Life is Migration
By Wei Yan Aung 9 October 2017
The holiday of Thadingyut took place last week. All of a sudden, Yangon, the commercial hub of Myanmar, seemed deserted.
To search for new opportunities is one of the reasons for migration. In the case of Myanmar, Yangon is often home to those opportunities. It is the place where people from all over the country come to look for educational and occupational prospects.
So, as internal migrants went back to their home towns during Thadingyut holidays, Yangon was eerily quiet.
This movement of people is something Than Kyaw Htay has depicted in his ongoing art exhibition in Yangon. It is the theme of his solo ‘Silent Moves’—the outcome of his artistic inspiration which he derived from migrants who have left their native lands for new opportunities.
Than Kyaw Htay himself is a migrant. This art exhibition marks the 20th anniversary of his migration from his native Rakhine to Yangon.
“There are many people like me who have to leave their native villages or towns for other places for their livelihoods. So, I remembered the lives of migrants and organized this exhibition,” said Than Kyaw Htay.
Born in 1978 in Rakhine State’s Sittwe, the ethnic Arakanese artist studied at the State School of Fine Art (Yangon) in 1997. He made his name with a series of Mrauk-U and Bagan scenes in 2004.
He has organized eight solo shows and participated in dozens of group art exhibitions at home and abroad including Thailand and France.
In his ‘Silent Moves’ series, large crowds of people are moving—some carrying bundles of clothes on their heads and some pulling their children.
“The artist elicits the internal pain of the migrants in minimal brushstrokes. Viewers are left uneasy with their unanswered questions. Who are these people? Where are they leaving from and where are they headed for? And, most disturbingly, why are the people leaving?” said artist Aung Min.
“I wonder if it may be the symbolic future of Rakhine people,” he added.
There will be a total of 20 paintings priced between US$2,000 and 2,500 at the exhibition, which will be held until October 15 at River Gallery on Yangon’s 38th Street.
“Life is a migration and it is part of Samsara,” said Than Kyaw Htay, referring to the Buddhist belief in the cycle of birth and rebirth.