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The Center for Southeast Asian Studies organizes and sponsors a number of events such as lectures, film screening, workshops, symposia, conferences, exhibits, and performances throughout the year.  Several of these events are in collaboration with other U-M units, and are often free and open to the public. To see what we have planned for this semester, please visit our 2020 Lecture Series page.

CSEAS Friday Lecture Series | Of Traditions and Innovations: Tiao Nithakhong Somsanith’s Art Stenciling Project and Sustainability in Luang Prabang, Laos

Boreth Ly, Associate Professor of Southeast Asian Art History and Visual Culture, University of California, Santa Cruz.
Friday, February 9, 2024
12:00-1:00 PM
Room 110 Weiser Hall Map
Attend in person or via Zoom. Zoom registration at

Buddhist monasteries in Luang Prabang, Laos, have long been training grounds for traditional artists and craftsmen. Many of the monks were artists and craftsmen who maintained the buildings, mural paintings, and stencils at their respective monasteries. The Communist Revolution in 1975 interrupted this crucial means of conservation. This lecture looks at a sustainable art preservation project spearheaded by Tiao Nithakhong Somsanith. Somsanith was born in 1958 and is an award-winning Laotian artist whose Phra Bot, Buddhist embroideries in gold and silver thread, are found as offerings in monasteries in Laos and Thailand. In addition, Somsanith’s embroideries are also collected by major museums and art galleries in Europe and North America. In 2010, Somsanith initiated an art stenciling project that teaches monks and novices to repair the faded gold stencils in their monasteries. Using locally made rice paper, Somsanith traces the old, stenciled patterns and stories narrated on the mural paintings in monasteries. He then teaches monks and novices artistic restoration and preservation skills. Boreth Ly examines the effectiveness of this art project in helping to preserve traditional Buddhist arts in the homeland and diasporas. She argues that the sustainability of Somsanith’s teaching demonstrates that it is monks who have been and remain the guardians of the arts and architecture of their monasteries. She further argue that this art project shows how a contemporary artist like Somsanith, whose knowledge is steeped in traditional Buddhist arts, is a great preserver of tradition while also demonstrating great innovations in his artistic practice.

Born in the cosmopolitan village of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Boreth Ly is an associate professor of Southeast Asian art history and visual culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She coedited with Nora A. Taylor, Modern and Contemporary Art of Southeast Asia (2012). In addition, she has written numerous articles and essays on the arts and films of Southeast Asia and its diaspora.

Academically trained as an art historian, Ly employs multidisciplinary methods and theories in her writings and analysis, depending on the subject matter. Last, Ly’s research focuses on the intersection between memory and historical trauma. She authored, "Traces of Trauma: Cambodian Visual Culture and National Identity in the Aftermath of Genocide" (University of Hawai’i Press, 2022).

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us at Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange.
Building: Weiser Hall
Event Type: Lecture / Discussion
Tags: Asia, Southeast Asia
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Center for Southeast Asian Studies, International Institute, Asian Languages and Cultures