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The bodhisatta Bhuridatta meditating

Presence and Memory: Commemorating the Buddha in Late Burmese Wall Paintings

Lecture | November 13 | 4-6 p.m. | 180 Doe Library


Alexandra Green, Henry Ginsburg Curator for Southeast Asia, British Museum

Center for Buddhist Studies, Center for Southeast Asia Studies, Department of History of Art, Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies


Step into a Burmese temple built between the late seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries and you are surrounded by a riot of color and imagery. The majority of the highly detailed wall paintings displays Buddhist biographical narratives, inspiring the devotees to follow the Buddha’s teachings. Yet, the temples and their contents must be viewed as a whole, with the wall paintings mediating the relationships between the architecture and the main Buddha statues and thereby forging a unified space for devotees to interact with the Buddha and his community. These temples were a cohesively articulated and represented Burmese Buddhist world to which the devotees belonged and which aimed to transform practitioners’ lives in the present and future. This presentation draws upon art historical, anthropological, and religious studies methodologies to analyze the wall paintings and elucidate the contemporary religious, political, and social concepts that drove the creation of this lively art form.

Alexandra Green is Henry Ginsburg Curator for Southeast Asia at the British Museum. Her recent publications include Buddhist Visual Cultures, Rhetoric, and Narrative in Late Burmese Wall Paintings (Hong Kong University Press, 2018) and “From Collecting History to Iconography: Southeast Asian Shadow Puppets in the British Museum” in The Journal of the Siam Society. Currently, she is working on an exhibition about Sir Stamford Raffles' Javanese collections that will open in 2019. Her research interests include narrative theory, collecting history, the relationships between word and image, and the role of art in the study of Asia.


buddhiststudies@berkeley.edu, 510-643-5104