Seminar on Street Art
Students have an opportunity to join Brilliant Burma Art Studio, which is considered an elective class. Its primary area of study and artistic creation is "Street Art," which is art developed in public spaces. Street Art is usually unsanctioned art, as opposed to government or corporate sponsored initiatives. It seeks to question the existing social, political and esthethic environment with its own language and communicate with everyday people about socially relevant themes in ways that are informed by esthetic values. The term can include traditional graffiti artwork, sculpture, stencil graffiti, sticker art, wheatpasting and street poster art, video projection, art intervention, guerrilla art, flash mobbing and street installations.
Students typically attend one structured lesson or meeting each week. Lessons are an opportunity for students to learn about a new technique and/or media and engage in a discussion on artists and artworks relevant to the area covered in that week's lesson. Structured lessons often include homework assignments that require elements of research, art critiques, and critical thinking and writing, such as essays on topics or questions. Meetings usually are organizational and planning sessions to support Brilliant Burma Art Studio's workshops and collaborative projects. Students are also encouraged to attend weekly open studio hours to produce artwork, collaborate with peers, and seek guidance from the instructor.
Throughout this course, students build and are graded on an individual portfolio that demonstrates their best work in each of the lesson areas and submit this portfolio for a class critique, where classmates and instructors will show and critique each other's work produced from the previous three lessons. When possible, Brilliant Burma Art Studio will host a group art show to share our work with our community.
OBEY THE GIANT - The First Narrative Film About OBEY
Generation Wave is an underground activist and hip hop musical group that formed in 2007 after the Saffron Revolution by Min Yan Naing, Moe Thwe, hip-hop star Zayar Thaw, and one other activist. Their music is considered subversive by the military regime of Burma. In addition to distributing their music inside Burma, Generation Wave has also carried out various street art actions including graffiti, leafleting and sticker campaigns aimed at inspiring Burma's youth to stand up to the ruling junta. Around 30 of its members have been imprisoned. Generation Wave is based out of Mae Sot, Thai-Burma Border.
Hip Hop Song
WHOMADEWHO & GENERATION WAVE
Left Hand of the Boxer
The interview was conducted in a compound along the Thai-Burma border with five members of Generation Wave (GW) — an underground activist movement of young people in Burma brought together by a strong desire to challenge the oppression of the ruling regime. The walls surrounding their compound are covered in brightly-colored spray-painted political graffiti. In this interview, five members of Generation Wave - Bobo, Gali, Min Yan Naing (MYN), 2P, and Ye Gyi - speak about their organization, their nonviolent methods, and their plans for the future. Most of its members use aliases to keep their identities a secret.
No one under 18 or over 35 years old can join Generation Wave. The members cannot hold office in Generation Wave after 35 years of age, but can be an advisor. In Generation Wave's words, "Old people say not to stick your hand in fire – younger people say let us try and learn for ourselves." Anyone, who does sign up, must live in Burma and be prepared to take action and serious risks. About thirty members of the group are presently being held as political prisoners in Burma.
MM: Why was Generation Wave founded?
MYN: Before the 2007 Saffron Revolution, we were four young men who had been friends since high school and were interested in music, politics, and activism. We participated in the 1996 and 1998 student demonstrations in Rangoon - only one or two days each time. After that, we only met occasionally. Each of us was involved in various businesses and personal affairs to make money.
When the monks came out to protest in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, we joined their demonstrations. After the crackdown, we met and felt that the situation was not fair and decided to do something. We also connected with another high school friend who was involved in politics and activism with an 88 Generation activist, Htay Kywe. He was running and hiding, and was in only telephone contact. He agreed that we should to do something.
We didn't know at the time what we should be doing. We then started to analyze various struggles worldwide including inside Burma. We talked about nonviolence and decided to focus upon nonviolent struggle because we felt that it is was good since all people could participate. So we decided to organize and become a nonviolent activist movement. Thus the four of us high school friends became the founders of Generation Wave on 9 October 2007 as a way to inspire young activists inside Burma to change the regime.
