Navaporn Sukumaraphan - Arts of Thailand | Janine Yasovant | Scene4 Magazine | February 2016 |

Janine Yasovant
 คลิกเพื่ออ่านบทความนี้ เป็นภาษาไทย

It was another great chance for me to remember some of my past experiences in Pattani Province which many call “Deep-South Thailand”. The journey to study in the south at Prince of Songkla University completely changed my viewpoint about southern cultures and traditions. With genuine interest in the surroundings, I spent about four years in the university and almost two years as a teacher in a pretty big high school called Phokhiriratsueksa, which is 30 km from the city. That day I met the parents of  Navaporn Sukumaraphan who came as spectators to a sports event held at the school. In 1980 Pattani Province was a host of the 14th regional sport competition. I remember that many schools and the government sectors prepared everything for over a year for that one-day sports competition but everyone seemed happy and wished the event to be successful.


For the preparation, it was obvious that my husband, Kasem Yasovant who used to be the cheer-staff president for Thammasart University, was immediately responsible for the cheer-stand when he was posted in Pattani Province as a judge in the justice court. The "letter transformation" stand comprised students from three secondary schools. Apart from his usual career, he had to help the community and provided a good example for  harmony in the society. All schools, vocational schools, technical colleges and Muslim schools had meetings to plan and prepare for the event. For the opening ceremony, the Muslim schools prepared the parade of two large mythical bird statues. These two statues were used to welcome guests. The first bird is called “Burong Singha” whose face resembles a lion. The second one is called “Gakozuror” which is very similar to “Paradisaea”.


Both kinds of birds are regarded as heavenly creatures. The parade was fascinating for the spectators because the Muslim men and women wore traditional attire as in very important ceremonies such as marriage. Men wore turbans, silk coats and Selendang trousers. Kris was attached at the waist of each men. It was as if they wore full uniforms to honor the ceremony. There were three impressive performances of traditional dance that I could remember. The performances were successful with the help of two art teachers from Phokhiriratsueksa School. One of them whom I would like to mention is Naowarat Sukumaraphan. He was the spouse of Pimrat Sukumaraphan (Na Nakorn). They had a daughter, Navaporn Sukumaraphan, who earned a scholarship to study Thai traditional dance at Natasilpa College in Bangkok when she was young (around primary school grade five). In this event she went back home to carry the banner of Phokhiriratsueksa School

Over three decades , time flies

A photographer friend from Facebook, who took pre-wedding pictures. sent me some pictures of a woman carrying a pot on her head walking down the forest and a link to see a video clip of “Ussaleemala dance”. For me it was magnificent dance. The woman's pictures reminded me: she had stunning postures. I really wanted to talk to her.


It took a while for me to contact Navaporn on Facebook. At first I couldn't remember her at all: I hadn't seen her for more than 30 years. The first question I asked her was about her personal life and work. I found that she was a daughter of the art teachers of the school where I went to teach after my graduation. I found that Pattani Province really helped her gain a steady path for her future as she became a representative of Thailand and went overseas on several occasions.


JY: Could you tell me about your life and experience as an artist?

NS: I was a student with a scholarship of Pattani Province. I passed the selection exam and was chosen to study at Natasilapa College when I was in Primary school-year 5. I studied for years and received a bachelor’s degree there. My major was drama and my minor was musical art. In 1990 I was a representative for a cultural exchange program with Tajikistan for six months. Later, 20 Thai students and I were contacted for a show at Pyongyang, the capitol of North Korea. To be honest, Koreans have high discipline. They work quickly and efficiently, something which many of us Thai people lack. In 2000 I was invited to work as a cultural teacher at the distant education center in New York. The location was at the Thai temple, Wat Buddha Thaithavornvanaram I was a co-teacher with a Thai monk and we taught both in English and Thai. We had around 300 students who came from various states of America and they had a chance to join  the summer festival. After that, I travelled to teach the art of performance to Thai students who were in Schengen countries such as Austria, Germany, France and Belgium.


For my personal life, I married a Thai man, resided in NewYork and had a daughter. Unfortunately, my husband died from  car accident many years ago.

I remarried again with a Belgium artist.


JY: I would like to know about your determination of the work that you are proud of.

NS: Looking back to the regional sports competition in 1980: My mother who came from a family famous for Thai traditional dance “Na  Nakorn” was responsible for three dances in the ending ceremony. The first one was Rong Ngeng dance. Performed by A couple of men and women. An important performance in three southern provinces for hundreds of year. With the influence from Western civilization, invading the South of Thailand to create a new colony, men held handkerchiefs and women had shawls.  Over the years, the dance moves, rhythm and musical instruments were changed significantly. The dance was believed to have originated in Portugal and Spain . Female dancers wore shawls at their necks. The main musical instruments are violins, banjos, accordions, Ramana drums (from Portugal ), gongs and two-sided drums (also called Indian drums). It can be seen that any dance with a shawl is a tradition of Malay dance.  With research papers and theses, I also used knowledge from my mother . We occasionally worked with the royal family in Bangkok. Rong Ngeng dance has many details about songs, dance moves, costumes and musical instruments. The art department tries to preserve the dance so that newer generations of students can learn about it and practice.


The second one was a traditional fan dance called “Talikeepas”. Actually the fans were made of genuine leather but to save money in the sports competition my mother decided to use paper fans because they were a lot cheaper. My father and his team sharpened bamboos for almost a year because the outdoor stage performance required a thousand students. Everyone was so exhausted but they loved to perform the dance. The Malay fan dance or Talikeepas was influenced by Portuguese and Hindu culture. The ancient explorers and colonization played an important role with local tradition at Malay cape as well as Arabian art. We can see that the mix of different arts worked quite well.

The last dance performance to end the sports competition in the night was a candle dance. This dance was very beautiful and gentle. It was also a mixed performance of Philippines and Indonesia. I used to perform this dance with my team in foreign countries and many Filipinos cried after seeing this dance.

JY: I want to know your personal opinion about traditional performances and Thai society


NS: I can tell you now that political issues affect Thai cultural heritage in many ways. Thai people suffered greatly from the loss of spiritual identity. When we found that cultural art become a business, the disappearance of real identity was unavoidable. For example, using Chinese fans in Thai dance come from the change of concept and the misunderstanding in art. Another point I want to tell is that lack of manpower can cause the loss as well. To cope with this, a suitable organization should be established to take care of this issue and support the arts and performers seriously.

Navaporn Sukumaraphan has frequent performances and she is adamant that the preservation of tribal performances in the north of Thailand is as significant as performances in other regions of Thailand.




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คลิกเพื่ออ่านบทความนี้ เป็นภาษาไทย
Scene4 Magazine: Janine Yasovant

Janine Yasovant is a writer in Chiang Mai, Thailand and a Senior Writer for Scene4.
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©2016 Janine Yasovant
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine




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