Banned in Rangoon, Graffiti Artist Finds New Painting Platform Through SEA Games

By Lawi Weng 19 August 2013

RANGOON — After being banned from spray painting in Rangoon last year, Burmese graffiti artist Arker Kyaw has been invited by the government to decorate a sports stadium for the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games).

The 20-year-old told The Irrawaddy on Monday that he was practicing the designs he would paint next month on the stadium in Naypyidaw.

“A member of the SEA Games committee invited me recently,” he said. “I’m very excited about this. I’m doing a lot of practice at home now, before I go.”

Arker Kyaw is known in Burma for spray painting a portrait of US President Barack Obama on a roadside wall in Rangoon last year before the American leader’s historic visit.

The portrait was well received, but when he later painted Burma’s own President Thein Sein, the Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC), Rangoon’s administrative body, imposed a ban on spray painting walls in public places in the city.

“I do not have bad feelings toward Yangon authorities,” he told The Irrawaddy. “They were doing their job. Naypyidaw is under a different authority.”

Burma will host the 27th SEA Games in December. The regional sporting event with athletes from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, East Timor and Vietnam will be held in Naypyidaw, Rangoon, Mandalay and Ngwesaung beach.

Arker Kyaw declined to reveal his designs for the stadium. “I have an idea about what I’ll paint,” he said. “But if I tell now what I’m going to do, I feel it will have less value.”

The young artist became interested in graffiti in high school after seeing graffiti art on international music album covers.

“I looked for more on the Internet and learned how to do it myself. But I like all kinds of painting,” he told The Irrawaddy in an earlier interview.

“For me, there’s no special difference between using a brush on paper or canvas and using spray paint. Which medium I use just depends on my feeling.”