Asean Disability Arts Festival to Begin This Week

By San Yamin Aung 1 December 2014

RANGOON — Artists and performers with disabilities from across all 10 Asean countries will showcase their talents at the Asean Disability Arts Festival in Burma this week.

The opening ceremony of the festival will be held in Naypyidaw on Wednesday and the festival will continue at Rangoon’s Myoma Parade Ground from Dec. 5-7, with 168 artists slated to entertain with dance performances, talent shows and music recitals.

The festival will include stalls for artists to sell works and documentary screenings on the subject of disability rights in addition to nightly performance schedules.

“It is the first arts festival for people with disabilities in the Asean region that will include people from all the Asean countries,” said Nay Lin Soe, program director of the disability support group Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI), which organized the festival alongside the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

Nay Lin Soe said that planning had been underway for the festival since Burma’s Asean chairmanship was announced in 2012, and organizers hope to build upon the success of the first Burmese national arts festival for people with disabilities, held last year.

“We would like to promote the fact that people with disabilities are as able as anyone else, and rally support for disability rights. We would also like to encourage people with disabilities through this festival,” he said.

Pyae Phyo Aung, a 26 year-old who relies on a wheelchair for mobility, said he would participate in a group wheelchair dance performance over the weekend.

“I am very happy to participate in the festival,” he said. “Although I wanted to participate in the arts, it was difficult to contribute to any events before now. The organizers didn’t welcome us and the audiences joked and underestimated us.”

A musical performance by Pyae Phyo Aung during last year’s Myanmar Festival of Disabled Artists was enthusiastically received by the audience, and one of his songs will be included in an upcoming album released by the Myanmar Independent Living Initiative.

“The public saw our abilities and they started know to cheer for us at the festival. I hope that more talented disabled artists will now come out too,” he said.