Richard K. Diran

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Richard K. Diran
R-Diran.jpg
Born (1949-11-03) November 3, 1949 (age 65)
United States
Nationality American
Genre Ethnography
Website
www.diranart.com

Richard K. Diran (born November 3, 1949) is an American adventurer and Gemologist, who has also been a painter, a trader in gemstones, a restauranteur, and an art dealer.[1][2][3][4] He is, however, most notable as the author and photographer of the book The Vanishing Tribes of Burma,[5] which was published in 1997.[6]

Biography

Richard Diran spent more than twenty years buying gems and looted temple antiquities from Cambodia and Burma. "Antiquites", the ancient artwork looted from some of the finest temples in Burma and Cambodia. "I was buying it, I was selling it", Richard admits. "We had caches of solid gold Buddhas, man!"[7]

—Jerry Hopkins, Bangkok Babylon pp.120

Diran is the son of Edward K. and Dorothy Diran of San Mateo, California.[8] He graduated from San Mateo High School in 1968. Diran was in the first graduating class of the California Institute of the Arts in 1972.[9] He moved to Japan where he earned a Black Belt in karate in 1974, after which he returned to California, where he graduated from the Gemological Institute of America in 1978[10][11] Later Diran and his Japanese wife, Junko, owned the Fuki-ya Japanese Restaurant in the Japan Center (San Francisco) (1978–1989).[1] An article in The Goldsmith magazine claimed that it was the first Robatayaki restaurant in the United States.[1]

Andy McCoy remembers Diran as part of the party scene in Bangkok in the early 80s.[10][12]

Diran pleaded guilty to a felony charge of importing photos from Thailand of 3 children engaging in sex acts. Diran told the FBI that he took photos in his hotel room in Pattaya, Thailand, with three young girls he had hired to pose. He was sentenced by the Superior Court of San Francisco in 1992 .[13][14]

Diran, who first visited Burma in 1980 as a buyer of gemstones,[15] traveled throughout Myanmar and Cambodia for more than two decades, exploring the art, the then still rarely-visited temples, and visiting still remote tribal peoples as he took photographs and acquired antiquities and gems.[10][16][17]

Antiquities repatriation

In 1994 Diran relinquished his claim to an 11th-century Buddah statue from Pagan that he purchased in Thailand for $18,000 and brought to the United States in 1990; no criminal action was pursued against him.[18] Diran had scheduled the statue to be auctioned by Sotheby's in October 1991, expecting to begin bids between $15,000 and $25,000.[19] The government of Myanmar filed a civil suit against Diran in 1994.[20] The sandstone Buddha, which had been stolen from a pagoda near Bagan in 1989 along with three other artifacts, "is widely regarded by scholars as an integral part of Myanmar's Buddhist heritage", and according to Jack Daulton, the attorney representing Myanmar, "was of the utmost rarity, a national treasure". After being confiscated by the FBI, the statue was secured at Northern Illinois University (NIU) during the times of unrest in Burma, until 2012 at which point it was moved to Paris for a few weeks en route to being repatriated and stored in the National Museum of Myanmar by November of that year.[4] Diran's attorney has insisted that Diran had been forthcoming throughout the process, having "declared it through U.S. Customs" when transporting it to the United States, and relinquishing his claim to the statue at a substantial financial loss when its ownership was challenged by the FBI and the government of Myanmar. Daulton counters that there are many clear indications that the statue was not obtained legitimately, including the fact that "It's an extremely rare piece of sculpture, and an object like this has not appeared on the market for years."[19] A publication from NIU on the repatriation of historical artifacts stated that the case "set a legal precedent in the United States for litigation related to the international transport of antiquities." In the end, according to Northern Illinois University, "a crooked art dealer, the FBI, and outstanding NIU academics refusing to give up until the Buddha made it safely home."[21]

Photography:The Vanishing Tribes of Burma

Diran's photographs of the tribal peoples of Myanmay have been published as a book and also displayed as a traveling exhibition.[22] Diran took the photos in the book over a period of 17 years.[17][23][24] Asiaweek described the book as, "the most comprehensive visual record of Myanmar's many ethnic groups".[17]

Diran's book explores Burma's "cultural diversity,"[25] portraying not only the better-described tribal groups, such as the Jinghpaw, the Karen and the Shan, but also lesser-known peoples including the Thet people, (aRakhine people), the Bre, the Laytoo Chin and the Lahta.[17] Sarah Dudley of the University of Leicester understands Diran's work as salvage ethnography, capturing a images of a physical culture on the brink of disappearing.[26] According to essay reviews inAsiaweek and The Japan Times, Diran , entering Myanmar via a series of 7-day tourist visas issued in Bangkok, entered areas of the country barred to foreigners by the military regime either by evading or with the connivance of provincial officials and thereby obtained a unique series of images of societies on the brink of replacing traditional dress and locally woven cloth with modern fabrics and styles.[16][17] Journalist Bertil Lintner took similar risks to enter Myanmar in this period.[16]

