RANGOON — Galleries in downtown Rangoon are preparing to jointly host exhibitions as part of the Yangon Art and Heritage Festival, which will be held across the city next month.
Part of the larger festival organized under the theme “My Yangon My Home,” more than 10 art galleries will celebrate the beauty of Burma’s biggest city, its timeworn architecture and the people that call it home.
“I am living in Yangon and working here. The value of the buildings downtown can’t be assessed. I worry that those buildings might disappear and I love Yangon, so I am participating in the festival,” said Ko Sid, founder of the Myanmar Ink Art Gallery.
During the whole of March, Ko Sid said he will separately show collections from three artists under the unifying theme “We Love Yangon.” About 50 paintings depicting the colonial architecture of Rangoon and its bustling street life will be on display.
The Yangon Art and Heritage Festival will run from March 1-22 and will also include photography competitions, cartoon and sculpture exhibitions, and musical performances at a variety of public venues, as well as at the residence of the British ambassador, whose embassy is supporting the event.
Aung Myint Tun, manager of the Lokanat Gallery, said they will have a solo show of gallery member and artist MKM, who specializes in artistically rendering the buildings of the downtown area. The show, “About Yangon: Extension,” will be held from March 1-7 as part of the festival.
“It’s good to have this kind of festival. We will be more mindful of the surroundings in which we live and be cognizant of [the value in] preserving the city’s ancient buildings. Instead of neglecting them, we can be more aware of them thanks to this festival,” MKM told The Irrawaddy. The painter’s works depict downtown streetscapes and scenes from Shwedagon Pagoda, Burma’s most sacred Buddhist shrine.
“In the immigration line at Yangon airport as I waited to present my passport the radio played — can it be? — “Red River Valley,” sung by a woman in Burmese. On the way into the city I see the driver take his seat on the right hand side — British style — as I’d expected. But then I realize we are driving on the right hand side–American style. Huh? Apparently, a ruling general once visited the U.S. and thereafter decreed that the Myanmar’s people should drive on the right hand side as well. But steering wheels stayed as they were. I am not looking forward to being in a hurry and watching — or perhaps closing my eyes — as a driver attempts to pass on the left, without being able to see until it’s rather (too?) late.
We are here to report on a country opening up to the world, politically, economically and culturally. A ruthless military dictatorship clamped down on all opposition, prohibited free expression and kept the country closed off and shrouded in a North Korean-like secrecy for more than five decades. That has begun to change in the last five years or so, dramatically in the last two. It’s tentative, uncertain — and some people we talk with are quick to doubt how far it will go — but it can be seen even in little ways and even in the first days here: The magazine in my hotel room features an article by the editor on how the ‘country is living a lie’ believing that real political reform will come from the ruling military. Just a few years ago that could not have been published. In a small shop I see figurines of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner long held under house arrest. On the streets there’s a great deal of construction. Not the ‘crane on every corner’ I saw years ago in Shanghai as it began its incredible transformation. But a beginning — money clearly flowing in, new office buildings (and soaring rents), some ‘hip’ hotels and restaurants, a city being reshaped. Modern buildings sitting next to grand but dilapidated older ones. . . .”