We call our movement "Generation Wave", because we want to keep moving forward, again and again; no matter how many times the regime tries to stop us. Also we adopted a clenched red fist with the thumb pointing up as our symbol. The fist with thumb up symbolizes "victory", the red color symbolizes "bravery'', and the white background stands for "purity".
MM: Why did Generation Wave choose nonviolent struggle as its way to change the regime in Burma - most youth would use violence to meet violence?
MYN: We chose nonviolent struggle because all people can participate. Also if we used violence, then more people would be killed. Violence breeds more violence. Nonviolent struggle is not a temporary measure by us, but one in which Generation Wave is committed to. Nonviolent struggle is the only way, not just the way for now. Generation Wave will never consider armed struggle.
￼Some young people, who want to join us as new members, talk about the possibility of using armed struggle, but we talk to them about the way of nonviolent struggle. Our movement has a strict policy of nonviolent struggle. Those that understand that and agree to follow this way can join our movement. We sincerely believe that nonviolent struggle can change the regime. We know it will be a difficult struggle, yet it is the best way for Burma's future.
MM: What and/or who were the inspirations for the adoption of nonviolent struggle by Generation Wave?
GW: Our inspirations for nonviolent struggle are OTPOR in Serbia, Gandhi, Mandela, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Through discussions among our members, we also have developed our own very deep belief in nonviolent struggle as the only way to insure a sustainable democracy in the long run and because all people can participate. Using violence as a solution today will lay the seeds for violence in the future. Also without the participation of the people, we cannot undergo the necessary changes toward democracy and federalism. So to get all the people to participate, we must choose nonviolent struggle.
MM: What is Generation Wave's goal?
GW: We plan to continue our activities to inspire a nonviolent revolution until we have reached our ultimate goal of changing Burma's government to create a free and just society where people can live a life of peace and prosperity.
We're like the left hand of a boxer - Generation Wave can soften up the government. But the Burmese people are like the boxer's right hand - they are the ones who can deliver the knock-out blow.
The following are the Mission Statement and Policies of Generation Wave:
Generation Wave's Mission
· Overcome the brutal dictatorship.
· Seek the cooperation of the people to develop Burma into a prosperous nation with respect for human rights.
· Motivate the youth to take responsibility for the future of the country.
Generation Wave's Policies
We will continue to fight for human rights and democracy using only nonviolent methods.
We will cooperate with other nonviolent pro-democracy groups.
We will hold on to peaceful and just ways in implementing our activities.
MM: What nonviolent struggle methods does Generation Wave use?
GW: We use many nonviolent struggle methods to make people, especially the youth, become aware of economic, social, and political issues, and encourage them to organize, stand up to the regime, and become involved in changing the regime in Burma.
We distribute CDs with our political music – rap and hip-hop, leaflets, pamphlets, posters, stickers, illustrations, and cartoons inside Burma. Also we use instant text messages, blogs, web pages, and social network sites to inspire young people, who are not our members, to organize and become involved in nonviolent struggle. We spray-paint political graffiti on the walls inside Burma, splash symbolic paint, make political imprints on money, wear symbols, put up posters (including wanted posters for Than Shwe), and handout flyers and pamphlets. These are just some of the nonviolent struggle methods we are using inside Burma to raise awareness and organize the youth to change the regime. We are constantly looking for and creating new methods, and planning how to use them effectively. The regime knows how to deal effectively with the old methods. For example, the old way was mass demonstrations; the new way is now flash mobs.
|Generation Wave uses the following twenty-nine methods of nonviolence struggle from those methods listed by Gene Sharp in his 198 Ways to Implement Nonviolent Resistance (Methods of Nonviolent Action, Boston, USA, 1973):
|Methods of Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion:
Letters of opposition or support
Declarations by organizations and institutions
Communications with a Wider Audience
Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
Banners, posters, and displayed communications
Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
Records, radio, and television
Symbolic Public Acts
Wearing of symbols
Prayer and worship
Delivering symbolic objects
Paint as protest
Pressures on Individuals
Drama and Music
Honoring the Dead
Homage at burial places
Assemblies of protest or support
|Methods of Social Noncooperation:
Withdrawal from the Social System
Methods of Economic Noncooperation:
Actions by Consumers
Non-consumption of boycotted goods
Methods of Economic Noncooperation:
Methods of Political Noncooperation:
Rejection of Authority
Literature and speeches advocating resistance
Citizens' Noncooperation with Government
Boycott of elections
Citizens' Alternatives to Obedience
Hiding, escape, and false identities
Civil disobedience of "illegitimate" laws
Methods of Nonviolent Intervention:
Disclosing identities of secret agents
Work-on without collaboration
MM: What are some of the campaigns that Generation Wave has conducted inside Burma?
