The Irrawaddy

Artists Reflect on Myanmar Post Independence

An ongoing art exhibition called “Seven Decades” features old and new works of 18 artists reflecting on important moments throughout the 70 years since Myanmar gained independence.

The exhibition was curated by the performance artist and former political activist Htein Lin. It opened last Saturday at the historic Secretariat building — where some of the fathers of Myanmar’s independence were assassinated in 1947 — with support from the Pyinsa Rasa art group.

Myanmar gained independence in 1948. Htein Lin invited artists to look back on the past seven decades and portray them through their art.

Artists have experienced a lot in Myanmar’s post-independence period, said Htein Lin.

The exhibit features 18 artists: San Minn, Sun Myint, Win Pe, Chaw Ei Thein, Sonny Nyein, Maung Di, Phyu Mon, San Oo, Chan Aye, Wah Nu, Kyi Wynn, Pe Maung Same, Aung Myint, Sandar Khine, MPP Ye Myint, Ma Thanegi, Aye Ko and Ngu Eain Htet Myet.

Most of the artwork is political and seeing it in the Secretariat make it even more special. The artists use various mediums including wood installations, paintings, videos, cartoons, mixed media and more.

Here are some works featured in the exhibition.

Aye Ko with his carved wood installation.(Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

The Unfinished By Aye Ko

Aye Ko engraved the names of students who participated in strikes over generations and left space to add future student activists.

Aye Ko engraved the name of student activists on the pieces of carved wood.(Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

“Looking back at the history of Myanmar, it is students who battled to advance democracy and knock down the ruthless military. I created this piece with the belief that students – the fundamental devotees – will continue to fight for true democracy and remember the sacrifices of those who came before them.”

A 3D installation by Sandar Khaing.(Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

The Readers by Sandar Khaing

This 3D installation by Sandar Khaing is a mixed media installation using bamboo, newspaper and wood. This is her first 3D piece.

The idea came from the 2015 Letpadaung student strike. During the strike, the artist noticed a demand for newspapers and journals to follow what was happening. She began including her naked portrait drawings (which she is known for) in these journals.

Sonny Nyein with his memorial monument model with the nine metal plates, resembling the nine martyrs.(Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

Martyrs by Sonny Nyein

Metal, Sound, Light and Fan, a mixed media installation by Sonny Nyein, fit perfectly in the space.

Sonny Nyein is known for his metal sculpture work, which he has been doing for decades. His piece is a memorial, constructed of nine metal plates resembling Gen Aung San and his fellow martyrs who lost their lives at the Secretariat in 1947.

The piece utilizes the sound of footsteps and gunfire. Being transported back to the day of their assassination elicited a very emotional response.

In his work, the artist expresses his belief that the bullets that were shot that day still fly over Myanmar and his hope for peace.

San Min with his work “In Isolation” that shows a model of Insein Prison with hands behind bars.(Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

In Isolation by San Min

This architectural mixed media model by San Min is part of his “Prison Series,” which explores how his experiences as a political prisoner showed him the value of freedom.

Onlookers can see his detail in the small Insein Prison model and feel how he felt at the same time.

Artist M.P.P Ye Myint with his piece featuring the socialist flag and old currency.(Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

Cancer 1,2,3,4 by M.P.P Ye Myint

“Cancer 1,2,3,4” is mixed media on canvas by M.P.P Ye Myint. The artist highlighted these numbers as the lottery became widely popular along with economic decline in 1988. Another piece of his utilizes the socialist flag and old currency, expressing that the withdrawal of the old currency by the socialist government left the people in poverty.

Burmese traditional ceramic toilet bowls in San Oo’s installation called “Waiting Together.” (Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

Waiting Together by San Oo

This is a piece of San Oo’s from 2015. When he created it, he missed a chance at showing it because of the difficulties of bringing it to the 20th floor of Sakura Tower.

The satirical piece compares traditional Burmese ceramic toilet bowls to the unfinished struggle for human rights, art, and peace in communities during socialist times.

This installation highlights vases made from the cartridges of brass cannon bullets used in a shrine by Chaw Ei Thein. (Photo: Aung Kyaw Htet/ The Irrawaddy)

May All Be Free from Danger by Chaw Ei Thein

This installation highlights vases that are made from the cartridges of brass cannon bullets used in a shrine. The artist explores the question, “How do we evaluate and define our value?”

The exhibition will run until July 31. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is 1,500 kyats per person.