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.

A collective painting organized by Khin Zaw Latt supporting Myanmar's Civil Disobedience Movement. Photo courtesy of the artist.
A collective painting organized by Khin Zaw Latt supporting Myanmar's Civil Disobedience Movement. Photo courtesy of the artist.

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.

AMCA မှအနုပညာရှင်များပူးပေါင်းပြီး အားလုံးပါ၀င်နိုင်သည့်စုပေါင်းအနုပညာလှုပ်ရှားမှုများပြုလုပ်သွားမည်ဖြစ်ပါသည်။ _…

Posted by Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art AMCA on Friday, February 5, 2021

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.

Myanmar protest art by artist Aye Ko. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by artist Aye Ko. Courtesy of the artist.

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.

The Artists Street Civil Disobedience Movement art-making event organized by the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art.

The Artists Street Civil Disobedience Movement art-making event organized by the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art.

လူငယ်တွေသူတို့စတိုင်နဲ့သူတို့ဆန္ဒပြကြတာကိုယ်ကတော့မတားဘူးကိုယ်တို့လိုဂျန်အဟောင်းတွေကဒရာမာကွင်းကြတာပေါ့။#stop_dictatorship_myanmar

Posted by Wai Mar Nyunt on Thursday, February 11, 2021

Protesters holding posters in Myanmar. Photo courtesy of Aye Ko.

Min Yin Thant portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's rightfully elected leader. Courtesy of the artist.

Min Yin Thant portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s rightfully elected leader. Courtesy of the artist.

A collective art project supporting the Civil Disobedience Project from the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. 

A collective art project supporting the Civil Disobedience Project from the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art.

Protesters make three-finger salutes and hold up banners and posters as they march on February 08, 2021 in downtown Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Stringer/Getty Images.

Protesters make three-finger salutes and hold up banners and posters as they march on February 08, 2021 in downtown Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Stringer/Getty Images.

The Artists Street Civil Disobedience Movement art-making event organized by the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art.

The Artists Street Civil Disobedience Movement art-making event organized by the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art.

The Artists Street Civil Disobedience Movement art-making event organized by the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art.

The Artists Street Civil Disobedience Movement art-making event organized by the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art. Photo courtesy of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art.

Posters of detained protest leaders are displayed at a rally at the Pathumwan Intersection on February 10, 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand in response to a military coup in Myanmar. Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.

Posters of detained protest leaders are displayed at a rally at the Pathumwan Intersection on February 10, 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand in response to a military coup in Myanmar. Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.

Aye Ko shared this Myanmar protest art piece based on a news photograph of the police apprehending a female protestor.

Aye Ko shared this Myanmar protest art piece based on a news photograph of the police apprehending a female protestor.

Myanmar protest art by an artist named Soe Ko Ko Aung. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by an artist named Soe Ko Ko Aung. Courtesy of the artist.

Members of the Myanmar Cartoonists Association protesting in Yangon on February 7. Photo courtesy of the Myanmar Cartoonists Association.

Members of the Myanmar Cartoonists Association protesting in Yangon on February 7. Photo courtesy of the Myanmar Cartoonists Association.

Phyo Min Oo created this artwork in support of Myanmar's deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Phyo Min Oo created this artwork in support of Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Myanmar protest art by Toon Saung. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by Toon Saung. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by Ye Yint Maung. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by Ye Yint Maung. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by Mg Pyi Thu. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by Mg Pyi Thu. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by Pen Holder. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art by Pen Holder. Courtesy of the artist.

Kyaw Thu Yein drew this political cartoon about the suppression of the press in Myanmar. Courtesy of the artist.

Kyaw Thu Yein drew this political cartoon about the suppression of the press in Myanmar. Courtesy of the artist.

Myanmar protest art.

Myanmar protest art.


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