As Burma transitions from military dictatorship to democracy, Index on Censorship joined with artists, journalists and performers to explore the arts in the country at a symposium in 2013.
The Art of Transition Symposium took place in Yangon on 30–31 March 2013. It was the first public discussion of artist freedom of expression in Burma, looking in particular at the impact of the wave of political reforms, which started at the end of 2011, on artistic freedom of expression.
Published on youtube.com on 20 February 2014.
This film is directed by artist Htein Lin, who also was artistic advisor to the symposium with comedian and director Zarganar. The film reports briefly on the symposium, and gives a snapshot of some of the performances and exhibitions that have taken place in Yangon during the year since the symposium.
The symposium – a co-production between Index on Censorship and House of Media and Entertainment, HOME – featured an unprecedented gathering of artists from Yangon and Mandalay facilitating exchange between historical, traditional and contemporary art forms and between artists of all ages.
Many of the most respected artists in the country across all art forms, in particular those traditionally most associated with political and social engagement – poets, cartoonists, comedians, performance artists and film-makers – came together with political leaders, journalists, academics and lawyers for two days of presentations and discussion of the status of artistic freedom of expression and artists was possible.
The Art of Transition Symposium in Yangon was a significant event in the unfolding drive towards democracy in Burma, providing a public platform to discuss how changing political and social conditions are affecting artistic freedoms. It was the first symposium of its kind in Burmese and another in the series of firsts as the space for expression opens up.
While the abolition of pre-censorship of print media released all writers, including poets and novelists from censorship and ensured that debate around media freedom was centre stage, discussion about broader artistic freedoms was trailing and needed to be considered in depth.
Index on Censorship – 24 February 2014:
Burma: The art of transition
By Julia Farrington