The Chinese Rabbit Seller and Other (Extra)Ordinary Persons

Reflecting on Agency in Traditional Central Thai Mural Painting


  • Irving Chan Johnson National University of Singapore


This article explores the often overlooked images of ordinariness one finds in Thai temple mural painting. Through redirecting the scholarly gaze away from more traditional concerns with narrative, style and function, I show how seemingly banal scenes of the everyday are sites through which to locate subjective understandings of cultural and political identities. I do this by critically reflecting on my own work as a Thai mural painter in Singapore and showing how my situation within a diasporic Thai ritual universe transforms visual representations of Buddhist texts into fascinating engagements with the extraordinary, thereby inserting agency into a genre where artistic presence and viewership is largely silent.


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