The Villa Luang Prabang Hosts Artist Nithakong Somsanith for Boun Auk Phansaa

The Villa Luang Prabang is hosting artist Nithakong Somsanith, who will display his artwork and hold workshops from 22-25 October to celebrate Boun Auk Phansaa, the end of Buddhist Lent.

Mr Somsanith spent this holy day at The Villa Luang Prabang as a child, when it was his grandmother’s residence. He will bring a collection of decorations and traditional offerings, along with his latest artwork, stencilling on mulberry paper, which will be the highlight of this event.

Traditional bamboo and paper lanterns, fabric flags, and banners will hang throughout the garden during this celebration of the holiday and the display of this Lao artist’s work.

Mr Somsanith has asked two specialists, Francis Engelmann and Dr. Linda McIntosh, to join him to help create and explain the context and symbols of these decorations and works of art.

Workshops will focus on creating different types of offerings, lanterns, and tung ceremonial banners composed for Boun Auk Phansaa and Boun Lai Heua Fai, the Fire Boat Festivals. Visitors will be able to admire the exhibited works, and also experience making some of these decorations.

Due to the fragility of the works and exclusivity of the place, The Villa Luang Prabang is limiting the number of visitors, by asking Luang Prabang hotels to invite small groups

Guests have can view some unique art forms including stencils based on the murals of Vat Sisaket’s library in Vientiane, the murals of Vat Had Sieo in Luang Prabang, and embroidered leaves in metal threads from a series entitled “The Leaves of the Second Noble Truth”.

Different types of banners, candelabras (hao thianh luang), lanterns, and large boat-like floats will be on exhibit in the gardens. Examples of the heua fai bok (land boat), heua fai nam (water boat), spinning lanterns, and wax-castle will be presented at the exhibit.

More than 100 works will be on display, and the artist is available to provide explanations.

The Villa Luang Prabang is inviting guests to participate in these activities by creating candelabras inspired by ones found in Buddhist temples out of banana tree trunks. Guests can also make their own floats or krathong to release into the Mekong River during Boun Auk Phansaa, and wax flowers or star-shaped lanterns to take home.

The exhibit is open 10.00-17.00. From 17:30-19:30, guests can observe the lighting of candles and lanterns in the garden.

ACTIVITIES

1. Baci ceremony in the most authentic style (Luang Prabang royal), organised by Tiao Nithakong Somsanith

2. Meet with the artist or with a specialist to receive explanations and discuss these traditions

a. Guided tour by Tiao Nithakong Somsanith, an artist and specialist on religious offerings and arts of Luang Prabang, about offerings and his artwork

b. Meeting with Dr Linda McIntosh, anthropologist and Asian textiles specialist

c. Mr. Francis Engelmann, former UNESCO advisor in Luang Prabang, a specialist on the history, architecture and customs of Luang Prabang

3. Workshops (1.5 hours each, maximum 6 persons per session)

a. Make different types of traditional lanterns

b. Make your own float (small boat, raft, khratong)

c. Make a phrasaat pheung, wax castle offering from the banana trunk

d. Make a string mobile or paper banner

e. Make wax flowers to decorate phrasaat pheung castle offering

4. View the lantern-lit garden at dusk (17:30-19:30) free viewing but admittance to

For hotels to make reservations for their guests and discuss fees, contact thevillaluangprabang@gmail.com.

VILLA LUANG PRABANG is a 90+ year-old aristocratic mansion located in the neighbourhood of Vat Maha That. Built in the half-timbered wattle and daub colonial style, the domicile’s layout and elegant woodcut decorations are unique in Luang Prabang. Formerly the residence the Luang Prabang viceroy’s lineage, it is presently the holiday residence of the founder of a renowned group of five-star hotels. Its large garden and reception rooms are now the setting of temporary refined cultural events.

TIAO DAVID SOMSANITH: Born in 1958 in Laos, Somsanith belongs to the Luang Prabang Viceroy lineage. He was exposed to different arts, painting, sculpture, lacquerware during his early childhood. His mother and grandmother taught the turbulent young Somsanith the art of embroidery, usually transmitted to girls, to calm him down. He studied medicine in Vientiane shortly after the Lao Revolution in 1975. He departed Laos for France in 1985 where he studied Fine Arts in Orléans and later psychology at Paris Sorbonne University. In 2002, the artist decided to return to Laos. He is now living permanently in Luang Prabang, devoting his time to preserving and transmitting his artistic Lao heritage. His works have been exhibited in Laos, France, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and the USA.

Dr LINDA MCINTOSH: For over 10 years, Dr. McIntosh has served as a consultant and a heritage interpretation expert and curator on several projects in Laos. Her doctorate from Simon Fraser University, Canada, took a multi-disciplinary approach, combining anthropology, linguistics, and communication. Her master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, McIntosh focused on history, geography, art history, and textiles. She has curated and written extensively on textiles and culture of Laos and Southeast Asia. Publications include Art of Southeast Asian Textiles: The Tilleke & Gibbins Collection and the forthcoming Thread and Fire: Textiles and Jewellery from the Islands of Indonesia and Timor. Currently, she is consulting curator for the Xieng Khouang Provincial Museum, developing its entire concept.

FRANCIS ENGELMANN: Mr. Engelmann is writer and independent consultant with over twenty years of work experience in Laos, both in Luang Prabang and Vientiane. His first visit to Laos was in 1991 and has been involved in heritage issues in Laos with UNESCO since 1994 when he was part of the first missions preparing the application for Luang Prabang as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995. He consulted for UNESCO over the last 15 years, working for the Luang Prabang Conservation Authority (The Luang Prabang World Heritage Department) and The Quiet in the Land – Art and Education Project, Luang Prabang. His educational background includes Town Planning, Political Science and Socio-Economy. His personal passions have led him to a wide range of research missions examining Botany, Paleontology, and Anthropology with different scholars’ teams in Asia.

Visit: www.thequietintheland.org/laos