Post-Independence History Told Through Artists' Memories

By Lwin Mar Htun 5 July 2018

YANGON — A major new art exhibition called “Seven Decades” will feature both old and new work by 18 artists reflecting on their memories of some of the most important periods of the 70 years since independence.

The show will run from July 7 to 31 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.

“Our country gained independence in 1948. As of this year, 2018, we have been through 70 years. The artists who were invited to participate in this exhibition have experienced a lot of things during these seven decades. I asked each of them to look back on those decades and present them through art,” Htein Lin, the show’s curator, told the Irrawaddy.

“Over these seven decades, they experienced many wars, they lived through different eras, they suffered repeated failures and they enjoyed much success. We can see those things in their art,” he said.

The exhibit will feature a total of 18 artists who have lived through all or most of those post-independence years.

The artists are 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, Soe Naing, Aung Myint, Sandar Khine, MPP Ye Myint, Ma Thanegi, Aye Ko and Ngu Eain Htet Myet.

“Most of the artists I have invited came of age during the Myanmar modern period, but they have survived many storms and made it through to the era of contemporary art,” said Htein Lin.

“I always wanted to have this kind of big contemporary art exhibition in Myanmar because artists from abroad are always doing this kind of exhibition at their national museums or theaters. This time we are lucky have a chance to have the exhibition at a big compound — the historic Secretariat building.”

Htein Lin was curious to see which memories the artists would choose to focus on.

“When I look back at the past seven decades, there was a period that I hated most. It was the popular three digits lottery period around 1969. That lottery was illegal and some people’s lives were ruined because of the lottery,” said MPP Ye Myint, one of the artists in the show.

“There were pieces of paper called chai for the three digits lottery that contained lots of numbers, and people used them to guess the winning numbers. Even though the lottery was not good, the papers were beautiful. So I collected them quietly and turned them into art to reflect that time,” he said.

“This exhibition isn’t about looking at old art from past years. It’s about creating new art to recall past decades,” Htein Lin said.

At Saturday’s opening, scheduled for 2 p.m., Htein Lin will give a speech and artist Aung Myint will create a painting before the guests.

Opening hours will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission will be free on the first weekend and 1,500 kyats after that.

“It’s won’t be easy to put on this kind of an exhibition again,” Htein Lin said.