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The power of art and the possibilities for artists to play a leading role in social activism gained new attention through the Save the Ayeyarwady exhibition in September 2011. Organised by Green Hearts Environment Network at Gallery 65 in Yangon, it attracted a wide audience and was popularly believed to have contributed to the strength of public opposition to the Myitsone Dam construction in Kachin State.

The Art of Freedom Film Festival in January and the Yangon Photo Competition at the Institute Francais de Birmanie in February 2012, provided social commentary from the arts and helped to mark out an expanding space for free expression.

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Art Exhibition:  BEYOND BURMA
Artists:  Phyu Mon, Nyein Chan Su, Phyoe Kyi, Kaung Su, San Minn; Myanmar
Dates:   10 November – 8 December, 2012
Curator: Shireen Naziree
Venue:  Thavibu Gallery
Opening: Saturday 10th November at 5 pm
Open:   Monday – Saturday: 11:00 – 19:00

BEYOND BURMA features the new media works of four mid career artists, Phyoe Kyi, Kaung Su, Phyu Mon and Nyein Chan Su together with paintings by senior artist San Minn. Though the common voice of these artists attest their complex social environment, they are unanimous in their liberation from colonialism and a past that was once known as Burma.
The exhibition BEYOND BURMA highlights the current and changing social, economic and political landscape that is currently enveloping Myanmar. The general assumption and hopes are that these changes will benefit the country at large. For the vast majority of Myanmar’s citizens, unemployment and poverty continue to prevail.
During difficult times, Myanmar’s cultural practitioners continued to uphold its dignity despite the lack of resources and opportunities that were further impounded by international sanctions.  While traditional artistic practices continued, the country’s new generation of artists explored new forms of expressionism and media that would give them greater visibility and access to international audiences. Despite their limited access to technology and funds, artists are producing artworks that include digital art, video art, photography and performance art – media that allow them to articulate their concerns to a broader contemporary audience.

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In Myanmar

Thadingyut Street Cartoon Festival, Yangon

This year covered in New Light of Myanmar:

Cartoon show launched on Yekyaw Street

Yangon, 30 Oct-In commemoration of the lighting festival in the month of Thadingyut 1374 Myanmar Era, the cartoon show organizing committee of Ward 10 launched the cartoon show on 50th street (upper block) in Pazundaung Township for the second time this evening.

Over 200 works of famous cartoonist 100 in successive eras will be displayed up to 31 October.

“The works of the veteran cartoonists are the best. The works are sure to blossom the smiles of the viewers. The cartoons highlight opinions on social, education and environmental conservation. Especially, the cartoons create the best way for youths,” said a visitor. 


Poetry Workshops 

New Zero Art Space hosted James Byrne and Thitsar Ni, who ran workshops on the history of Myanmar poetry and its new forms. New Zero will publish these new poems in the next months.


Exhibition of San Zaw Htway's art at Pansodan Gallery, Yangon 

On 13 January 2012, when a major amnesty was announced, San Zaw Htway was in prison near Taunggyi, working on a portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi executed in the crimped edges of Coffeemix[1] packets on a black plastic bag. He did not know whether he would be included in the amnesty or not, so kept working on the picture late into the night. The next day he was freed...



International Press and Events

Min Ko Naing: An Artist in Politics, article by Khet Mar published in Samsonia Way

Min Ko Naing has been working continuously since his release in January 2012. He visited Kachin State where the civil war happened, the conflict areas in western Burma, the delta where people are in trouble because of flooding, and central Burma to educate people about open society. I have heard him speak to people and just hearing his voice make me happy.

Still, I am even happier when I hear him include his poetry or prose within these speeches.



Bones Will Crow Anthology of Burmese Contemporary Poetry UK Tour

Thitsar Ni, Eaindra, Khin Aung Aye and co-editor and co-translator of Bones Will Crow, James Byrne have been on a week long tour of the UK.

