In May 2012, an adapted version of the exhibition for our KCKP launch was installed in the National Museum in Suphanburi, the cradle of the poem. To launch the expedition, the museum held a whole-day event. I was asked to talk about “KCKP from the viewpoint of a foreigner.”
Nipha Sankhanakhin, director of the Suphanburi National Museum, is part of the new breed in this line of work, younger and zappier than you expect. We have visited the museum several times. It has a room devoted to KCKP, in which the highlight is a video of the famous reciter, the late Khru Jaeng, delivering a beautiful rendering of the poem. The museum also has superb displays on Khun Phaen amulets, and on Suphanburi’s strong local tradition of popular music and performance.
The KCKP exhibition, transported from the Jim Thompson Gallery, now included the book of our translation, placed inside a glass case like … well, a museum piece.
We had a tour of the exhibition, and then gathered in the seminar room. The full-house audience had a large showing of local teachers, along with many others.
The program included the historian Phiset Jiajanphong, talking on the historical significance of the poem, Muangsing talking about his illustrations, Bunkhrong Khanthakun, a local intellectual, talking on KCKP’s local roots, and the Silpakorn expert performer, Wattana Bunjap, who led a kind of master-class on sepha recitation.
I was asked to offer a foreigner’s viewpoint on KCKP (the museum staff even sent me a suggested outline for the talk), but I could not think what to say on this topic. Instead I talked about the historical development of the poem, and told them about our Thai edition of the Wat Ko version, due for publication in a few months.
As usual with all KCKP events, however serious it seemed on the program, it turned into a lot of fun. A local troupe appeared and gave a performance which started out in the poem, but soon veered into comedy and satire. The audience loved it.