“To Be or Not To Be” seeks to capture the ambiguous nature of being Burmese not only in New York, but also in an increasingly globalized world. Is there an obligation for the Burmese artist to be vocal about injustices occurring back home? “This exhibition is a stage for me to say something loudly,” says Chaw Ei Thein. “I can channel a ‘voice’ for those people who cannot express themselves not only from Burma, but also all over the world.” Adds Min Kyaw Khine: “I want to let people know what is happening in Burma. I want Burmese people to live without fear—that is why I am participating in this show.”
For the participating artists, their artistic fever burns as hot as their political concerns. “After a few years living outside of Burma, I’ve come to see things differently… more artistically. I want you to see what I’ve seen and what I’ve been thinking,” says Kyawswar Thant.
Burma (Myanmar) is experiencing significant political change. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been released from prison, alongside hundreds of political prisoners. Recently U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the secretive country, and Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy, has been given clearance to participate in upcoming elections. 2012 could be a formative year for the South East Asian country.
For Burmese artists, the time to ask “To Be or Not To Be” is now.