Monday, April 10, 2017

In Myanmar Dogs Eat Rice

I hesitated long before writing my final blog entry on (and from) Myanmar. The realisation that I will soon leave seems to have paralysed my ability to describe my feelings and sort my thoughts which frenetically cross my mind these past weeks. Will I write pages or just a few paragraphs? There are so many things to say but so much I just want to keep to myself. Everyone has their own experience. "How was it?", I know many will ask. There are no simple answers.

In Myanmar Dogs Eat Rice

In Myanmar, for breakfast, stray dogs eat rice which is prepared daily by benevolent residents and is placed on banana leaves and left in the streets. Street dogs can be found only in a few countries in Europe. They are lucky if a kind-hearted person gives them water or some leftovers. In Myanmar the majority of street dogs are calm. In those countries in Europe where dogs roam freely on the streets their presence is often a menace. 

I believe the paragraph above makes a good introduction to my last article after almost three years spent in the country. 

A while ago I remember reading an article in a local newspaper about the impressions of a Myanmar woman during a visit in the US. While she was mostly impressed by the economic development in the West, here I was mostly struck by the cultural differences. Who could actually blame a foreigner for being shocked by the betel nut chewers spitting the red 'juice' wherever they pleased or about the smiling yes of the locals which actually turns out to be a definite no. One's experiences in a country surely depend on various factors and situations. For me, during these past three years, Myanmar was a carousel of feelings. 

I will surely miss the Myanmar people and their smiles! I made them laugh and they made me angry. They made me smile and I felt for them. I encouraged them and they surprised me. They made me cry and I admired them. I felt their warmth and at the same time I felt the cultural divide. 

I will always remember the Yangonites in their surroundings. That is why I will dearly miss the streets of Yangon's downtown where a big part of the local's life is spent. I spent a big part of my time exploring the streets of downtown Yangon discovering its people with their habits and culture. I will miss the safety I felt on the streets of Yangon at any hour of the day.

In a few months, at most a year, the urban landscape will change even more so than it has in recent years. I may not recognise it any longer. Actually the change started a few years back. Just the other day I passed by a new shop in downtown which offered a variety of Chinese products in an air-conditioned space that are actually similar to the ones sold on the street. The prices displayed in the shop are very competitive. How long will the local street sellers last? They have a difficult life trading on the streets and the Yangon municipal authorities become increasingly restrictive about their presence in the streets.

I will walk these streets for one more time tomorrow on my last day in Myanmar. This will be my chance to say good-bye to the passers-by, houses, shops, kids, flowers in the pots, birds in small cages or on the electric wires, buildings, markets, fruits... This is Myanmar. 

However, in this commotion on the busy streets, I noticed a change in people's behaviour. At least in Yangon. They are now used to foreigners compared to 2014, the year I arrived. They are rushing around discovering new possibilities, trying to seize any opportunity they can to provide the best for their families. They are more like us now. Or am I more like them? 

I will miss my Myanmar friends, each of them with their dreams and hopes. I admire them for their curiosity, talent and perseverance.

This is not a farewell. Actually I did not wish to have a proper farewell. The majority of friends told me that I will come back. Maybe. One day. But it will be to rediscover Myanmar. 


Prints and frames in Yangon - an update

This is an update to my earlier article on prints and frames in Yangon.

P R I N T I N G 

  • Kodak, 34th street, upper block - the best in Yangon so far!
For postcards, cards and business cards
  • Perfect Color, 220, 35th street, upper block.
  • Prestige Media (for high quality printing)  42/A, 6th Flr, Yaw Min Gyi St., Yaw Min Gyi Ward. Very good English
Wood printing
  • Thazin, 24, 43rd street lower block. You need to bring your own piece of wood. 


Plastic frames

·     Aperture, 36th street, middle block (facing Technoland)

Wooden frames:

·     U Khin Zaw
09 514 91 50

267/47 Shwe Hinn Thar Street
North Dagon Township

Taw Win Gallery, Bogyoke Aung San Market, Upstairs

·     Moe Makha Art (very good quality, I visited myself)
09 431 157 851
09 731 184 117
Aung Chan Thar Housing

East Shwe Gon Dine road

Desk calendar Downtown Yangon - Life Scenes

I wish to write a few lines, even with a huge delay, about my desk calendar Downtown Yangon - Life Scenes. 

It was towards the end of 2016 that I decided to make a calendar with my photographs with life scenes from downtown Yangon. It was quite late in the year and I had the time pressure to design and print it in time. I worked with a good printing company from Yangon called Prestige Media which delivered high quality printing within a short deadline. 

