Burmese artists shortlisted for international art prize

by Mungpi
Friday, 30 October 2009 21:55

New Delhi (Mizzima) - A Burmese refugee women’s group, Kumjing Storytellers, and a renowned detained poet, Saw Wei, have been named among the shortlisted finalists for the 2009 Freedom to Create Prize, organizers said.

The London-based Freedom to Create, an initiative that seeks to improve lives by addressing society’s ability to support and sustain creativity, since last year has begun awarding artists around the world with three categories of Prizes – Main, Youth and Imprisoned Artistes Prizes.

Alice Parson of the Freedom to Create on Friday told Mizzima, “The award is mainly to promote justice around the world and to encourage artistic freedom.”

Parson said the organisation has shortlisted the Kumjing Storytellers, a group of Burmese refugee women, who use performing arts to tell their stories of ethnic persecution in Burma, as one of the finalists for the ‘Main’ Prize.

The Kumjing Storytellers are a group of Burmese refugee women, who fled to Thailand from Burma’s Shan state. "Kumjing" - a Thai women's name meaning ‘precious jewel’ is used to represent the women, who have migrated to live and work in Thai-Burma border areas.

Known as the ‘Journey of Kumjing,’ the group tells stories of persecuted women, challenge discrimination and assert their human rights through performing arts. Using some 250 paper machédolls, the group travels across Thailand and the world to raise awareness of their plight.

Saw Wei, a detained Burmese poet, who was sentenced to two years in November 2008 for writing a Valentine’s Day poem that contains a code criticising the Burmese military junta supremo Snr Gen Than Shwe, was shortlisted for the ‘Imprisoned Artiste’ Prize.

The award, which will be announced on November 25 at a ceremony in London, will also include a cash prize for each category. There are three prize winners in the Main Prize category, who will share a prize pool of US$75,000.

The first prize of US$50,000 will be split equally between the winner of the award, and an organisation nominated by them to further the cause that their work has highlighted. The second place prize of US$15,000 will be similarly divided equally between the winner and their nominated organisation. The US$10,000 third place prize will be shared the same way.

The Youth Prize will include a cash prize of US$25,000. It will be divided into two - the winner will receive US$10,000, while the remaining US$15,000 will be given to an organisation nominated by them to further the cause their artwork has highlighted.

The third category, the ‘Imprisoned Artist’ Prize, focuses on artists who are imprisoned because of their art and the role of their work in highlighting injustice. This prize puts less emphasis on the artist’s work and more on the personal risks incurred, the message conveyed through their work and its impact.

It includes a cash prize of US$25,000 that will be directed towards securing the artist’s release, advocating on their behalf and their cause and offering support to their family.

In 2008, detained artist – comedian and actor – Zarganar, also known as Thura, was named winner of the Freedom to Create’s “Imprisoned Artiste” Prize.

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