The ARTillery Youth Arts Festival, an Amnesty International initiative, was launched last week. I have been madly creating some art work for the Masterpeace exhibition (one event of the festival). Above is my work just completed, spread out on the floor. After trying various ways of installing crochet, felt and calico to the wall, we finally found something that worked, and my piece it up! I am really excited about the opening event tonight, at the groovy Manhattan's Bar.
In 1998, Myo Min Zaw was arrested in a local tea shop in his home town, in Myanmar (Burma). A second year student at Yangon University, Myo Min Zaw had been peacefully demonstrating and disseminating written information about human rights and democracy for his country. This year, he will have served 12 years of his 52 year sentence, including one year of solitary confinement, for his continued campaigning for human rights, despite being in prison.
His story is not a stand alone case, and despite Myanmar democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, being released recently, many others are persecuted and incarcerated for fighting for basic human rights – freedoms which are common place to young people in Australia.
My work “Tree of Rights” is an attempt to show a direct and familiar link between Myo Min Zaw – a prisoner of conscience – and me – representing an average West Aussie. Our lives and experiences now are vastly different, despite being about the same age, both having attended university, both having been involved in student politics and fighting for human rights.
Using traditional ‘western’ crafts – crochet and sewing – represents the familiar, something tactile, soft, and friendly, juxtaposing a story of harsh injustice, violation, and torture. The tree is a version of the ‘family tree’, where there are links of meaning and kinship along the branches. The links in this tree are significant, and I have used this analogy to try and evoke the sentiment and compassion found in your family tree.
I have chosen key people – many of them public figures - to show these links between Myo Min Zaw and myself. I hope that this highlights the importance of advocating for social change, and lobbying someone known to you can help make that change.