In Hinduist and Buddhist traditions, 'Ahimsa' refers to respect for all living beings and avoidance of violence toward others. The artists share here their collaborative project that engages art as a means of unraveling issues of identity, stereotyping and discrimination in Myanmar--issues that that resonate within and across cultures throughout the world.
The different levels of conflict in Myanmar could be rooted within ourselves and the way we think, shaped by our identities and sense of belonging. This includes our background, race, ethnicity, socio-economic class, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, first language, physical, emotional, developmental ability, traditions, culture, religion or spiritual affiliation, roles in the respective society and our goals.
Communal narratives that we each carry can make us form prejudices, causing us to develop feelings, attitudes and instincts toward someone or a group of people. As a result, stereotypes are created which are reinforced by respective cultures, history and politics and often escalate into discrimination. Normally, when a person is discriminated against based on one of his or her identities, the rest of their identities - somehow fade in the eyes of the perpetrators, who - focus on the differences more than the similarities: us versus them.
In this project, participants from diverse backgrounds reflected on and shared their experiences of discrimination through interviews and portraits. This has resulted in what you see here today--portraits of the participants with black petals covering their bodies. The audience can remove the black petals to reveal the individual's core identity, with mindfulness to be more cognisant in the future when it comes to considering the feelings and identities of others.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Sai Htin Linn Htet and Khine Sandi Shwe are collaborative partners on ‘Ahimsa’, as well as many other projects, including the critically acclaimed Building Bridges Yangon: International New Media Art Exhibition, which was acclaimed by art critics as one of the best exhibitions of 2019 and a groundbreaking and historic exhibition.
Aware of the scarceness of support and sustainable ecosystem in contemporary art and cultural industries for young artists, they recently co-founded the Indriya Platform, whose mission is to empower Myanmar’s young creatives, as well as the Kalaw Contemporary Arts Festival 2021, to support and promote emerging contemporary artists working in a variety of mediums.
Sai Htin Linn Htet is a Yangon-based curator, artist and peace educator. His visual multi-media, documentary and self-reflective work is informed by principles of empathy and focus on issues of human rights, pollution, gender equality, identity and discrimination. As an educator, he provides peace education courses to politicians, civil society organizations, activists and youth from all over the country. As an artist, Sai responds to personal experience involving the human condition, mostly triggered by his mixed ethnic background, identity and gender, as well as deeply-rooted social issues, restrictions on freedom of expression, and conflicts in Myanmar. Sai was a recipient of Goldsmiths Fellowship from the University of London in 2019.
Khine Sandi Shwe is a leading change maker fellows of the Asia pacific leadership program from the East-West Center, learning how system changes are shaped and formed. As an ethnic minority in Myanmar with global citizenship spirit, Khine has embraced and has been a driving force in shaping the harmonious and diverse societies and communities of Myanmar through the arts and culture.
She envisions the arts not only as healing agents in communities, but also as a bridge of heritages from the past towards the contemporary and the unforeseeable future. She is working extensively to materialize an international, cross-disciplinary art movement that engages artists and audiences with the vital and unique historic, geographical, social, cultural and economic characteristics of the region.