Samantha Michaels
There are a million ways to describe love, depending on who you ask. “Love is blind,” according to William Shakespeare, and “the greatest refreshment of life,” according to Pablo Picasso. Marcel Proust defined it as “space and time measured by the heart,” while Plato once referred to it as a “serious mental disease.” “Love is our mother,” wrote the Persian poet Rumi. “It is the ultimate truth,” added Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. But what does love mean for the people of Burma? That’s the question driving the latest photography exhibit in Rangoon, which opens at Union Bar and Grill on Wednesday. Greek documentary photographer Maria Verli spent two months traveling around the country, taking portraits of 100 Burmese people in four cities and asking them to write down their definitions of love. “It was very interesting to see their reactions,” the Athens native told The Irrawaddy, explaining that many were caught off guard by her question and laughed, while others said they were not qualified to reply because they were single. “Younger people referred to pain, describing love as a fire they didn’t want to play with. Older people referred to love as understanding, and people in the provinces equated the word ‘love’ with its sexual meaning, exclusively for couples.” A 10-year-old boy described his affection for his family, while a 54-year-old fortune-teller emphasized the connection between true love and peace. Others spoke in metaphors, including a young fashion designer who defined love simply as “tears,” and a married mother of two children who described it as “a bird.” Verli moved to Rangoon in September and said she was inspired to begin her project after observing the warmth and kindness of strangers on the street. “They smiled at me and were so open and helpful,” she said. “Kids were laughing, and at parks and lakes couples were enjoying the day. That was my motivation.” [irrawaddy_gallery] She photographed people in Rangoon, Mandalay, Bagan and Nyaung Shwe at Inle Lake. Her exhibit, “From Myanmar, With Love,” will run for two days, closing on Thursday, and the portraits will be available for sale through Sunday. Proceeds will be donated to a local charity that educates impoverished children. “From Myanmar, With Love” Union Bar and Grill No. 42, Strand Road, Rangoon Exhibit open Dec. 3-4 from 5:30 pm to 8 pm Artwork for sale through Dec. 7

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