When I began writing my Masters thesis almost 3 years ago, I told myself (and anyone who would listen) that I would not highlight the political undertones in the contemporary arts in Myanmar. I footnoted that it could put myself and others at risk. At the time, it might have been true. I thought I could just dig “around” it. Now I see that I could have written an entirely different (and probably better written) piece of academic work if I had.
Nevertheless, politics remains. Today I attended what we back home would call a “book party” but really it was a launch, 1 pm on a Friday, where men and women – most of the ‘88 generation – were there to celebrate the poetry of those who fought and protested and died that year and all the others. Political martyrs who bled for democracy. It was one of the most moving experiences I have had in Myanmar to date. A 45 minute long movie of images from that year, the generals who ordered their soldiers to fire on the crowds of monks and students, the dead and bleeding, Aung San Suu Kyi, the poets and academics who stood and shouted to crowds: Democracy! and newspaper clippings of cities all over Myanmar, congested with people creating a Revolution.
Not only were a couple of the poets and monks there who participated in the 8888 Uprising but also Min Ko Naing, the President of the Universities Student Union of Burma and one of the most famous activists in Myanmar. He was imprisoned for 15 years and for much of that was tortured. It was an honor to see him in person, though I could not understand what he was saying to the crowd
He did however contribute and introdcution to the book (see the front cover as the featured image) and it was translated in English:
Memoirs of Min Ko Naing
While marching under raindrops in 1988, the first image of him was on the cover of the international magazine.
After 65 years of imprisonment, welcoming by his parents was the second image. And then, the third one is that of his brother, Thet Win Aung, who can never be allowed to participate in it. Upon them, it is the poet who looked at it with an artist eye and wrote it with a poet’s heart.
Deep in heart,
Min Ko Naing 25.5.2012
A few others by other poets pictured above:
March 15, 1988
The night of the Rangoon Institute of Techonology, the news of the death of students made a storm, Student boycott at Rangoon Arts and Science University, demanding march was attacked
March 16th, 1988
Tadarphyu (The White Brigade) at Inya Lake (since March 16th, Tadarphyu – the white bridge – has been turned into The Red Bridge – Tadami) Red by students blood, the flag of the peacock was brave to be born, successful, red and wet, the committee of investigation cannot consider and decide upon it.
March 18th, 1988
Prisoner-ferry to Insein Prison was crowded like fish-paste basket pounded, breathless layers of humans, tear-bombs on students, a tragedy, Announcement No. 97/88…98/88 coming out without relevance