Apr 11 2012
In typical travel-hipster fashion, I covet my little-known, off-the-map, you-probably-haven’t-heard-of-it finds: the sidewalk bar that serves Isaan-style pork croquettes, vintage clothing on the abandoned floor of Union Mall, the, um, Japanese toilets at Terminal 21. My latest find? 1001 Nights Gallery, which is on the other side of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi.
Conceptually, I felt like I was Moses taking a trip down the Nile in a woven basket, though in reality, it was just one BTS stop beyond Saphan Taksin. Below the gallery is the ‘House of Commons’ cafe, which is a peaceful, if not memorable, place to read or chat. The best part? There won’t be any fellow travellers there, feverishly highlighting their guidebooks and making you feel inadequate.
Venture upstairs, and you will find 1001 Nights Gallery, the artistic baby of Zakariya Amataya. Amataya’s soft-spoken voice, whispy goatee, and unassuming posture do little to convey his role as the latest mover-and-shaker in Bangkok. He is someone to keep an eye on: a poet, political activist, and the first Muslim to win the Southeast Asian Writers Award. The son of illiterate farmers, Mataya writes mainly in Thai, which is not even his first language. He grew up in the deep south of Thailand bordering Malaysia, beyond the tropical paradise most tourists see. Having experienced the violence of the ‘red zone’ first-hand, his political inclinations inform, but do not define, his poetry. He writes in long, open-ended free verse, ripe with nostalgia, fear and hope.
His latest project, 1001 Nights Gallery, is an art space which nurtures open dialogue and positive change — with poetry, movie, politics, philosophy, music and story nights attracting the young and the curious. While most events, presumably, will be in Thai, Amataya is making an effort to integrate English-friendly components. But don’t let the language issue be a barrier – sometimes it’s nice to check out another culture’s niche events, even if you can’t understand the words; and the (budding) photography gallery requires only your eyes.
1001 Nights Gallery
666 Charoen Nakhon Rd, at the corner of Charoen Nakorn Soi 22 and opposite Shell Petrol Station
BTS: Krung Thon Buri
See their updates for future events
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