UMD 15: Community of Practice in the Brass Gong Foundries of Tampawady, Mandalay

The transformations happening throughout Myanmar society are visible in the community of brass gong artisans of Tampawady district in urban Mandalay. Brass gongs have long played a role in the ritual and ceremonial life of Myanmar’s millions of Buddhists, and brass gong artisans have enjoyed royal patronage for centuries. From the 19th century a brass-gong artisan community has existed in Tampawady, and Lei Shwe Sin Myint has engaged the craftsmen of this community in her research exploring not just the ritual use of brass gongs, but also the unique society that has developed among brass-gong workers. Their close quarters, working conditions, unique skillset and unusual isolation from daytime society has led them to develop as a community with elements of cottage industry, blue collar labor and religious and artistic practice.

The expansion of rapidly urbanizing Mandalay and new technological innovations threatens to drastically change the methods of brass gong production and the community that has grown in the Tampawady quarter. Lei Shwe Sin Myint has engaged the craft smen and foundry owners to see how their livelihoods and art will be impacted, and how the character of urban Mandalay will change as well.

Publication date : December 2019