RIP Pamela Gutman

Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015. Source: The Interpreter 20150402

I learnt today of the sad passing of Pamela Gutman on March 31. Dr Gutman was the leading scholar on Burmese art history in Australia, notable for working in the country when much of Burme (now Myanmar) was closed to the outside.

Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015. Source: The Interpreter 20150402
Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015. Source: The Interpreter 20150402

Pamela Gutman, 1944-2015
The Lowy Interpreter, 02 April 2015

At a time when there is increasing interest in Australia’s developing ties with Burma (Myanmar), the death on 31 March of Pamela Gutman brings to an end the life of the first Australian scholar to complete a doctorate in Asian art and to do so in relation to Burma.

The fruits of this research were eventually contained in her highly praised book, Burma’s Lost Kingdoms: Splendours of Arakan, published in 2001. To record these blunt facts tells little of the effort involved in her carrying out research in Burma in the 1970s, when the government was resistant to foreign scholarship, and travel in Arakan could only take place with the assistance of a military escort.

Yet Pamela overcame the difficulties research in Burma posed, which involved translating Sanskrit inscriptions and becoming highly knowledgeable about obscure numismatics. She also played an early part in government-to-government relations.

She was invited to dine with the then Burmese president, Ne Win, to advance the cause of an Australia-Burma cultural agreement, an event, as she was able to recount, that involved being admitted to Ne Win’s residence only after she had been examined through a periscope at the residence’s guard post.

Reads the full obituary here.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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