Quessel, Burkhard Burkhard.Quessel at BL.UK
Thu Jul 3 13:10:23 UTC 2008



Tuesday 8 July 2008 


10.00 - 16.30 

The Conference Centre, British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB 

Price: £25 (concessions £15) 

Tickets may be booked online at, by phone on +44 (0)1937 546546 

or in person at the British Library Information Desk. 

Perhaps more than any other story in world literature, the Ramayana has been imaginatively represented in 

a vast variety of different forms. From ancient painting and sculpture, via shadow puppetry, dances, vast 

community plays and mask drama, to contemporary shrines, calendars and diwali effigies. To these one could 

add an ever growing catalogue of TV series, films and cartoons. 


Visualising The Ramayana is a day of presentations and discussions exploring some of this remarkable richness 

that flourishes across Asia to this day. 


This event is a part of the programme accompanying The Ramayana - Love and Valour in India's Great Epic, 

a major free exhibition at the British Library, until 14 September 2008. For more information please visit 




10.00 Registration and coffee 

10.20 Welcome by Michael O'Keefe, Head Of South Asian Collections, British Library 

10.25 Seeing the words and speaking the pictures 

Mary Brockington 

Narrative poem, drama, puppet play or television blockbuster; theological treatise, folk tale 

or social commentary; expressed in words, sculpture or painting; by people of differing faiths, 

culture and nationality. How has the original romance been adapted to fit their needs, and 

what has been the impact of the visual texts on the verbal retellings? 

Mary Brockington is associate of the Sanskrit Department, School of Asian Studies at the 

University of Edinburgh 




Shadow Puppet Traditions of India and Indonesia 

Stuart Blackburn and Matthew Cohen 


Stuart Blackburn is a Senior Research Associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in 

London. His studies of folklore, performance and oral genres in India include Inside The Drama-

House: Rama Stories and Shadow Puppets in South India (1996); Moral Fictions: Tamil Folktales 

from Oral Tradition (2001); and Print, Folklore and Nationalism in Colonial South India (2003); 

and Himalayan Tribal Tales: Oral Stories from Arunachal Pradesh (2008, forthcoming). 


Matthew Isaac Cohen began his studies of wayang kulit in 1988 and has several phases training 

with senior puppeteers in Java and performing across the island. He has gone on to present 

traditional and contemporary wayang kulit with gamelan groups in the United Kingdom, the 

United States, The Netherlands and Israel and is a senior lecturer in the Department of Drama and 

Theatre at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he teaches Asian theatre, puppetry and 

performance studies. Publications include Demon Abduction: A Wayang Ritual Drama from West 

Java and The Komedie Stamboel: Popular Theater in Colonial Indonesia, 1891-1903, winner of 

the 2008 Benda Prize from the Association for Asian Studies. 



Brief break - preview of Nina Paley's film Sita Sings The Blues. 


Normative and Performative: Reflections on the Roles of the Ramayana in Cambodian Tradition 

Ashley Thompson 


Ashley Thompson (University of Leeds) is a specialist in Southeast Asian Cultural History, with 

a focus on classical and pre-modern art and literature. Much of her work concerns Hindu and 

Buddhist sculpture and painting, cult, ritual and other performance practices and texts, as well 

as issues related to gender, memory and cultural transition. Her publications include Dance in 

Cambodia (co-authored with T. Shapiro-Phim 1999); Calling the Souls. A Khmer Ritual Text 

(2005); and most recently Portraits of Cambodia: Angkor Revisited in What's the Use of Art: 

Situating Asian 'Art Objects' in Performance, Ritual, and the Everyday (2007). Forthcoming 

work includes Performative Realities: Nobody's Possession in At the Edge of the Forest: Essays 

in Honor of David Chandler. 



Lunch Break 

> From 1pm there will be a free public Bollywood dance class on the Piazza lead by Jay Kumar's 

DanceAsia. Come and join in! 


