Modernists Bring Elephant Dance Festival to Yangon

By Wei Yan Aung 27 September 2018

YANGON — A trio of modernist artists has brought scenes of Chin State’s Falam and the famous elephant dance festival of Kyaukse to downtown Yangon.

The paintings on display at “In the Land of Giants” are not life-size but are quite massive, measuring more than 30 feet wide, hung on the walls of ArtAnt Pop-up Gallery in Junction City.

“Beauty of Falam” by Than Htay offers a stunning bird’s-eye view of the Chin town. The vivid and vibrant portrayal of the Chin mountain range, Rhododendron flowers, cherry flowers, and residential houses provides aesthetic pleasure.

Rhododendrons, which sprout the state flower, grow mainly in the townships of Mindat, Matupi, Falam and Tedim, and bloom in December and January.

“I created this when I went to Falam to teach drawing. But I have changed the colors as I like,” said Than Htay.

The 33-foot wide painting by Aung Win puts viewers in a festive mood, as large crowds of Kyaukse residents cheer on elephant dancers.

Every year, Kyaukse celebrates the end of Buddhist Lent by holding an elephant dance festival, which features life-size elephants made from bamboo frames, papier-mâché and fine black satin decorated with intricate, colorful embroidery.

The festival is believed to date back to the Bagan Period, beginning in the mid-to-late 9th century.

Elephants compete for the prizes in two categories – best elephant dance and best-decorated elephant.

To the accompaniment of traditional musical instruments, the dance involves three people – two dancing inside the elephant figure, and one role-playing a mahout.

Modernist Aung Khaing showcasing portraits of ogres, ethnic women, dancers, mothers, and guardian spirits.


“I am 73 now. I can still draw these figures because I am still in good health and have a strong passion for art, said Aung Khaing.

The art exhibition showcases more than 20 modernist works including three large paintings, which are sold for prices between US$250 and $15,000. The exhibition ends on Sunday.