7 July 2017: ‘Malay Magic & Divination’ talk by Dr Farouk Yahya

Areca Books is happy to invite you to a talk by Dr Farouk Yahya on a subject that is sure to hold many spellbound — ‘Malay Magic and Divination’. The talk will be followed by the launch of a recent imprint from Areca Books, The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections, which also happens to be edited by Farouk.

Traditional magic (not the silap mata variety!) is a subject that never fails to enthrall people from all walks of life. Throughout history, the practice of magic, shamanism and divination is found in almost every culture and civilisation. A strong belief in the spirit world exists in Southeast Asia — practices include the appeasement of nature spirits, the seeking of protection against malevolent spirits, and the invocation of deities for help. Contact between the material world and the supernatural one is often undertaken by traditional magicians and shamans. This knowledge is usually transmitted orally, from teacher to student, and also recorded in books and manuscripts. In his talk, Farouk Yahya will piece together the interesting histories behind this fascinating subject and shed light on the ancient practices involving Malay magic and divination.

The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections is a beautifully illustrated volume highlighting a variety of material relating to Southeast Asia, all drawn from the rich selection of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. With a wide chronological span, they are diverse in nature, comprising manuscripts (written on bark, palm leaves and paper), textiles, sculptures, metalwork and paintings, and reflect the variety of religions, cultures and languages to be found across this vast region.

The objects come from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and range in date from circa 1000 BCE to the present day. Most are functional, being made for religious, ceremonial or practical purposes, and particular meanings adhere to their various shapes, gestures and motifs. In contrast to the renowned stone and brick temples of Angkor and Pagan, much of Southeast Asian art is made from perishable materials such as wood, leaves and cloth to which the hot and humid climate of the region is hostile.

This book is ideal for both the general public and specialists seeking to further explore the arts, languages and cultures of this dynamic and fascinating region.

This event is organised by Areca Books and the George Town Festival.

About the speaker: Dr Farouk Yahya (PhD, SOAS University of London, 2013) is currently Leverhulme Research Assistant in Islamic Art and Culture at the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, and Postdoctoral Research Associate at SOAS. He is the author of Magic and Divination in Malay Illustrated Manuscripts (Leiden: Brill, 2016) and editor of The Arts of Southeast Asia from the SOAS Collections (Areca Books, 2017).