The Telegraph
Friday , January 22 , 2016

Artists spread peace message

Myanmar artist Mon Thet paints Assamese playwright Jyoti Prasad Agarwala's potrait. Telegraph picture

Guwahati, Jan. 21: Artists from Myanmar who are taking part in an exhibition here, said they wished to spread the message of peace through art in their country, where militants from the Northeast have found refuge for over three-and-a-half decades now.

"It would have been better if the youths from the Northeast come to our country (Myanmar) to learn our art and show their art to us instead of training in arms. That way there will be peace in both countries," Mon Thet, an artist from Myanmar, told The Telegraph today.

Thet and another painter, Min Han Pyone, were the representatives from Myanmar among a 35-member delegation at the Olympia Fine Arts International Exhibition and Symposium at Srimanta Sankaradeva Kalakshetra here.

At the exhibition, Thet has on display an impression of playwright, songwriter, poet and filmmaker Jyoti Prasad Agarwala.

"This is my tribute to Assam," he said.

Born in Yangon, the capital of Myanmar, Thet recalled having an ancestral connection with the Konyak community of Nagaland, most of whom have now settled in Mon district of the hill state.

The Konyaks were, in the earlier days, known as head hunters and were recognised by the tattoos on their faces.

"I was told by my grandfather that we were fighters and connected to the indigenous communities of the Northeast when there were no boundaries and borders separating us. We belonged to the Mon Tangyung branch of the Konyak hereditary chiefs who were called angh. My brothers in the Northeast should also fight for their identity but not with arms. They have defied boundaries in order to commit violence, they should do the same to spread art, culture and peace," Thet said.

Ulfa, raised in 1979 and the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), formed in 1980, had tied up with Myanmar's Kachin Independence Army (KIA) to set up training camps in Myanmar.

Several banned outfits from Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya have since taken shelter in Myanmar.

"Political differences and insecurities are synonymous to every country, but what will connect us is our aesthetics. We are humans and we love art and culture. In arts, a difference is always welcomed and appreciated. If we share our arts, it will create an environment of positivity, which will ward off the insecurity and tension among the countries," Pyone said.

The exhibition which began on Saturday, will end tomorrow.

Among several paintings, the one on Bhupen Hazarika by Shefquet Emini from Holland and Srimanta Xankardeb by Japanese painter Katsu Shimmin are drawing the attention of the visitors.

"I visit India and the Northeast quite frequently. This region apparently is suffering from a problem similar to our country. People, in the name of urbanisation, are forgetting their own roots, making a section anxious of losing their identity. This can be solved through a revolution but not an armed one. We need a spiritual revolution through art and culture," Florence Jose M. Cinco, a painter from the Philippines, said.

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