Thai Folk Wisdom: Contemporary Takes on Proverbs

Thai Folk Wisdom

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Contemporary takes on Thai proverbs…

One of my (unnamed) New Year’s resolutions is to get out more.

But… where?

Thai Folk Wisdom As far as I can tell, there is not one single resource listing everything going on in Bangkok. The bits are spread out everywhere. Magazines. Websites. Blogs.

On advice, I picked up a copy of Bangkok101 at Asia Books. The magazine is mostly for tourists, but its Metro Beat section got me to the Bangkok Art and Culture Center.

I have an interest in Thai proverbs. If you do too, the Thai Folk Wisdom (ถึงพริกถึงขิง) exhibition will be at the Culture Center until January 17, 2010. The presentation is from 10 in the morning to 9 at night, which I imagine is the same time the doors of the Culture Center open.


Be sure to pick up the book on the exhibition while you are at it: Thai Folk Wisdom. For a full colour book, the 500 baht price tag is quite reasonable. If you forgo the book, you can always opt for a set of six mini banners from the exhibition (free to the public).

This dual language book brings to life fifty proverbs and sayings from Thailand with great creative flair. Each proverb is interpreted with an abundance of vibrant pizzazz reflecting modern Thai culture.

Under the direction of designer Tulaya Pornpiriyakulchai, sensational visuals have been provided by some of Thailand’s leading contemporary artists from Manit Sriwanich-poom, M. L. Chiratorn and Pinaree Sanpitak to Jakkai Siributr.

The artwork at the exhibition is spread throughout the hallway of the 3rd and 4th floors. So if you do find yourself at the Discovery Centre (like I did), the pedestrian overpass will take you straight to the lower of the two floors.

Thai Folk Wisdom

Like sardines in a can…

Art is indeed in the eye of the beholder. Looking through both floors of the exhibition, I absolutely LOVED the painting by Kaesorn Podnjamnong (เกษร ผลจำนงค์): Like Sardines in a Tin (เเน่นเหมือน ปลากระป๋อง).

Canned fish are crammed into every tiny space to give full value to the buyer. The fish aren’t bothered because they are dead and have been turned into food.

Passengers squeezed together on the bus are a different matter – no fun no comfort. Some people trying to be funny have compared them to sardines in a tin – compressed so tight they cannot move an inch.

Thai Folk Wisdom

The Thai script on the top left of the painting means bus free for people – รถเมล์ ฟรี เพื่อ ประชาชน (rót may free pêua bprà-chaa chon).

During the economic crisis, free buses were a part of Samak Sundaravej’s (former Thai Prime Minister) economic stimulus package.

The Thai script on the bottom right of the painting means pain release (medicine) – ปวดหาย (bpùat hăai). The kind used for headaches.

And maybe Kaesorn could stop by and tell us the connection 😉

The reason I am attracted to this painting in particular is because it screamed out Thailand to me. Bangkok, especially.

I’ll have to confess that I have never been on a Thai bus, but I sort of know the feeling. Scrunching into the Skytrain during rush hour is close enough!

Thai Folk Wisdom

6 thoughts on “Thai Folk Wisdom: Contemporary Takes on Proverbs”

  1. Welcome to WLT Tulaya 🙂 Thai Folk Wisdom is a beautiful book – good luck on your ongoing project! After joining Wisdom Beyond Borders on FB, I came across this article that explains it: In the Spotlight: Wisdom Beyond Borders

  2. Hi Catherine, Thanks for writing up about Thai Folk Wisdom, it fills me with joy to see others enjoy the project. Anyone who wish to follow the campaign, look for Wisdom Beyond Borders on Facebook.
    I now have a dream to go around the world highlight other cultures as well! All support and contribution in any ways are most welcome 🙂 In the meantime, this is yet another reminder to get back on the horse and push through for the 2nd Thai Folk Wisdom book! Thanks again, Tulaya

  3. Martyn, if you like proverbs then grab the book from the exhibition. It is well illustrated, stories and all. I’m embarrassed as I have not read through it all yet. Time…

    Bangkok buses + stress and strain works. I was also wondering if there were political connotations as Thailand has a great deal going on that I can only guess at.

  4. Catherine I like proverbs as well and have posted about Thai proverbs before, they are something that gets your mind ticking over, something to think about during the quieter parts of the day.

    Perhaps the headache tablet reference is because of the packed bus representing the mad, sardine like city Bangkok is. The stress and strain of constantly fighting the crowds. The people on the bus look as if they could pop a paracetemol or two.

  5. Talen, the texture is a big part of what grabbed me too. Also, I like rough paintings that are begging you to touch them (nope, I didn’t). In the book, the textures have been flattened. I don’t know why they made that choice. Doing it that way improved some of the paintings, but not others.

    I only went to those two floors at the Culture Center so I’ll go back to see the rest another day. Bangkok was as crowded as that bus and I just wanted to get away, get back to sanity.

  6. Beautiful pictures Cat. I would have loved to have gone to this event. I definitely have to get to the cultural center when I return.

    Love the painting. I don’t know what it is about it but it draws you in with all it’s texture.


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