Thursday, 13 December 2018

The Royal Patron of Thai Arts & Crafts

Compiled by Siwalai
Photos by Royal courtesy

During the 70 years of the reign of His Late Majesty King Bhumibol (Rama IX), Her Majesty Queen Sirikit resolutely followed His Late Majesty the King and accompanied him on his visits to the people in remote areas throughout the country. With a strong determination to alleviate the hardship and suffering of the rural people, the royal couple devoted time and energy to finding effective solutions for a better living with sufficient income, so that they can enjoy a happier life. While His Late Majesty devoted his energy to improving the life of farmers through soil improvement, the preservation of water sources, and many agricultural projects, Her Majesty did everything she could to help generate additional income for the farming families.

As Her Majesty accompanied her husband on the trips to numerous places around the country, she noticed that most Thais in rural areas could create folk handicrafts of outstanding craftsmanship. She realized that the rural Thai people, however poor they might be, possessed amazing skills to create handicrafts, based on the knowledge that has been passed on from their ancestors. She then considered that these handicrafts could be a source of supplemental income if they were properly cultivated and promoted. This led to Her Majesty's initiative to launch the SUPPORT Foundation, the project to provide occupational training and supplementary livelihood through the making of folk handicrafts.

Besides the SUPPORT Foundation, which is Her Majesty’s most important project, there are two other projects that exemplify her ardent love for Thai arts and crafts, viz, the preservation of Khon performance and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles.

The SUPPORT Foundation

The Foundation for the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Technique (SUPPORT) of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand was established on July 21, 1976. Its main objectives are to enable the farmers to become fully capable of engaging in handicraft production and earning extra income from their supplementary occupations, as well as to help preserve and revive Thailand's ancient tradition of handicraft production, which is in danger of dying out with the passage of time, so that these crafts gain wider recognition and acceptance as everyday household items.

The Headquarters of the Foundation is located in Chitralada Villa Dusit Palace, Bangkok, the royal residence of His Late Majesty King Bhumibol and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. In 1978, the SUPPORT Foundation’s Chitralada Training Center was set up to train children of landless villagers in Thai arts and crafts. Later, the name “Chitralada Training Center” was changed to Queen Sirikit Institute. In the SUPPORT Foundation building, there are hundreds of trainees, coming from rural areas and undergoing occupational training in various branches of craftsmanship under the program set up by Her Majesty.

On her trips to visit her subjects during a change of residence to the provincial palaces, the Queen took on a number of poor and undereducated children who have no experience in any craft as SUPPORT trainees and sought out qualified teachers and enlisted their services in teaching the delicate arts.

Apart from the main training center at Queen Sirikit Institute, many training centers have been established in all regions of the country by the royal command of Her Majesty, e.g. Ban Mae Tam SUPPORT Center, Lampang province and Kutnakham SUPPORT Center, Sakon Nakhon province, Sibuathong SUPPORT Center, Ang Thong province. They offer training courses in 23 departments of crafts, for example, mudmee silk weaving, gold and silver nielloware, gold and silver crafts, yan lipao and khid pattern basketry, woodcarving, etc. Every department gets on with the training and the creation of finished crafts in large quantities each year. And the Foundation sells them through its SUPPORT Shops, annual exhibitions, and trade fairs.

Many of these exquisite handicrafts have been considered to be the masterpieces that reflect the unique identity of Thai traditional art and were displayed in the “Arts of the Kingdom” exhibition at Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in recent years. This magnificent exhibition will be held again at the end of this year at Koh Kerd, Ayutthaya province. For more information, please visit www.artsofthekingdom.com

Preservation of Khon Performance

Another important conservation work of Her Majesty is the revival of the knowledge and all arts and crafts related to Khon performance. As a traditional performing art form of Thailand, Khon represents the national identity and therefore there is a need to preserve the traditional craftsmanship of Khon mask making, costume embroidery, silver and gold decorations and accessories, and the art of stage make-up. As a result, new sets of traditional Khon costume as well as Khon masks and stage accessories have been created by royal command of Her Majesty the Queen.

Khon performance of the SUPPORT Foundation under the royal patronage of Her Majesty the Queen is known as the Royal Khon. The Royal Khon has been initiated in 2007 by the command of Her Majesty in order to preserve this performing art which is facing the danger of extinction. The first performance, staged in 2007, focused on the episode of "The Battle of Indrajit: Prommas" from the Ramakien, a Thai national epic. The show was a great success. “Prommas" was staged again in 2009, after which Her Majesty commanded that new performances be arranged each year. All of these shows were so spectacular and impressed the audiences that there were a great number of requests from the people for organizing the show every year.

In the area of Koh Kerd, other than the Arts of the Kingdom exhibition, there is an exhibition room of “All About Khon” displaying objects and information related to Khon performance. The exhibition aims to honour and pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit for her great contribution to the nation.

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles

Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, established at the initiative of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, is located in Bangkok inside the compound of the Grand Palace in Ratsadakorn-bhibhathana Building. It serves as a source of information and research on Thai woven textiles and the history of Thai traditional costumes with the goal of creating public awareness of Thai identity and culture, and the beauty of Thai traditional textiles, through research, exhibition and interpretation.

The museum collects, displays, preserves, and serves as a centre for all who wish to learn about textiles, past and present, from Southeast Asia, South Asia, and East Asia, with a special emphasis on the textiles of, and related to, the royal court and Her Majesty Queen Sirikit. Its main missions are to preserve traditional textiles and related documents, and to hold exhibitions featuring valuable textiles of the royal court and those created by rural villagers to support the Queen’s efforts to preserve and nurture traditional Thai woven fabrics as one of the country’s cultural treasures.

The museum first opened to the public on 9 May 2012. It consists of four galleries. Galleries 1 & 2 display “Fit For A Queen: Her Majesty Queen Sirikit’s Creations by Balmain”. Galleries 3 & 4 display rotating exhibitions.

The museum also has a gift shop selling a wide range of traditional and newly designed products, for example, the decorative and functional items for the home, cotton and silk products and accessories, jewelry, books, stationery, and hill tribe handicrafts.

Admission and Ticketing

  • Open daily from 09.00 - 16.30 hrs.
  • Admission to the museum is included in the Grand Palace visitor’s entry fee; please show your palace ticket at the ticket desk for museum admission. For those wishing only to visit the museum: Adults - 150 baht, Seniors (over 65) - 80 baht, Students (with ID) - 50 baht, Youth (12-18) - 50 baht, Children (under 12) – free.
  • For more information, Tel. (+66) 0 2225 9420, 0 2225 9430, Website: www.qsmtthailand.org.

Editor’s Note: We’d like to offer our sincere appreciation to the Office of the Private Secretary to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit for providing us the information and pictures.

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