The 37 Nats

Pages from The 37 Nats, an artist book by Mary Griep
Artist Book -- Mixed Media: black gesso, colored pencil, graphite, ink, collage, and gold leaf from the site on Stonehenge paper -- 80 pages -- Overall dimensions: 30" x 22" -- accompanying 11" x 8.5" annotated notebook

The 37 Nats
The Shwezigon Pagoda   ï    Bagan, Burma.  ï   Buddhist
Nineteenth drawing in the Anastylosis Project
Researched in 2003 and 2021, drawn in 2021-2022

The Shwezigon Pagoda, the premier royal pagoda in Bagan, Burma, is known as “The Home of the 37 Nats.” According to Michael Aung-Thwin, “…the presence of [the 37 Nats in a royal pagoda], in effect, stated that justice had to be obtained in this life without having to wait endless cycles of rebirth.” (Pagan: The Origins of Modern Burma, p. 53) 

This insistence on justice gave me a way to address my fears that the Anastylosis Project might be seen merely as a modern-day Grand Tour and to conceptually link a 12th century monument with the perennial need for justice.  Despite my 1–2 year immersion in the particulars of each previous site I have drawn, for this drawing, I wanted to explicitly complicate the beauty and perceived exoticism of the site with the very messy story of the Shwezigon. I particularly want to draw attention the complicity of other nations and corporate interests (especially those of Great Britain and the United States) in the on-going tragedies of the region.

This book works to contrast the beauty of Burma with texts, chosen for their ability to present a counter-narrative – one of injustice, the abuse of power, greed, and an inability to look past one’s own frame of reference or self-interest.

Designs and representations of Burma are on the opaque black pages. The translucent pages mainly contain texts, including the names and ages of those killed by the government between February 6, 2021 (the date of the most recent coup) and July 31, 2021.

Detail Drawing and Page Layouts

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