When a Burmese Cane Ball Juggler Dazzled London
By Wei Yan Aung 28 May 2020
YANGON—On this day in 1924, Burmese juggler Maung Law Paw from Yangon (then Rangoon) stunned the Western audience at Wembley in London with his performance.
In 1924, British colonies participated in the British Empire Exhibition, which was held throughout the year in London. Myanmar (then Burma), being a British colony at the time, staged a pavilion at the exhibition, displaying Myanmar traditional arts, crafts and resources.
Myanmar artists also showcased traditional performing arts along, including Maung Law Paw and his assistants Maung Shwe and Maung Kyaw Sein who exhibited their juggling skills through chinlone— a traditional Myanmar sport that involves one or more players keeping a small rattan ball in the air without using their hands.
When Queen Mary and her son the Prince of Wales came to enjoy the Myanmar pavilion, Maung Law Paw impressed them with his juggling skills.
After Myanmar dancers performed to the accompaniment of a traditional Myanmar orchestra, Maung Law Paw and his assistants came out and performed with cane balls. The audience was amazed by Maung Law Paw’s abilities with cane balls as he juggled five or six balls at the same time, throwing, catching and tossing them with his feet, knees, head and neck.
As exhibition-goers crowded in to see Myanmar’s exhibit, the pavilion was even partially damaged. Maung Law Paw and his assistants also performed in theaters in London and British media reported on their performances, publishing photos of the shows.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.