The Ramayana in Kathakali Dance Theatre: A Lecture Demonstration 

Kalamandalam Vijayakumar and Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar 

Kathakali is a classical dance drama - largely of stories from Mahabharatha and the Ramayana - 

that originated in the Hindu temples of Kerela, South India, over 500 years ago. The form is 

renowned for its spectacular costumes, vivid make-up, dramatic dance and evocative live music . 


Kalamandalam Vijayakumar and Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar founded The Kala Chethena 

Kathakali Company in Kerela in 1987. They now have their base in Britain, but regularly arrange 

tours by the company, which includes some of the most outstanding artists in India. Among them 

is the great Kathakali master Kalamandalam Gopi, who will be part of the Autumn 2008 UK tour. 



How Has Ravana Been Represented? Picturing a King of the Demons 

Paula Richman 


Paula Richman is William H. Danforth Professor of South Asian Religions at Oberlin College, USA, 

editor of Many Ramayanas: The Diversity of a Narrative Tradition in South Asia; Questioning 

Ramayanas, A South Asian Tradition; and Ramayana Stories in Modern South India. She is 

currently completing her book called Ramayanas Abroad which examines Ramayana dramas in 

the United Kingdom, Trinidad, and South Africa. 






Directing the Ramayana for the contemporary Western stage 

Jatinder Verma and Indhu Rubasingham with Paula Richman 

Indhu Rubasingham is one of the most acclaimed directors in British theatre and her production 

of The Ramayana at the Royal National Theatre (2001) is amongst her best known work. Other 

recent productions include Sugar Mummies and Free Outgoing (currently running) at the Royal 

Court; Fabulation at the Tricycle; Pure Gold at Soho Theatre; and Yellowman and Anna in The 

Tropics at Hampstead Theatre. For the National she has also directed The Waiting Room and for 

Chichester she has directed Romeo and Juliet, The Misanthrope and The Secret Rapture. 


Jatinder Verma is the Founder and Artistic Director of Tara Arts, a theatre company that has for 

over 30 years created a series of classic and new productions that draw on Eastern and Western 

influences. Major work includes co-productions with the National Theatre (Tartuffe, The Little 

Clay Cart and Cyrano); 2001 A Ramayan Odyssey; Journey to the West, The Marriage Of Figaro 

and many more. With Claudia Mayer of Tara Arts, Jatinder designed the British Library exhibition, 


The Ramayana - Love and Valour In India's Great Epic. 








Screening of 'Sita Sings the Blues' 

(Nina Paley, USA, 2008, 82 mins) 


Sita is a goddess separated from her beloved Lord and husband Rama. Nina is an animator 

whose husband moves to India, then dumps her by email. Three hilarious shadow puppets narrate 

both ancient tragedy and modern comedy in this dazzlingly animated new interpretation of the 

Ramayana. Set to the 1920's jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw, Sita Sings the Blues earns its tagline 

as 'the greatest break-up story ever told'. 


Directed, written, produced, designed and animated by Nina Paley, who will introduce 

the screening. 


Nina Paley is a longtime veteran of syndicated comic strips in the US, creating Fluff, The Hots and 

Nina's Adventures. In 1998 she began making independent animated festival films, including the 

controversial yet popular environmental short, The Stork. In 2002 Nina followed her then-husband 

to Trivandrum, India, where she read her first Ramayana. This inspired her first feature, Sita Sings 

the Blues, which she animated and produced single-handedly over five years. Nina teaches at 

Parsons School of Design in Manhattan and is a 2006 Guggenheim Fellow 


Price: £6 (concessions £4) 

Tickets may be booked online at, by phone on +44 (0)1937 546546 

or in person at the British Library Information Desk 




Burkhard Quessel, Curator of the Tibetan Collections
The British Library
96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB
phone: +44-20-7412-7819
fax: +44-20-7412-7850
email: Burkhard.Quessel at

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