Exhibit, lecture provide glimpse into Myanmar

Collage of paintings by Burmese artists

During the 2010s, the small Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar (formerly Burma) was immersed in a complex political transition that had deep impact on all aspects of life. In that decade, the agrarian nation transitioned after five decades of military rule to a civilian-based, citizen-elected government. The change ushered in a new age of priorities and policies – and relative freedom – for the country, which includes more than 50 million residents. An era that was cut short in 2021 as the Myanmar military once again seized power, jailing civilians and activists after installing a new authoritarian regime.

Aung Khaing’s “U Shin Gyi Nat”

This spring, Hanover College will host two educational opportunities to explore the vast scope of social, cultural and economic complexities of Myanmar, its people, and culture. Hanover will present a unique national-touring display of Burmese artwork and also host a leading expert on Myanmar and its efforts to create and maintain a democratic government.

“Myanmar from the Eyes of Its People,” a traveling art exhibit, showcases the country’s reformation through the works of its native artists. The visually stunning display features 36 unique paintings – all created during the 2010s – that represent each artist’s perspective on how the nation changed during that decade.

The exhibition will open Wednesday, March 1, in Hanover’s Duggan Library and run through Sunday, April 30. The library is open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is free of charge.

Hanover’s presentation of “Myanmar from the Eyes of Its People” marks the display’s sixth stop on its seven-state Midwestern tour. The exhibition, which originated Hong Kong in 2014, has been featured at colleges and universities across the U.S. and Asia, including Harvard University, Yale University, University of Hong Kong and Singapore Management University.

“The exhibit features a collection of paintings reflecting the everyday dreams of many in Myanmar at a pivotal moment in that nation’s history, a time of optimism and hope,” said Anthony Miller, Hanover assistant professor of history. “Through the exhibit the audience will get a glimpse at the country’s Buddhist traditions, urban nightlife, and see firsthand Burmese perspectives on what it means to be free. The paintings offer a window into the hearts and minds of people not often accessible to our students and the surrounding community. The paintings also represent the voices that have been forced into silence since the coup in 2021.”

Tharaphi Than, Ph.D.

Educator and author Tharaphi Than, Ph.D., will provide perspectives on life in Myanmar during “Democracy in Peril: Myanmar and the World,” a community address, Thursday, April 6 in the Duggan Library.

A native of Myanmar, Than serves as associate professor in Northern Illinois University’s Department of World Languages and Cultures. Her research interests include women of Burma and Southeast Asia, print media and migration. She is the author of “Women in Modern Burma,” which examines the political and social history of women in Myanmar.

Than earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and biology at Grinnell College. She received a master’s degree in Southeast Asian studies and a doctoral degree in history at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. She is currently working with Myanmar’s University of Yangon and University of Mandalay to revitalize their curricula.

The address will begin at 7 p.m. at the Duggan Library’s Joseph Wood Evans Memorial Special Collections and Archives Center. Admission is free.

“Dr. Than’s scholarship is internationally renowned and her insights will hopefully pique the interest of our campus and community in becoming ever more knowledgeable and invested in Myanmar’s fate in the 21st century,” noted Miller.