As part of the tour, Arc Publication have included beautiful articles from the visiting Burmese poets on their blog. 

Eaindra comments on the everyday experiences of being a poet from Burma:

I write poems to express what I see in life and what I feel about life. My poems usually tell a story or give a message. I do enjoy reading experimental poems, but I do not fancy switching to a new style as I would not fancy a foreign dress that I deem too much for my body. Perhaps I am Burmese to the bones. 


Khin Aung Aye gives the background to the anthology:

Bones will Crow comes from Moe Zaw’s poem Moonless Night. Co-editors ko ko thett and James Byrne thought the Burmese idiom fitting for their anthology of ‘15 Contemporary Burmese Poets.’ Bones will Crow means chicken comes home to roost — whatever you give, you get back. The Burmese use it to express their resentiment, the resentment against injustice. To be honest I did not find it very tasteful when I heard it for the first time. Since then I have acquired a taste for Bones. My ears have been tamed. My lips got used to saying it.


Thitsar Ni provides an overview of the collection:

Although there is diversity in poetic expression, all of the poems in this book have one thing in common. That is, reflecting the actual situations of current society.



All that is Banned is Desired, Oslo

This was the first international conference focused on the arts and freedom of expression. It launched a new network of organisations who work on this issue: Artsfex. Burmese artists Zarganar, Min Htin Ko Ko Gyi and Win Maw opened the conference with a session on the theme of beauty under pressure. 


There are background papers to the conference dealing with its themes in more depth:


Freedom Films from Myanmar, Copenhagen

Organized in close collaboration with International Media Support (IMS), Freemuse and Danish PEN, the festival showed films featured at the Art of Freedom and Wathann Film festivals and debated the current situation for artists and censorship.



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   London October 22: Burmese contemporary poet Thit Sar Ni arrives in London at 6 pm to take part in UK tour of Burmese poems reading events celebrating the publication of ’Bones Will Crow’, the first anthology of contemporary Burmese poetry published in the West edited by James Byrne, editor of London based poetry magazine ‘The Wolf’ and Burmese national poet Ko Ko Thet. This is 67 year –old Thit Sar Ni’s first ever visit outside of Burma.

Thit Sar Ni and James had been working together before by leading the poetry workshop at a location called New Zero Art Space in Burma for two weeks. The workshop gave the opportunity for the new generation young Burmese poets to get familiar with outline history and the cotemporary concepts of poetry and James became the first poet from outside world who had organized such an activity in Burma.

Along with the fellow Burmese poets Khin Aung Aye and Mrs. Eaidra, Thit Sar Ni will involve in UK tour travelling around for five cities to hold the poetry reading events organized by James Byrne, Arc Publication and an organisation called English PEN which promotes freedom to write and freedom to read.
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‘No violin sound reach to Beethoven’s ear ‘: Poetry book launch reception
In Mandalay on 13th of October, the reception took place at Minthiha Café on 78th street at 3pm and many of poets, writers and journalists attended the event collectively. Thint Naw performed as a Master of Ceremony and appreciation speeches were delivered by some famous attendees such as  Soe Naing (Mandalay University), Nyi Pu lay, Aung Than Chit, Ko Nyein, Maung Tin Thit and Maung Nyein. The event was concluded after the fellow poets recited their favourite poems from Aung Chan’s poetry book.

Mandalay-born Sino-Burmese Aung Chan devoted to Burmese culture is a young poet and his pieces written in Chinese have been published in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong. His poem titled as ‘A painting’ is presented to our readers .

A painting

House, Tree, Garden,
Dog, Horse, Hen, Duck, Pig, Cow
Different livestock
Appeared in a painting
Look carefully!
No man is in there.

Aung Chan
(Editor’s note: Such an event of poetry book launch reception is normally held in Yangon City and to hear that Mandalay hosted this kind of artistic movement is very much excited and decentralisation must be welcomed for the sake of future Burmese Art and Culture development.)