Under military rule for half a century, Myanmar was substantially isolated from the world, including international exchanges and developments that took place in neighbouring countries. Not only the economy, but also education and culture fell far behind as a result of stunted growth through sanctions and censorship. Major universities remained closed for decades. At least two generations of young people grew up without a robust and varied educational system. In those years Myanmar quickly lost touch with international standards and models. Few had the opportunity to study or work abroad. As a consequence, the lack of innovative and trained professionals in almost all fields is enormous.
With such dire circumstances, the country races today to catch up with the present and prepare for the future. Artistic and intellectual exchange and the integration of Myanmar into essential international debates and discourses is critical for a new chapter to commence.
Given the urgency, I heartily accepted the offer of a South Asia oriented, visual-arts initiative to dedicate one volume to Myanmar’s contemporary voice and claim, through the medium of photography. After having focused on regions spanning Nepal to Sri Lanka; Iran to Pakistan, it was only logical to include Myanmar as part of a subcontinental conglomerate.
I am encouraged to think that the outcome offers insight into emerging media-driven initiatives here, an expanding compendium of contemporary approaches which underscores Myanmar’s global prospects and contribution to a growing collective memory.
Thu Rein, “Mrat” From the series Portraits of Artists, 2014 Digital