Than Kyaw Htay - Silent Walks, Myanmar States
Series "silent walks" showing the migrations of populations on the background of the geographical map of each of the states and divisions of Myanmar. As an explanation of these paintings (format 92 cm x 122 cm), the artist painted cartels that represent for each state the background of the map as well as an iconic place situated in the state.
Myanmar is a country cut off from the outside world by the arrival of Ne Win, who in 1962 established a military regime, between socialist autarky and isolationism. The military junta put an end to any democratic process after the protests of 1988 and Aung San Suu Kyi became the symbol of Burmese dissent. The fact that she won the legislative elections in 1990 does not change much since the military refuses to recognize the results of the elections and to give up power, until the 2015 elections where Aung San Suu Kyi becomes "Secretary of State", but still under military control.
The reunification of Myanmar has established 7 subdivisions of "the Burmese state", which is located in the center of the country and 7 "States" (one could say Provinces?) which correspond to the dominant ethnic groups in Burma: Shans, Karen, Chins, Mons, Kayas, the Kachin and of course the Arrakan, the Rakhine State, in front of the news with the terrible repression of the Rohingya.
At all times, Myanmar has been a place of migration and exodus, amplified by the tenacious repressions of the military junta against the rebellions of ethnic groups who have always tried to preserve their natural wealth and flee the oppression of centralisation.
Than Kyaw Htay, a painter born in Rakhine State, is also affected by migratory phenomena, in their various meanings. He himself, like many others, left his state of origin, to go to Yangon, cultural, economic and intellectual capital, to follow his studies at the Fine Arts of Yangon and his training with great masters of Burmese painting. His family was devastated by his father’s exile and the military abuses in the Rakhine State against the Rohingya.
A small Buddhist child, he shared his games with young mulsumans before seeing them confined to camps, while the mosques were burned and then thrown out of the borders. He did not have the right to talk about this highly taboo subject in Myanmar, on the one hand because of the military repression, but also because of an idea generally and mostly widespread among the "Burmese" (...see the 7 divisions...) that the Muslims were a threat to the security of the state, as they attacked the military through clashes and questioned public order.
But the subject was close to his heart, and so he began by painting scenes from the life of Mrauk U, the ancient splendid abandoned capital, the magnificent temples and pagodas and fallen into oblivion. Right away, he showed the movement of people moving to fetch water from the surrounding wells. Women and children wearing zinc jars, against the background of these abandoned temples whose silhouettes are diluted in painting, sign their disuse. The result is seductive, the paintings very beautiful, but the message does not have the force of the situation.
From this "silent sweat" series, Than Kyaw Htay moves on to the "silent walks" series, which shows the migrations of populations on the background of the geographical map of each of the states and divisions of Myanmar. To accompany these paintings (format 92 cm x 122 cm), the artist painted cartels that represent for each state the background of the map as well as an iconic place.
Thus, for the Shan state, one can recognize the Inle Lake and its famous fishermen who bring back with one leg while their two hands are occupied. This state is very marked by the civil wars that robbed its population, forcing many of them to flee to neighbouring Thailand and China, as well as to Laos. The same goes for the other 6 states, all of which have experienced or are still experiencing the civil war that encourages the inhabitants to flee to the border countries to find work and peace.
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