GW: Since our founding in October 2007, we have carried out a number of "action campaigns" inside Burma. Our main activities include placing anti-government graffiti, posters, stickers, and flyers in busy places, handing out pamphlets, and writing and distributing "revolution music".
These methods asked the people not to vote for the 2008 constitution or in the 2010 elections. We made "X" signs in public places to show our view. We circulate the poems of Min Ko Naing, a political prisoner and prominent leader of the opposition, and excerpts from the speeches and writings of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
We mount graffiti, poster, and pamphlet campaigns with the slogan of "CNG" (Change New Government) and "Wipe Out the Dictatorship". On the anniversary of the 2007 Saffron Revolution, we have distributed and worn spiritual threads; and sprayed red paint in public places to show condolences to those who shed blood in the 1988 Uprising. Graffiti, leaflets, and pamphlets were used in downtown areas and markets to call for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and also for a "Free Burma".
There are also campaigns with illustrations of tortured monks and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's images posted in public places. Wanted posters for Than Shwe are placed on public walls and messages about him with his picture posted in public toilets. We have targeted poster and graffiti campaigns about the regime's inability to provide public services, such as the lack of water and electricity, to the people. These are examples of some of the campaigns which we have done over the past three or so years.
MM: What types of training are conducted by Generation Wave?
GW: Most young Burmese don't know about their human rights, democracy, and federalism – we try to inform them. They will only feel the urge to fight for regime change once they are aware of what is going on in their country.
So we do a lot of secret cross-border training in human rights; nonviolent struggle philosophy and methods; community organizing; Internet; youth leadership; studying the 1947, 1974, and 2008 constitutions; federalism; democracy; and sovereignty. We study these constitutions ourselves and then teach others about how the ethnic problem arose from them, how oppression is embedded in these constitutions, how the constitutions are used to oppress the people, and how the constitutions have increased the power of the regime over the people. We also use this opportunity to organize them. The young Burmese who come to our training sessions inside Burma or in Thailand run the risk of being arrested.
MM: Does Generation Wave do planning to guide its activities?
GW: In 2007 after we organized Generation Wave, we did planning for our activities during 2008. We were also networking with another group for flash mobs activities to be done during that year. However during 2008, conditions were not ripe because of the continuing crackdown and also many of our members were arrested.
Our planning now focuses upon expanding our network, motivating and organizing youth students, making them more politically aware, and developing youth leadership in our country. Because of the security situation, it is not easy for us to do these activities and effective planning freely. Also there is the poor education system inside Burma. The people, especially the youth, don't know enough about politics, democracy and federalism, and don't understand democracy's strong and weak points.
We also analyze the past to learn its lessons from Burma and elsewhere. In this way, we can be more successful in the future.
To implement Generation Wave's objective and mission, the following are the future actions that they intend to collaborate and implement with people and organizations both inside and outside Burma:
- Create awareness and knowledge of human rights, federalism, and democracy among young people with the aim of having more of them becoming actively involved in the nonviolent struggle.
- Enhance the nationwide participation, collaboration, and networking of students and other young people throughout Burma.
- Intensify the mass nonviolent movement for a free Burma through the coordination of the activities with activist groups inside Burma.
- Seek the active nationwide participation of the regime, military, government officials, farmers, workers, monks, students, and the common people and students in peaceful dialogues to achieve political, economic, and social security.
- Participate with the public in planning and building a future modern and well-developed nation through Generation Wave's step-by-step nonviolent activities.
