The Sand Painters of Burma

One of the most unique art forms you’ll ever see is the sand paintings of Bagan, Burma. Artists paint on cloth using sand. I visited a hut on stilts where the artists crouched over spanned cloth, painstakingly applying the grains by candle light.

Buddhist image painted with sand, image from a Bagan temple, Burma

Traditionally, artists reproduce religious murals found on the walls of Bagan’s 1,300 temples. [1] Sand paintings may be black and white, or composed of colored sands. When I visited Burma for the first time with Uwe in 2009 there were few tourists. We reached the temples by horse carriage; now mopeds and air-conditioned vans carry visitors to the sites.

Sand painters still sell their work inside or outside small temples or in the courtyards as you approach. Some artists are branching out and painting their personal riffs on traditional images, or creating their own modern ones. Take your time if you are interested in purchasing a painting. Be wary of any artist who claims too aggressively, “This image is my own. I discovered this new technique.” (Amazing how many sand painters simultaneously invented an image involving contemporary animals.…)  But the work is mostly beautiful, and the artists are carrying on a unique tradition.

Foot print of the Buddha

Bagan is also famous for lacquerware, a costly and time-consuming art form. Sand-painting is an easier and less expensive way for local craftspeople to make money. Unlike lacquerware, sand painters can simply roll up and carry their wares to potential customers.

Eturbonews explains the history and process so well that I’ll quote them in entirety here:

“[T]here are dozens of mostly young artists displaying their paintings on the floor of temple compounds. They generally take inspiration from 700-year-old murals who adorn some of the most famous temples, such as Ananda or Gubyaukgyi, where paintings depict the life of the Buddha.

According to locals, Bagan’s artist community emerged following a terrible earthquake in 1975. In the turmoil generated by the earthquake, which saw hundreds of pagodas collapsing, locals got access to the temples and started to copy the murals on carbon. Paintings sold at temples are drawn using a sand technique, a peculiar aspect of Bagan art.

It consists of sketching replicas of murals with a stylus on a piece of cloth, which is then covered by acrylic glue. Then sand is sprinkled over the cloth, precisely following the lines from the drawing. Once the glue is dried, painting is added, giving the finishing a colorful touch to the motif. It takes a couple of days to finish a large-scale painting. The technique requires patience and skill.” [2]

I have given sand paintings as gifts to special friends.

A painting can be expensive to frame as the canvas needs to be stabilized so it won’t sag. On that first visit I purchased 3 paintings that took me forever to finally get framed. Uwe had selected an image with two tigers: I surprised him years later with the framed sand painting for his birthday.

On my first visit to Bagan I discovered artists had covered a temple’s altar with bags of colored sands. The artists brought them as offerings to Buddha. When I returned to Bagan this past spring, I didn’t find that temple again. But I remain delighted to know that it exists.

NOTES: [1] See my earlier post A Burmese Spirit Guide for more on Bagan’s temples and the talented wood carvers who work there. [2] Eturbonews.com   [3] When I view the sand paintings that hang here in my home, I am reminded of the mandalas that Tibetan Buddhist monks paint with colored sand. When the painting is finished, the monks sweep the sands away. It is art as meditation on the temporary nature of all things. Sand mandalas  © Jadi Campbell 2017. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

The Animal Kingdom: 18

Here is the 18th (!) installment from my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. This Cambodian army member should have never left the army.
  2. Nigh I saw the nye, they had vanished.
  3. The ambush didn’t ambush anything. [1]
  4. He put the purse in her purse.
  5. The leap leaps down.
  6. The conspiracy conspires to escape.

Answers:

Army deserter captured by member of another army, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  1. Army of frogs and monkeys
  2. Nye of pheasants (on the ground)
  3. Ambush of tigers
  4. Purse of sand dollars
  5. Leap or leege of leopards
  6. Conspiracy of lemurs
Look closely. Leap member in background, Kanha Tiger Reserve, India

NOTES: [1] Tiger Temple © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

Ambush, Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno, Thailand

The Animal Kingdom: 12

Installment #12 from my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. The streak streaked past!
  2. A scourge is the right name for this scourge…
  3. The maelstrom didn’t survive the maelstrom.
  4. A cloud clouded the twilight.
  5. The cling clings to boles.
  6. The set set up house in the grasslands.
Streak member, Kanha Tiger Reserve, India

Answers:

  1. Streak of tigers [1]
  2. Scourge of mosquitoes
  3. Maelstrom of salamanders [2]
  4. Cloud of bats
  5. Cling of koalas [3]
  6. Set  of badgers
Cloud, Khao Yai National Park, Thailand

NOTES: [1] “Of the original nine subspecies of tigers, three have become extinct in the last 80 years; an average of one every 20 years. It has been predicted all tigers may become extinct in the wild within the next decade. ….Today, four of the remaining subspecies of tigers are considered endangered by the IUCN, while two of the subspecies are considered “critically” endangered. The total number of all the wild populations of the six remaining subspecies of tigers (Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, Siberian, South China, and Sumatran) is estimated to be between 3,000 – 3,600 tigers.” www.tigersincrisis.com [2] Click here for a chart on salamandars: Amphibians-salamandars [3] “The Arctic Fox, Leatherback Turtle and Koala are among the species destined to be hardest hit by climate change” International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.  Fun animal names from www.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.