Burmese Arts Festival fundraiser
Join Index on Censorship on 30 July for an evening of Burmese culture, with exclusive excerpts of new Zarganar film This Prison Where I Live
28 Jul 10

On 14 July, 87-year-old Burmese author Nan Nyunt Swe died — but his son Zarganar, one of the country’s most popular comedians, was unable to attend his funeral, and may not even have been informed of his death. Zarganar is currently serving a 35-year prison sentence for criticising the government¹s handling of the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Not only that, but since 2008 he has been held in a prison so far from his home that it effectively cut him off from contact with his family. Just last month the authorities felt it necessary to forbid his family from travelling the 1500 km to visit him.

According to Zarganar’s sister-in-law, Ma Nyein, shortly before his death and knowing full well that he would not see his son again, Nan Nyunt Swe composed a short poem recounting the birth of his three children and the joys and difficulties of bringing them up.

“It’s very important that I give this poem to [Zarganar],” said Ma Nyein. “But right now, I don’t know if I can even do that.”
In a week where human rights campaigners appealed to the Indian government to apply pressure to the junta during a visit to India by one of its senior generals, free expression groups Index on Censorship and English PEN are hosting a special fundraiser at 6.30pm on 30 July at the Free Word in order to raise funds for the inaugural Burmese Arts Festival, to be held in October.

The event will feature special preview excerpts from new film This Prison Where I Live, presented by director Rex Bloomstein. In the film, German comic Michael Mittermeier travels to Burma to understand Zarganar’s motivation, which led him to become the ‘loudspeaker of the people’.

It will also include the UK premiere of Burmese Theatre Workshop’s new show Beyond Nargis, which takes the audience back to Burma in May 2008 as the population struggles to cope with the effects of one of the worst natural disasters in living memory, Cyclone Nargis.

Tickets cost £20 and all proceeds will go to the bringing artists to the festival and production costs. They can be reserved by calling 0207 3242 570 or emailing [email protected].

If you can’t make it, please send a donation to Burmese Arts Festival — cheques made payable to Writers and Scholars Educational Trust, 60 Free Word Centre, Londonn EC1R 3GA

The Burmese Arts Festival (14-17 October 2010) will bring together a unique group of Burmese contemporary artists and artists inspired by Burma to London’s Free Word Centre, many for the first time. Curated by internationally acclaimed visual artist and performer Htein Lin, the festival will include new presentations and productions and a celebration of Burmese culture to share with UK audiences. For more information, please see or email [email protected]