The Thai cultural caravan travelled across Europe earlier in 2018, from May to June, showcasing Thai culture. The caravan, with a mission dubbed “Thailand at the forefront” is part of the country’s efforts to promote its culture in foreign countries via cultural artifacts like embroidery in Thailand, and performances like the masked art of the traditional Thai dance, the khon.
The caravan received full backing from the royal family of Thailand itself, wherein it began its journey to promote Thailand’s culture on a global scale. The roadshow held performances in key venues like the Circulo de Bellas Artes in Spain. Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been running “Thailand at the forefront” since 2015, ever since its official inauguration at the Royal Albert Hall in London as a marker for the 60th birthday of Royal Princess Sirindhorn.
Deputy Director-General of the Department of Information at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ruyaporn Sukontasap, says that their office worked closely with the Ministry of Culture for years in order to prepare the show, which included booking the venue in each country where the performances were held. The Ministry, he says, holds the venue selection process in high regard in order to set a good impression for Thailand abroad.
The performers, due to the limited number of staff for the caravan, were all forced to perform for multiple shows, which was a tough calling, due to the fact that all performances, while carried out in different circumstances, all had to adhere to a high start from the start of the caravan to its conclusion.
Every show starts out with the traditional khon, a masked dance based on the Ramayana epic. The dance details the beginnings of Thotsakan and Rama, their battle and Rama’s subsequent victory. This is then succeeded by Thailand’s regional and combat dances.
As part of the efforts to promote Thai culture, the cloth, previously made in India, was ordered by the Queen to be made by Thais themselves, to showcase textile making and embroidery in Thailand, a notable imperative given that the traditional Thai style needed demanded skills so rare that they’ve almost gone extinct.
Promate Boonyachod, of the Queen’s foundation, said that this decision was also helpful to the poor and young of Thailand, who have been trained in traditional Thai art not only for the country’s heritage, but also as a means for them to make a living.
There were also other cultural promotion activities in Europe, which include a musical-exchange student exchange programme between Thailand’s Mahidol University and the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, with others to follow.