As the end of the semester draws near, we would like to share with you several highlights of our Fall Art of Letters and Art of Light events, the first two parts of BUCSA’s 2017-2018 annual theme, Asia’s Cultural Heritage.
Art of Letters
In September and October, four major events took place to celebrate The Art of Letters:
The semester began with the Comparative Persianate Aesthetics Symposium (Boston University, September 28-29, 2017) organized by Emine Fetvaci and Sunil Sharma. The conference focused on the changing relationship among literary and historical texts and paintings and Persian cosmopolitan models from the 16th through 18th centuries, and how they themselves became starting points for the development of distinctive traditions that drew inspiration from local and regionally-specific cultural practices, including the non-courtly.
The conference brought together junior and senior American and international scholars and both the lectures and discussion created an intense intellectual experience for the participants. It was no surprise that the event was well attended, with standing room only for most of the two days.
Our next major Art of Letters event was the conference Haiku as World Literature: A Celebration of the 150th Birthday of Haiku Poet Masaoka Shiki (Boston University, October 12-13, 2017), organized by Keith Vincent. Haiku is perhaps the best travelled of all world literary genres. Since the 17th century, when Matsuo Bashō wrote his masterpiece, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, haiku poets have embarked on countless figural and literal journeys, and they have taken the genre with them. By the 18th and 19th centuries, dense social networks of haiku poets crisscrossed the whole of Japan, and by the early 20th century, haiku in its modern form had spread across the globe through the work of poets including Ezra Pound, Rabindrath Tagore, Frederico Garcia Lorca, and Zhou Zuoren 周作人. Today millions of people write haiku in Japanese and dozens of other languages. The symposium focused on the haiku poet Masaoka Shiki正岡子規 (1867-1902), who despite spending the last seven years of his short life immobilized by tuberculosis, contributed more than any other poet to the genre’s emergence as a globe-trotting literary form.
This engaging and inspiring conference was a reflection of the energy, commitment, and leadership of Prof. Keith Vincent. We were delighted to see the synergies that emerged among the participating scholars from all over the world and many BU faculty and students from the departments of World Languages and Literatures, English, and Romance Studies. The conference also emphasized the exciting ways in which scholarship interacts with society. One of the highlights of the event was the celebration of the recent digitization of some 145 back issues of Shiki Kaishi, the official journal of the Matsuyama Shiki Society, a treasure trove of original research on Masaoka Shiki and his circle written by the Society’s members. This important digital resource is being made available on the Open BU open access repository. Nanae Tamura of the Society was among the speakers at the Haiku conference.
Story-telling is an integral part of The Art of Letters, and we were delighted to co-host the event Dastangoi: The Art of Storytelling (Boston University, October 27, 2017) featuring Ankit Chadha, India’s leading practitioner of dastangoi, which literally means to “tell an epic.” With origins back to the 8th century but almost lost since the 19th century, dastangoi is the art of traditional Urdu story-telling in northern India that recalls tales of war, exploration, and heroism. The renowned dastango Chadha explained the journey of this art form through time and space, demonstrating with selected narratives about the 7th c. adventures of the great warrior and hero Amir Hamza, the uncle of Prophet Mohammed. Never moving from his seated position, Chadha enthralled his audience with diverse facial expressions and animated hand gestures that brought his oral tales to life
Art of Light
Our theme The Art of Light took place during the months of November and December, during which BUCSA held or co-sponsored three major events.
Diwali and the Art of Light in Asia, which took place on November 16, 2017, was a wonderful celebration organized and co-sponsored by the Boston University Center for the Study of Asia (BUCSA), along with ASIABU and the Hindi-Urdu Program. The festivities took place over the course of three hours at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at 121 Bay State Road, with diverse performances performed by BU students and faculty, for which we are especially thankful for the support and assistance from Brita Heimarck of the College of Fine Arts, Shilpa Parnami of WLL, Shaobin Zheng of ASIABU, and the BU Center for the Humanities. The performances included a traditional Indonesian shadow play accompanied by a gamelan ensemble, a performance of traditional Chinese gu qin 古琴 instruments by members of the Zhaohua Chinese Culture Club, lively dance demonstrations by Verge Dance Company and by Bhangra, and rousing a capella singing by the groups SUNO and KhaTarnaK. Participants also enjoyed a selection of Chinese and Indian foods while surrounded indoors and out by an incredible arrangement of paper lanterns and candles. This fantastic and magical evening brought much light and energy to Bay State Road on an otherwise cold and rainy evening.
On December 6, an overflow crowd of students and faculty were mesmerized by Harvard Prof. Ian Miller’s lecture, When Tokyo Went Electric: Electricity Theft and the Materiality of Modern Life, sponsored by the Dept. of the History of Art and Architecture and cosponsored by BUCSA and the BU Initiative on Cities. Prof. Miller wove an engaging story of the history of energy in Meiji and modern Japan, and the impacts that the choices of energy source have had on Japanese urban design, the clash between traditional and modern, interactions with foreign companies and individuals like Thomas Edison, and other aspects of Japanese culture and society. This is a fascinating story that continues to this day, as seen in the challenges facing the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), owner of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, and debates about Japan’s energy options for the future.
Our roster of fall events concluded on Dec. 7 with the screening of the film Paper Lanterns followed by a discussion with its Director Barry Frechette and Producer Peter Grilli. This award-winning film tells the moving story of a Japanese survivor of the Hiroshima A-bomb who spent decades trying to reconstruct the stories of twelve American POW’s who were being held in Hiroshima at that time, and to identify and locate their families in the US so that the fate of their loved ones could finally be understood.
Film trailer link: https://vimeo.com/181266396
Looking ahead at the Spring 2018 term, the New Year will bring a celebration of The Art of Ritual in February and March). Our programs will include a symposium “The Global Nature of Qing Court Art,” as part of our ongoing Taiwan Forum series and organized by Eugenio Menegon (February 2, 2018), a New England Asia Seminar event “Contested Heritage: Monuments, Politics, and Memory in Asia,” organized by Robert Murowchick (March 16, 2018), and an international conference Asia’s New Religions, organized by Rob Weller (March 19-20, 2018). Among the events planned for the Art of Movement and Sound will be “Yogic Traditions and Sacred Sound Practices in the United States,” a symposium organized by Brita Renée Heimarck (April 6, 2018), and the launching of our BUCSA online exhibition, Asia at the World’s Fairs, the first two components of which will focus on dance and architecture.
The spring semester will also bring more additions to our BUCSA website www.bu.edu/asian, including a new section that will highlight our faculty and student research projects. Please send your project information and photos to Robert Murowchick for inclusion in this new and important section of our site.