The exhibition features 70 photographs which, according to Diran, include people from "at least 40 distinct ethnic groups, documented over more than 25 years and constituting 'the most comprehensive study of Burmese ethnography since [Sir George] Scott more than 100 years ago.'" Diran has explained that he intended the exhibition to help humanize the many disparate ethnic groups, many of whom have very little knowledge of one another, some of whom have been "linked by the military government to insurgent terrorists".[15] All photos in the exhibition were donated to the National Museum of Myanmar.[15] In 2014 a human rights group in Sweden sponsored an exhibition of Diran's photos to draw attention to ethnic conflict in Myanmar.[27][28]

References

  1. ^ a b c The Goldsmith (1983). "Gourmet Gemstones are the Specialty of the House". 
  2. ^ The Nation Newspaper Thailand (2005). "Seduced by Seduction". 
  3. ^ Hopkins, Jerry (May 2005). Bangkok Babylon - Periplus 2005. Backbeat Books. ISBN 079460224X. 
  4. ^ a b Ives, Mike (2 November 2013). "Myanmar Buddha sculpture returns home after wild ride". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  5. ^ Diran, Richard (1998). The Vanishing Tribes of Burma. Orion Weidenfeld Nicholson - London. ISBN 0-297-82294-2. 
  6. ^ Cover Magazine London (May 1998). "Pages 62-73". 
  7. ^ "Bangkok Babylon-Romanicing the Stones." Bangkok Babylon, Jerry Hopkins. Periplus, 2005
  8. ^ "Obituary of Edward. K. Diran". SFGate. 5 September 2003. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  9. ^ California Living Magazine (February 3, 1980). "Article by David Ross". 
  10. ^ a b c Hopkins, Jerry (May 2005). Bangkok Babylon - Chapter 14, "Romancing the Stones". Backbeat Books. 
  11. ^ California Living Magazine (February 3, 1980). "A World of Peril and Glitter". 
  12. ^ "SHERIFF MCCOY: Outlaw Legend of Hanoi Rocks, by Andy McCoy". Bazillion Points. 1 March 2013. Retrieved 2015-04-18. 
  13. ^ Viets, Jack. "U.S.Charges S.F. Man for Photos of Sex Acts." San Francisco Chronicle, December 14, 1990, Final Edition ed., News sec.
  14. ^ "San Francisco/Guilty Plea in Import of Child Pornography." The San Francisco Chronicle [Three Star Edition], March 4, 1992
  15. ^ a b c Kaspar, Andrew D. (September 30, 2013). "Exhibition Captures ‘Vanishing’ Ethnic Traditions". The Irrawaddy. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c Mansfield, Stephen (17 May 1999). "Last glimpses of a vanishing people". Japan Times. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Zack, Michele (Feb 27, 1988). "Lost Riches". Asiaweek. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  18. ^ Stein, Sharman (27 December 1994). "Buddha Statue Incites Art War". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  19. ^ a b Stein, Sharman (December 27, 1994). "Buddha Statue Incites Art War: Collector Agrees To Return Sculpture To Myanmar". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  20. ^ Khan, Naazish Yar (28 May 1995). "Precious Stone How A Dekalb Professor Cracked The Case Of The Stolen Buddha". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  21. ^ Norther Illinois University. "The Return of a Looted Buddha: the 25-Year Saga" (PDF). Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  22. ^ Hattaway, Paul (2004). Peoples of the Buddhist World. William Carey Library. p. 366. ISBN 0878083618. 
  23. ^ Richmond, Simon (2014). Lonely Planet Myanmar. Lonely Planet. ISBN 1743600194. 
  24. ^ Selth, Andrew (27 October 2013). "Brave New Burma". New Mandala. Australian National University. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  25. ^ Sarah Dudley chapter, in Marcus Banks (2013). Made to Be Seen: Perspectives on the History of Visual Anthropology. University of Chicago Press. p. 54. ISBN 0226036634. 
  26. ^ "In Sweden, SPAS Holds Event to underline Rohingya Issue". Salem-News.com. Burma Times. 10 May 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 
  27. ^ "Fotoutställning om Burmas ursprungsfolk gästar Göteborg". Sverige Radio. 20 May 2014. Retrieved 17 April 2015. 

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