, Free, All welcome

Learn more about these woven miniatures of Buddhist art with collector Ralph Isaacs. Followed by the launch of Ralph’s new book, Sazigyo—Woven Miniatures of Buddhist Art, Burmese Manuscript Binding Tapes (http://www.silkwormbooks.com/catalog/info/sazigyo/index.html)

Burmese tablet-woven bands
Burmese tablet-woven bands

Sazigyo are Burmese tablet-woven bands that were used to bind palm-leaf manuscripts. In these wonderful weaves, brightly coloured lines of elegant script are interspersed with fascinating, miniature pictures of animals and other objects. The woven bands were commissioned by Buddhist donors gifting a scriptural manuscript to a monastery to make spiritual merit in order to attain a better rebirth and ultimately nirvana. The texts follow traditional conventions: they invoke celestial powers, identify the donors, and summon witnesses to share the donors’ merit.

This richly illustrated book presents an unfamiliar and specialized subject to a wide readership. Nine hundred beautiful illustrations show parts of over two hundred sazigyo found in museums and private collections in Britain, Southeast Asia, and throughout the world. In addition, more than two hundred excerpts of sazigyo texts are quoted, and twenty are quoted in full in English translation. The Buddha taught that impermanence is a fact of life. Nothing endures. The art of weaving sazigyo never recovered from the impact of the printed book and by the 1970s had all but vanished. This book is a posthumous celebration of a craft that is no more, and a tribute to the skill and flair of these brilliant sazigyo weavers.

About the Author

Ralph Isaacs worked with the British Council in Burma from 1989 to 1994, learning some Burmese language and acquiring insights into Burmese Theravada Buddhist culture. He and his wife, Ruth, donated their lacquer collection to the British Museum and their collection of sazigyo to Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. He is co-author of Visions from the Golden Land: Burma and the Art of Lacquer (British Museum Press, 2000).

Helen Mears, Keeper of World Art

  1. laurie

    It was always a pleasure to attend Ralph’s talks at the Siam Center in Bangkok.
    Ralph was an unique, spirited and focused individual.
    We both shared a love of Burmese artistic concepts.

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