GW: We use music and poetry to raise awareness and spread ideas in the country, and reach young audiences. High-school and college students as well as other youth are really into rap and hip hop. They already know how bad the government is, so we compose activist rap songs that denounce and mock the regime, are sarcastic about political, economic and social situations, and inform people of problems.
Music is universal and a language everyone understands. We cannot say that music can change a society. But when people listen to the music, they can feel inspired, and informed, and mobilized to take action. That is why, music is a very powerful tool and everyone can understand and feel it.
Our music is "revolution music" and very difficult to distribute in Burma. We secretly record and distribute it through web pages, Face book, blogs, and other social media. Also we smuggle CDs into Burma to distribute to youth groups and leave at tea shops where many of the young people gather socially.
Our music deals with the politics in an indirect language because of the possibility of imprisonment and many youths find it boring. So we talk about their lives. This is the way we can get young people interested. Our message can be easily understood by the young people.
Groups must be careful about being too popular singing about politics, and stay underground. The regime's Myanmar Music Association monitors and censors the music. They can report you to the authorities. But neither they nor the regime can stop the music, because there will always be other musicians to create and play the music. Also if it blocked, it will then become more popular with young people.
Some of Generation Wave's "revolution music" includes:
· Let's Get Up
· Mother 64
· Devil Home
· Please Excuse Me, Ma
· Wake Up, Burma!
· Left Hand of the Boxer
Their music is on YouTube and their website.
The song 'Ten" is about how the singer sat for his high school examination ten times and failed. He sings about other examples of how the number 'Ten" has been unlucky for him. It is also about the then coming year – 2010. He worries it will not be a good year for him (and by extension, the people of Burma). In the song "Please Excuse Me, Ma", the singers apologize to their mothers for their political activism. "Wake Up" tells young people to get involved with the pro-democracy movement.
MM: How does Generation Wave plan to bring all the youth of Burma together to win freedom for Burma?
GW: After the 2007 Saffron Revolution and the 2008 Cyclone Nargis, many young people became interested in social work, and through social work, they became interested in politics. They saw that our healthcare and education systems are poor and far behind other countries in our region. Our people are impoverished and need decent livelihoods. We have had a civil war for many decades. Many young people now know that these problems are a result of the political situation in our country. Politics also are about daily struggle of our people just to survive. We are helping to increase this awareness, empower the young people through nonviolent struggle, and organize them into mass movements for change in Burma for all the people of our country.
We need to be a source of inspiration for the young people, so they will believe that they can make a revolution through nonviolent struggle and kick out the regime. We are telling the young people that they shouldn't give up, they can't be afraid of the regime, and they need to organize and fight for freedom in Burma. So we use political music, poetry, graffiti, and other nonviolent struggle methods to speak to and encourage the young people, and attract them to peaceful political activism
Our target audience is all the youth and students in the States and Divisions in Burma, no matter where they are, their ethnic group, or their religion. It is difficult to organize them and network inside Burma, so we are also doing it in the borderlands. We are dealing with the lack of unity at the young people's level. We try to network with the youth of the ethnic groups and understand their feelings. We are learning more about federalism, what are the ethnic groups thinking about, and the possible ways to solve the ethnic problem. Federalism is very important for the future of our country.
MM: Is Generation Wave a Burman Buddhist movement?
GW: No, Generation Wave focuses upon all the youth of Burma regardless of their ethnicity or religion. Here at this table, we have seated Karen, Rakhine, Mon, and Burman. Also we have other ethnic groups represented in our movement. We have no problem with ethnicity or religion as all youth and all people have rights and all are oppressed.
MM: Why didn't the 1988 Uprising and the 2007 Saffron Revolution topple the regime?
MYN: The 1988 Uprising and the 2007 Saffron Revolution did not topple the regime because of weak planning and strategies, and not enough people were involved. Also the government crackdown disrupted later planning, especially organizing the people.
MM: What do think are the lessons to be learned from those protests to have a better chance of success in the future?
MYN: There needs to be more people involved, better planning, and more effective strategies to change the regime.
MM: Do you believe that there is there good opposition leadership for change to be successful or should there be new leaders?
