This is a photo that I snapped in an alley where many sculptors worked behind the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, in January 2015.
I noticed the corner of a sculptor’s workshop looked kind of cute, so I snapped it without putting too much thought to it.
However, as I went through all my images from the country later, I noticed something different from this particular one: a brand new and incomplete bust of General Aung San is standing on a rotten down wooden desk on the left, as an oval portrait of the Father of the Nation embossed in high relief is hung over the wall, seemingly from a few years back.
On the center of the image, is a row of complete and incomplete sculpted busts of Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the General who had been in domestic confinement for over two decades, but who nevertheless maintains her stance for peaceful revendications as the leader of the main opposition NLD, and as a strong symbol of the Nation’s quest for democracy. In addition, is hung on the wall a calendar and a red poster that seems to portray the General in his youth (correct me if I am mistaken) but stamped with the NLD logo and the numbers 2015 – which I presume is promotional material for the elections coming up in October this year – merely the second democratic elections held since the fall of the junta in 2010.
The contrast of the marks of time is symbolic of Myanmar’s national history. It reminds me of the long walk to freedom that the Myanmar people has engaged in since their Independence, their remembrance of their past but also their outlook into the future.
Myanmar had one of the most repressed regime in the past, it still is one of the least developed countries in Asia, its people remain subjugated to political and police violence every day in the present.
What impresses me is the eternal attachment and affection they have for their founding father.
What impresses me further, is the Myanmar people’s exceptional courage and unfailing persistence in the demand for dignity and freedom, who continue to voice out against their powerful oppressors despite violent repressions that aim to shatter any sign of hope.
Compared to Hong Kong, we should feel shameful: perhaps the difference is we have too much to lose in the fight for freedom, but you have too little.
Today, Myanmar is changing quickly but the path towards true democracy seems unending. You might also notice that Aung San Suu Kyi has grown old and tired, she has certainly done her part to put an end to military rule, but the affair of a Nation cannot solely depend on one individual’s work – not to mention the disappointment that many have voiced out in face of her recent political performance.
Whether one person will successfully bring freedom, equality and peace to Myanmar or not – please, please my friends, do not fall for the lure from the booming economy, have faith in your power to change and the future will be yours – and only yours.
writing from Hong Kong