Where the Burmese Sherlock Holmes Lived

Where the Burmese Sherlock Holmes Lived

The emergence of a ‘Burmese’ literature in the 1910’s and 1920’s was influenced by the import and translation of western literary forms, in novels and short stories.  Though this influence has arguably been exaggerated, the first true Burmese language novel by James Hla Gyaw has been often called an adaption of Duma’s Count of Monte Cristo, in reality the two share only a peripheral resemblance …

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Finding Nobel Laureates at Gandhi Hall

Finding Nobel Laureates at Gandhi Hall

Nothing about this squat, grey, block of a building would have it marked as a venue that has graced not one, but two Nobel laureates.  Once the home of the Rangoon Times, the first all-English language newspaper in Myanmar that ran from 1856 to 1942, it was also visited by the great writer Rabindranath Tagore in 1932, during his third and last visit to the city.  Apparently, he spoke and read from his work …

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Praying at the Siangbawi Than

Praying at the Siangbawi Than

For centuries, the Chin people, who now live in the hills that border Bangladesh and India, were animist, tracing their own oral histories that began when they left their original ‘chinram’, or homeland, a dark cave. When the Christian missionaries came, following the British imperial invasion of the Chin Hills in the last decade of the 19th Century, their first mission took root in Hakha, now the capital town of the Chin Hills.

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Searching for Tagore at the Guardian Press Building

Searching for Tagore at the Guardian Press Building

With such a high concentration of colonial era buildings it can be so easy to walk pass a building and be utterly unaware of its former significance to the city.  The Guardian Press Building is made even more anonymous by relatively recent cladding which hides most of its prominent architectural structures making it appear as if it was only built in the 1990’s.

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Sadaik Short Reviews: The Bamboo Clapper Essays

Sadaik Short Reviews: The Bamboo Clapper Essays

A collection of fifty short articles published in the mid to late 1960’s in the Working People’s Daily newspaper.  While most anthologised articles from Myanmar rarely have a thematic identity, this particular collection, compiled by Win Pe’s son, is an extreme jumble of thoughts …

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Sadaik Short Reviews: Origin of the Kachin Manau

Sadaik Short Reviews: Origin of the Kachin Manau

A 100 word summary just doesn’t seem enough to describe how important this book is.  Though less than 50 pages long, the author, one of the most respected literary figures in the Kachin community, has demonstrated how oral legends and myths should not be relegated to a past that doesn’t concern us … 

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Sadaik Short Reviews: Selected Myanmar Short Stories

Sadaik Short Reviews: Selected Myanmar Short Stories

Despite being a decade old, still the best English language collection of short stories from Myanmar available.  Featuring over 20 celebrated writers including Journal Kyaw Ma Ma Lay, Nyi Pyu Lay, U Pe Myint, Khet Ma, Ma Sandar and Ma Ju among others.  Ma Thanegi’s translation, as usual, is pitch perfect with each story accompanied by a colour illustration.

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Turning the Pages at Kuthodaw Pagoda

Turning the Pages at Kuthodaw Pagoda

With so many pagodas in Myanmar, it is easy to dismiss them all as alike.  Yet, Kuthodaw pagoda is something special. Off a quiet road from the former palace walls, the Kuthodaw Pagoda, like all pagodas, is best visited at dusk, when the tiles are no too hot to walk on and when the bats start to come out the nearby banyan trees … 

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Sadaik Short Reviews: The Sixth Enemy and Other Stories

Sadaik Short Reviews: The Sixth Enemy and Other Stories

A superb collection of 20 short stories that roam across lower Myanmar, from the capital to the coast to unnamed villages.  Ever-present in all of them are the women:  the wife, the aunt, the daughter and how their clans rely on them.  This is a collection undoubtedly of Myanmar, a voice that deserves to be joined by others in the future.

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Delving through the Mandalay Cultural Museum

Delving through the Mandalay Cultural Museum

Though many of the museums in Myanmar have suffered from decades of neglect and underfunding, Mandalay Cultural Museum does hold a few literary gems. The Yadanabon Gazette: In 1854 Mandalay, King Mindon, a reformer of sorts and fully aware of the technological superiority of the invading British Forces to the south, commissioned the first Burmese language newspaper, the Yadanabon Gazette … 

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Emerging Ethnic Literature Festivals in Myanmar

Emerging Ethnic Literature Festivals in Myanmar

The 1947 Panglong Conference in Shan State is often viewed, simplistically, as the catalyst for the subsequent decades of civil strife and rebellion in Myanmar.  Promises of equality were made to the ethnic nationality groups, promises which were then broken by successive democratic and military administrations after the assassination of the architect of the conference, Bogyoke Aung San … 

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Imprisoned with Books in Myanmar

Imprisoned with Books in Myanmar

So many of the formerly imprisoned writers and publishers I worked with have remarked on the impact the International Centre for the Red Cross made on their lives towards the beginning of the millennium. Those writers imprisoned in the 20th Century were denied the basic right of pen, paper and books, devising creative strategies such as mixing water with brick dust to create ink, and hiding scraps of paper in the cracks of the walls of their cells … 

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Writing in Burma: A New Year, Old Fears

Writing in Burma: A New Year, Old Fears

I was heading East from Hpa-an, the sluggish capital of Burma’s Karen State, towards a monastery infamous for the alleged body-napping of a dead monk by the Burmese military in the late 1990’s, when i heard of the death of the freelance journalist, Ko Par Gyi.  In the car with me was a former political prisoner and 88 Generation member, eyes fixed to his phone as the ring of each new text message reverberated Burma back to the dark years …

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Rakhine Short Story Workshop

Rakhine Short Story Workshop

And so it ends. After 11 months, 9 workshops, 7 ethnic states, 12 languages, 16 ethnic minority groups, 8 live literature nights, over 100 participants, over 50 short stories collected (so far) the final Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds workshop took place last week. Due to security concerns in Rakhine state, unfortunately, we had to move the Rakhine workshop to Yangon. But with the support of the Rakhine Culture and Literature Association, we were able to bring participants to Yangon from Mrauk U, Minbya, Kyaukphyu and Bonnagyun Townships instead.

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Kayah Short Story Workshop

Kayah Short Story Workshop

The penultimate Hidden Words, Hidden Worlds workshop took place in Kayah State at the beginning of June. Once a black zone where foreigners were forbidden to travel beyond the capital, Loikaw, Kayah State is home to three main ethnic groups, the Kayah, Kayan and Kayaw. It is these three groups that the workshop targeted, with 6 participants from each represented …

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Chin Short Story Workshop

Chin Short Story Workshop

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 …

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PEN President in Burma

PEN President in Burma

John Ralston Saul is a Canadian writer with a long background in Burma, having spent a large part of the 80’s in South East Asia witnessing the repression of freedom of speech in the region’s literature.  In 2009 he was elected President of PEN International, the largest literary organisation in the world that supports freedom of expression and creativity …

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Live Storytelling Event

Live Storytelling Event

Since then H2 has been on the road, holding week long workshops in Hpa-an Karen State, Mawlamyine Mon State, Myiktyina Kachin state and finally in Lashio, Northern Shan State. 80 local community members have joined the workshops; we have had youth workers, WW2 veterans, University professors, business men, gym instructors, IDP camp members and lots more…

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