GW: People accept Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as their leader. She provides good leadership, but our country needs more good leaders like her. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is constantly gaining leadership experience and learning from each situation.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has not asked the people to demonstrate. She does not like to see the people confront the military in demonstrations because of the risk to the people. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi supports only dialogue and nonviolent action. She is more in favor of dialogue than demonstrations. She feels that it is important for a dialogue with the military, ethnic groups, and the National League for Democracy (NLD). Daw Aung San Suu Kyi does not hate the military or want the people to hate the military. She believes that there is no need to be angry and fight each other.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is now trying to network with the youth and ethnic groups. Before she was arrested, she did a lot of speeches; now she is working more quietly with networking and organizing. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is also now more private and less public. Some people are not satisfied with her approach – they wonder what she is waiting for? Also she must be careful or she will be placed under house arrest again which would affect her ability to lead the democracy movement.
Generation Wave is nonpartisan, but it supports Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as the democratically-elected leader of Myanmar.
￼MM: What is your opinion about the split in the NLD with the creation of the National Democratic Force (NDF)?
GW: The NLD and NDF should not have broken up. The more unity we have, the better chance that we have to change the country and the stronger is the force for democracy. The split weakens the democracy movement. We are not criticizing the NDF; they have their own perception about democracy. They are doing what they think is best. But we believe it should not be like that.
While the NDF had the democratic right to form a new party, they weakened the democracy movement. It is their right in a democracy to run for parliament. However, we feel that they will not be able to change anything because of the constitution. Their participation strengthens the perception of the regime by the people and the international community, and gives undeserved legitimacy to the regime. We did not support the constitution or the election. And we do not now support this new civilian government that is based upon that constitution.
Generation Wave supported a "No Vote" and nonparticipation by political parties in the 2010 Election.
MM: Why are young people not part of the leadership of the NLD?
GW: We believe that the existing NLD leaders should not be replaced. The NLD is reforming itself by increasing the number of the party's Central Executive Committee members to include younger people and to train them as future leaders.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has started a change process inside the NLD and doing it in a more traditional way. The NLD must respect the older leaders. Also there is the concern that that young people don't have enough experience yet. They will get that experience by working together with older and more experienced NLD leaders, and being mentored by them. Only a small number of young people know about politics. So the NLD is undergoing a culturally-sensitive generational transition. We are also working to raise the political awareness of the young people.
MM: Thank you for your time.
I sit in front of one rapper, one freshly released prisoner, and a dedicated campaigner and de facto leader of activist group, Generation Wave (GW). They are telling me about their slogan campaign playing on the important acronym in Burma: CNG. The term usually refers to Compressed Natural Gas, a popular commodity in the smog-choked cities of many of Burma's trading partners, and a lucrative export for the junta. But Min Yan Naing and Generation Wave have 'subvertised' this acronym to 'Change New Government'.
There is a cutting edge, youthful air about the group, fostered not least by the graffiti adorning the walls. The fresh faced bravado is tempered however, by the simple statement; "I just want to go back home".
Indeed it an element that is forgotten about when talking to rebels and brave activists: what do their parents think? "When we arrive in Rangoon or our place, we don't inform our parents, because if we inform them by phone they will say 'don't come back! Go back to Mae Sot!' At the time [on returning] I felt really bad; how can they not accept their son at home?"
These sentiments are echoed in a song on their latest album; "Mother do not stop me again/ Do not shed your tear for me/ Mother be proud and hold your head high". Their parents know that these family ties could enable their capture by the military, and judging by the treatment of other student activists and peaceful campaigners, could land them with a life sentence in jail. "So they just say go, go, go." And so, in a suburb of Mae Sot, in a secret hideout, they have a new base, from where they seek to inject new life into the Burmese democracy movement.
There are always questions about the most effective form of non-violent resistance; about what really can be done with large doses of dedication but little else. For GW, education and communication are the "weapon of choice". Min Yan Naing explains that Burma has already proven its appetite for change, for democracy, and for the winner of the last election, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's leadership. But for young people, many of whom were too young to participate in the last election, the issue of communication is key.
