Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

19 Dec, 2023

Bangkok art exhibitions reflect Peace and Tranquility but Reality paints a different picture

Bangkok — On 16 December 2023, my wife and I spent a few hours immersed in the grandeur of art as an expression of peace and tranquility at the Jim Thompson Art Center in Bangkok.

One exhibition titled “Echoed Tranquillity” combined the works of Din Q. Le (Vietnam), Toshiko Tanaka (Japan) and Pratchaya Pinthong (Thailand). It explored the “journey of understanding and resilience in the aftermath of strife.” The other, by Kurdish artist Rushdi Anwar, is themed, “A Hope and Peace to End All Hope and Peace”. It explored “the cause and effect of arbitrary lines drawn by foreign powers in their fight to control what has historically been called the ‘Middle East’.

Framed against the backdrop of the senseless conflicts in Gaza, Ukraine and elsewhere, the two exhibitions did poetic justice to the role of Big Power countries in more than 100 years of divide-and-rule wars across the Middle East and Asia. They also highlighted the tragic failure of the resource-rich “developing countries” to channel their enlightened indigenous history and heritage towards creating just, vibrant, democratic and sustainable societies.

Having grown up in South Asia and lived in both the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and visited all the country backdrops of the artworks (Vietnam, Japan, Türkiye, Iraq and Iran), the exhibitions resonated deeply in my psyche.

As an avid history student and firm believer in the strong bonds linking art, culture and heritage to Travel & Tourism, I left despairing about the failure of the so-called “Industry of Peace” to actually “Preserve the Peace.”

Like many of the visitors, my wife and I studied the artworks and marvelled at the artistic creativity. But we also rued the fact that their core messages are being trashed at this very moment.

The cycle of violence continues unabated. Nothing has changed. History has taught us nothing.


I wondered how many Travel & Tourism executives visited the exhibitions? How many saw it as a potential call to action?

How many would have realised that minus peace, there can be neither sustainability nor profitability?

How many would invite these artists and their many like-minded, creative brethren to speak about the true definition of sustainability at Travel & Tourism forums?

My core takeaway was that it is long overdue for Travel & Tourism forums to move beyond the banality of technology and the superficial discussion of “sustainability” and start exploring deeper issues that impact humanity at large. The industry needs to rise above merely selling history and heritage to the tourists. Instead, it needs to focus on how best to learn from it.

Photography was permitted, which allows me to share these images and their eloquent interpretations, which speak for themselves. My compliments to all the artists, curators, sponsors and organisers.

The “Echoed Tranquillity” exhibition ends on Dec 20, 2023. The “A Hope and Peace to End All Hope and Peace” exhibition runs until March 10, 2024.

More info about both exhibitions can be found here: http://www.jimthompsonartcenter.org/