Dr. Kyi May Kaung Interviewed on Voice of America

From Travel Educator Bijan C. Bayne

My colleague, Fulbright Scholar Dr. Kyi May Kaung, has translated her recent Voice of America interview from Burmese:


Thank you to VOA, U Win Pe and videographer Ko Panthee (U Win Pe’s son).

Informal summary:

UWP:  In the USA where there are so many strong(artistic)influences, poet, political scientist and economist Dr. Kyi May Kaung has managed to forge her own artistic vision, resisting those influences.

KMK:  There is the influence of all the paintings I have been looking at my whole life, but I am not a graduate of the (State)School of Fine Arts in Burma, although as a child, famous artists U San Win and others taught me some basics at home.

UWP:  Since you are also a poet, what would you say is the connection between poetry and visuals in your art work?

KMK:  At the time I was painting these pictures,I did not think there was any connection.  Most of these, such as the Saffron Revolution ones, I was painting while the events were happening in Burma, to calm my own mind. I wanted poetry to be poetry and painting to be painting, not one illustrating the other, but integrated into a cohesive work of art.

But now that I think of it, there must be some connection. For instance, as the monks walk forwards, the lotus for instance is about 6′ tall and the banyan leaf is too big, and the monks walk (over water) on (a raft of) bones. So there must be some poetic metaphor in this.

(Other picture not shown — of Nargis survivors, are the birds so big and puffed up because they have fed on the dead?)

UWP — holding up collage “Newspeak” — how would you describe this kind of work in Burmese?

KMK:  Well, it’s a collage, 3D collage (made from trash or found objects.)

In the eye, there is a photograph of (former Military Intelligence chief) Bohmu Khin Nyunt (purged in 2004).  There are also the 5 points that must appear in the front of every published book (in Burma) –“oppose the destructionists, etc.”

Famous writer George Orwell lived for some time in Burma and invented the term “newspeak.”  That’s why I named it Newspeak.

Informal transcript, notes and translation — Kyi May Kaung 9-17-09


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