In the repressive environment of modern Burma, many have grievances but are too scared to share them, trapping individuals in their own misgivings, deceived into believing they are alone in their deviant feelings about the government, and therefore blanketing a common cause. For Min Yan Naing and GW, the youth need to know and articulate these feelings to express the democratic consensus.
Generation Wave therefore has a number of ongoing programmes and sporadic actions. These have included graffiti campaigns in large cities, plastering not only their familiar, red upturned thumb logo onto walls, but also other more ironic or humorous ones similar to the CNG campaign. They have also carried out banner-drops from major road bridges and, daringly, small protests, including a dozen people outside of Insein prison. They attempt to educate people inside Burma through direct action and politics.
And then there is the music, ever a challenge in an environment like Burma. Not only is distribution problematic because of the police and military, but many inside Burma do not have internet access to distribute the material, nor CD players. Furthermore, open internet distribution carries the risk of being spied on and harassed. Like many popular music artists, however, the group was forced to release their 'black album'.
A black cover replaces their logo and the CD is left in tea shops or other public places for people to find. Among the songs on their latest album is one reflecting on the difficulty of being away from home and in exile, joined by other more angry tracks.
There are some 30 members of Generation Wave in jail. Amongst this number is the famous rapper, GW founder, and perhaps one of Burma's most iconic young artists, Zayar Thaw. He was one of the first to bring the hip hop genre to Burma, a step that has proven inspired in many ways; combining a combative, angry style with indigenous poeticism. The depth and meaning of his politically-driven lyrics soon led to Zayar Thaw being arrested and imprisoned.
GW formed in 2007, originally a group of four high school friends. The ensuing September 2007 uprising shocked the world and galvanised the four. But today, in exile, Min Yan Naing sits and explains that "in 2007 I was working in shipping and I escaped. I left Burma on 12 March – they were arrested at midnight that night". One of those arrested was Zayar Thaw. Min Yan Naing and another founder, Moe Thwe, made it to the border with Thailand, from where they now run their underground movement with a host of other committed young people.
There is a faint element of anger and cynicism which sits interestingly next to GW's ethos of education. They are perhaps the first generation to come of age in a political desert, amidst the brutal crackdown of the 2007 uprising. Their era is one of consolidation of a brutal and unrelenting military rule, which has steadily grown to destroy ethnic opponents, and to exile anyone with a voice. Perhaps reflecting this more cynical age, not permeated by real hope, Min Yan Naing says that the group would just be happy to see the junta change, let alone removed.
With the older generation, he says, "some ideas are a little different". "They are always against…but inside, if the junta can be changed a little, not 100 percent but at least 50 percent of people would be very happy. They need any change."
He uses the example of sanctions; most of the older activist generation are staunchly in favour of sanctions or any measures 'against' the government; measures that Min Yan Naing claims are only helpful to those trading partners that have filled the vacuum.
Next year could prove decisive for this generation. GW are not prepared to share what they have in store or in planning, but it is a year that could make or break a generation, could assign even a modicum of hope through a tiny amount of accountability. Or it could be a year where another generation is consigned to a prison of life without hope. "Mother remember my word of promise in your chest/ I will return bringing peace".
The group called their campaign Change New Government, which shares the initials CNG with the compressed natural gas stickers the authorities have put on cars.
Generation Wave spokesperson Moe Thway said group members had distributed leaflets in crowded places and put up posters on walls in South Okkalapa, Yankin and Kaba Aye.
"We did it early in the morning, at Dagon-1 high school, on the bridge near the Yuzana Garden Hotel and on the walls of diplomatic residences, and we sprayed paint near the zoo and the armoured carriers battalion base," he said.
Moe Thway said the project was intended in part to make fun of the government.
"The military government put CNG stickers on cars; they forced people to change from petrol to CNG," he said.
"This is a way of raising awareness by using their own brand, and changing the meaning to make people think that they need a new government whenever they see the CNG sign."
Moe Thway said that the new generation in Burma wanted to bring about change and a better future.
Generation Wave was formed on 9 October 2007 and is made up of the younger generation of students and artists.
Twenty members of the group are currently in prison, including hip-hop artist Zayar Thaw of the band Acid.