I decided to donate part of the proceedings to an NGO. I read in 2014 about the Myanmar  Mobile Education Project (MyME) and I found their work extremely important for the country. In Myanmar there are many children who are unable to go to school and instead need to help their families by working in tea shops, construction sites and sometimes factories all around the country. MyME is providing non-formal education to these children, in the evening, after they finish their work. For this they use buses transformed into school rooms or sometimes teashops where the owners acknowledge the importance of classes (English language, civic education, maths) for the children. More information about the project can be found here.

All the 300 copies were sold in two weeks time. They were bought directly by friends or expats and were also sold at two weekend markets in Yangon. Some of my friends and relatives from Europe bought it as well. I know that it arrived all over the world from Africa to the US, from Australia to Europe. Its success made me very happy!

Here are the twelve photographs which appeared in the calendar, one for each month.  All the photographs were taken in 2016.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Art @ the Secretariat

Currently, the beautiful Secretariat building hosts the Goethe Institut exhibition of German contemporany artist Wolfgang Laib. 

This is a unique event given the fact that the building is closed during the year (visiting dignataries are usually invited to take a tour of the building with Thant Myint-U, The Chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust).

The only day it opens for the public is July 19 for Martyrs’ Day celebrations - the day Aung San was shot dead in one of the rooms of this building together with members of his cabinet. This is an additional reason for the locals, expats (and lucky tourists) to go to see the exhibition to be able to study this old colonial building. Some parts of the building are under renovation now.

Wolfgang Laib’s exhibition “Where the Water and the Land End“ will run until the 4th of February and will be open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. Free entrance.

I visited the exhibition a few days ago and I was a little disappointed by the few exhibits but I trust you will spend a lot of time studying the beautiful arhitecture of this historical building.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

2017 Desk Calendar

I am delighted to announce that I will soon launch a desk calendar for 2017 with some of my photographs from downtown Yangon. 

The calendar will be distributed in Yangon (Myanmar). Some copies will be available in Brussels (Belgium) and Cluj-Napoca (Romania).

Part of the proceedings will go to Myanmar Mobile Education (myME) project which provides non-formal and vocational education to children in Myanmar without access to education. More information about myME here.

For inquiries and advance orders please send an email to me at

2017 Calendar

Downtown Yangon - Life Scenes

First page

Last page:

Take a moment to read my article I wrote for Rambutan Literary about the downtown Yangon here:

" The old downtown of Yangon is the place to soak up the authentic atmosphere of the city with its long, narrow and perpendicular streets loosing yourself in the constant buzz, deliberate chaos, various smells, a multitude of colours, strange noises and a mixture of architecture...".

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Nowhere People by Greg Constantine

Nowhere People is the name of the current exhibition at the Myanmar Deitta Gallery by photographer Greg Constantine. This is a ten-year project carried out in 18 countries by the US photographer. He is currently based in Asia.

It will run until 27 of November (this Sunday), and you have the possibility to put your name down on a list to order the photographer's book on this topic which will be shipped to Yangon. 

According to the UN, around ten million people worldwide are stateless (without any citizenship) due to different circumstances mainly because of inconsistent or inadequate citizenship laws, and the lack of documentation. Discrimination and intolerance often contributes or are the reasons why these people cannot get the citizenship of the country they live in, in many cases for generations.

"Indian Tamils (or Hill Tamils) were brought to Sri Lanka by the British over 100 years ago to provide labour on tea plantations. For years Hill Tamils were denied citizenship. in 2003, new laws were passed but thousands continue to remain stateless.."

"...without documents I have no future"
"In 1936, Stalin deported the entire Korean community in the Soviet Far East (172,000 people) to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Thousands began migrating to Ukraine after the break up of the Soviet Union where many are denied citizenship and are stateless..."

"There are almost 600,000 stateless people in Europe. The collape of the Soviet Union and of Yugoslavia made several communities stateless. in Ukraine, Crimean Tatars were deported en masse by Stalin...In Serbia, thousands of people from the Roma community displaced from Kosovo are stateless, many of them are children...."

"The Dominican Republic is one of the most radical situations of statelessness in the world today. Deep-rooted racism against Haitians have resulted in tens of thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descend denied or stripped of their Dominican nationality...." 

"In Arabic, "Bedoon" means "without". For decades, the Bedoon in Kuwait have been denied Kuwait citizenship. Though they have lived in Kuwait for generations...".

"For years, youth from the Nubian community in Kenia have to prove their connection to Kenya when they turned 18 to receive a National ID card, which represents Kenyan nationality...."

And, of course, the examples could go on....