This week, leading Burmese publisher, Seikku Cho Cho commemorated the centenary of author Dagon Tarya in a four day exhibition of his work and life held at the Lokanat Gallery.
Born U Htay Myaing in Ayeyarwaddy Region in 1919, he published his first story in the Tekkatho Theippan Magazine in 1933 under the pen name Myaing Thazin. He would go on to write and publish for the next 70 years under 53 different pen names but it is as Dagon Tharya (named so due to his publications in the pre-war Dagon Magazine and the eponymous title of his own post- war journal, Tarya,) that he is universally recognised by generations of writers who have come after him.
Dagon Tarya’s creative output and stylistic contributions to Burmese literature cannot be overstated. His career began under the Khitsan movement of the 1930’s and moved to an individual renaissance in the 1950’s which he termed Sar Pe Thit, ‘New Literature’, a literary realism for the people. With left-wing progressive ideals, he inevitably came into conflict with the military administration of the 1960’s and was imprisoned for 4 years for communist sympathies. After his release, and understanding the propaganda value of the respect Dagon Tarya held among the literary and political circles and his readership, the Ne Win government attempted to honour his work in the independence movement with an award, an award he turned down and in a deliberate snub to Ne Win, self-exiled himself to Aung Ban in Shan State, where he remained, cared for by his niece until his death at the age of 94 in 2013.
This exhibition has gathered together samples of his work, rare covers of his journal ‘Tarya’; photographs of his life with many of the leading writers from the 1950’s onwards, including Tin Moe, Bhamo Aung Tin, Ludu Daw Mar, Maung Tha Noe, Paragu, Thakin Khodaw Hmaing and a very young Nu Nu Yi (Innwa); personal possessions including books from his private library and his reading chair and cane on loan from, ironically, the family of Ne Win.
The exhibition also included poetry readings, video screenings, displayed art and reissues of his work published by Seikku Cho Cho.
All Image Credits to Zahnur Rofiah