Holding a literature workshop in Chin state, the least developed state in the second least developed country in Asia was always going to pose challenges. All of the Hidden Words workshops, regardless of the location, follow a logistical template revolving around our 2 partners, the Millennium Centres who provide the workshop venue and live literature night and the local cultural group who source the participants.
With this particular workshop, we were fortunate that Cung Mang, the manager of Hakha MC and Rev Taan Mang, secretary of the Chin Association for Christian Communication (C.A.C.C), were both in Yangon for the lead up to the workshop, allowing us to speak to them and explain the workshop aims and needs. Without this face to face interaction, we probably wouldn’t have been able to have such a great workshop in Hakha.
Rev Taan Mang, somehow, managed to invite 20 participants from 3 ethnic groups, the Lai Hakha, Matu and Zong Tu from Hakha, Kalaymyo, Kanggaw, Thantlang and Matupi townships who all arrived in Hakha in time for the workshop. A massive feat considering the three Matu participants spent over two days on motorbikes across mountain paths to get to Hakha.
Cung Mang provided an excellent workshop venue with his even more amazing volunteers who helped with the lunch, refreshments and endless photocopying and printing.
The workshop instructor, writer, editor and former political prisoner Letyar Tun was unbelievable. Living and working in Hakha is not easy, with the town receiving electricity and running water for only four hours a day, temperatures are in the single figures at night with no heating and dust storms whipped up during the day and yet Letyar Tun conducted a professional and engaging five days on short story construction.
The workshop was celebrated with a Live Literature night at Carson Hall, opened by Dr Ba Mang, the Chin Sate minister for culture and featured an excellent poetry reading in Lai Hakha from Kalaymyo participant Dingdirem, a traditional song in Matu by Okla Bik from Matupi, a short story in Burmese by Letyar Tun and dancing from the Roman Catholic and Zion Baptist youth organisation.
The participants now have 5 weeks to submit their stories which will be selected by the C.A.C.C secretary, the chief editor of the Hakha post and the Principal of the Chin Christian College.