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Latest twist in the diplomatic standoff
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Latest twist in the diplomatic standoff
While visiting Sitagu Buddhist Vihara I had the opportunity to meet renowned Burmese artist Sitt Nyein Aye. He, in spite of insurmountable odds introduced modern art to Burma to the chagrin of the socialist regime. His ardor is expressed in every brush stroke on all of his works. The blinding incandescence within Sitt’s soul is also reflective of his duality for he loves Burma and her people in parity and intensity with his art. So I find myself in a quandary; is Sitt a revolutionary artist or is he an artist who is a revolutionary?
Born of humble origins in the early days of Burma’s independance at Nyaung Oo Township in the Mandalay district a few kilometers from the ancient Kingdom of Pagan, he eventually graduated with honors from Pantara Art School in Mandalay. Influences from magnificent architectures and sculpted masterpieces by artisans from Burma’s illustrious past nurtured his artistic prowess. The ancients were his first teachers and Sitt was destined to walk in their footsteps.
Walking in close parallel with art Sitt is also an advocate for democracy and positive change within Burma. His participation is legendary within many pro democracy circles. During the dark days after the student uprising of 1988 he moved to India where he continued to fight for Burma’s democracy founding one publication (Galon Ni) and writing for another (Pan Sakar), both of which he provided in-depth stories, art work and poetry. In the process he was also enriched by India’s art and architecture. These influences nurtured his already robust and unique talent to yet another plateau of excellence over the next 20 years while he lived in New Deli.
During his tenure in India he continued to gain popularity in many art circles for his unique and dynamic modern art style. His name became synonymous with the term ‘Modern Art’ and his paintings are highly prized by collectors around the world to this day. His works fetched a king’s ransom as his popularity grew in the art world. Though Sitt could have lived in the lap of luxury from the revenue he generated from his talents he chose to donate most of his profits to pro democracy organizations in Asia and the world.
From the Kachin, Karen to the Rakhine and other ethnic groups Sitt gave his all in an effort to ease their suffering and to let them know they are not forgotten. Organizations such as the ABSDF, ABSL, NLD and the monks from the Saffron Revolution were beneficiaries and the only regrets Sitt had was the fact he could not give more. Sitt dedicated his time and talent to his people and the cause for democracy making him one of Burma’s true heroes and champions of democracy. I was in awe of his accomplishments and the sacrifices he made for his people over the years and his paintings resonates the true passion that resides within Sitt’s very being.
After visiting with Sitt I reviewed some of his works and found a treasure trove. His ability to capture life with all the dynamics of the moment told stories of everyday living from ancient times to the tumultuous times of today. I was entranced by the finite details of ancient battles and the paintings came to life, animated and very alive. The scenes of joy and the scenes of sorrow also touched my spirit as his depictions penetrated my senses as I felt his passion in every stroke of his brush. It is not hard to see why he is a living legend within the art world but it is also not hard to see why he is a legend in the pro democracy movement in Burma.
Though his journey to America has taken him away from his art for a brief time as he went through the motions of immigrating he is back, artistically speaking. One day Sitt had the opportunity to meet with famed Burmese Temple Builder, Ancient Architect Sayagyi U Win Maung. Now he is offering his artistic prowess to the *Sitagu Buddhist Vihara in Austin Texas. The Sitagu Buddhist Vihara is the site of an epic construction project where the east meets the west on many levels. The Shwezigon Pagoda in Burma is being duplicated at 1/3 scale along with the construction of a new meditation center and monks quarters. And there is a hand full of craftsmen skilled in ancient temple building, sculpting and engineering from Burma who are working there simply for the love of their Buddhist faith and the people this place will serve in the future. Sitt is in good company.
Now that Sitt is in America he has some very great plans that should scintillate the art world here in Texas and the USA. His dream is to open up an art school for both Burmese and non Burmese artisans who care to learn from this legendary and accomplished artist. There is no question as word leaks out about Sitt and his artistic prowess he will soon be in demand from the multitude of art communities that dot the landscape. I doubt Sitt will ever change his demeanor no matter how popular he becomes in America for he was always humble even in New Deli where he took the art world by storm. Forever faithful to his Buddhist religion he will continue to support his people and the cause of democracy in Burma. Fame will never change Sit Nyein Aye but maybe he will change the perception of what fame should really mean and what it can foster, for others.
* For more information on the Sitagu Buddhist Vihara:
Sitagu Buddhist Vihara
9001 Honeycomb dr,
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