After a Military Coup, Artists Across Myanmar Are Making Protest Art to Share Their Struggle for Democracy With the World—See Images Here
The artists of Myanmar are taking a stand against the military coup.
Myanmar has been engulfed in protest since February 1, when Burmese army general Min Aung Hlaing seized control of the government in a military coup, refusing to accept to the landslide election victory of the National League for Democracy and its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
In the face of internet outages, heavy military presence, and nighttime raids and arrests, artists are using their skills to share the message of the opposition Civil Disobedience Movement, or CDM, with the world.
“Art is not only a tool against the government, but also a record to reflect on the recent situation,” Yangon artist-based artist Khin Zaw Latt told Artnet News. “It is a part of history.”
Members of the Myanmar Cartoonists Association took to the streets of Yangon on February 7, holding up cut outs of cartoon characters, and have created political cartoons decrying the actions of the military.
The Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art, meanwhile, held an art-making protest event in Yangon in support of CDM on February 10, and has also launched a collective photo project capturing people making the three-fingered salute in response to the coup.
Originally from Suzanne Collins’s dystopian young adult series the “Hunger Games”—about a rebellion against an authoritarian regime—the hand gesture has become a symbol of the resistance, both among crowds of protestors and in the artworks inspired by the movement.
The National University of Arts and Culture in Yangon has shared photographs of teachers and staff members making the gesture, while artist Khin Zaw Latt organized a group painting with contributions from 120 artists, each of whom contributed their own rendering of the salute. ECG heartbeat lines stretch across the collective mural.
The New Zero Art Space in Yangon responded to the coup by putting out the call for support to artists worldwide. “They’re not our legal government,” the organization wrote, requesting paintings, performances, installations, posters, photographs, and other artworks from artists around the world to “participate in this movement with us.”
Aye Ko, one of the organization’s founders, has been updating his Facebook page regularly with artworks created in response to current events in the country. The first piece is one he made himself the day of the coup. “I painted this while crying in pain in my mind,” wrote the artist, who was imprisoned for three years beginning in 1990 for his political activism.
To crack down on protests, the government instituted a national-scale internet blackout and enacted martial law, outlawing gatherings of more than five people. But a proliferation of graphics and other artworks proves that dissent is still strong in the Southeast Asian country.
Artists are collectively sharing their work on the Art for Freedom (Myanmar) Facebook group, which offers hundreds of downloadable protest art pieces. Many artworks are in red, the color of Aung San Suu Kyi’s party. Others show Burmese people banging pots and pans—traditionally a way to drive out the devil—in a noisy protest against the coup. All demonstrate the desire to restore democracy.
“I want everyone from all over the world to notice [our situation],” an artist who goes by the name Mg Pyi Thu told the BBC. “I want them to know that we strongly condemn the actions of the military. I don’t want to live under a dictatorship. I want to live a peaceful life.”
See more protest works below.
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