February 17, 2021 at 7:10pm
Artists in Myanmar are taking to the street to protest the army’s recent putsch in which it seized power from the government of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Since the February 1 coup, artists have marched in the streets with hand-drawn posters; created and distributed buttons, pins, and stickers; made and posted artwork and videos; spray-painted graffiti mocking coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing, and lit up a building exterior with symbols of protest. The three-fingered salute made popular by the Hunger Games franchise, especially, has come to symbolize resistance to military leadership and has been deployed widely across all mediums.
Speaking with the Art Review, curator and artist Sai Htin Linn Htet described creativity as being “at its peak” in relation to the protests, the largest the country has seen in a decade. “They truly messed with the wrong generation and the wrong time,” he said, noting that the protests are largely propelled by young people.
Performance artist Moe Satt, a member of the Association of Myanmar Contemporary Art, agreed, telling Deutsche Welle, “They grew up with high technology. Generation Z is very smart. Generation Z knows well that normal revolution is not effective.”
“If we look at the history of resistance in Myanmar, we were quite aggressive and confrontational, with this history of bloodshed,” graphic designer Ko Kyaw Nanda told the New York Times, “With this new approach, it can be less risky for people, and more people can join.”
Those protesting also include many old enough to recall the 1988 uprising that was quashed by the military, who had held power since the country’s 1948 independence from British rule, and resulted in a fifteen-year period of house arrest for Aung San Suu Kyi.
“If the young people are out on the street then why can’t I be?” Daw Nu Nu Win, a retired civil servant who at the rally on Wednesday carried a laminated sign with the face of the detained leader, told the Times. “I want the whole nation to be out from under dictatorship.”