PanSuriya Art Post

Mystic Ball


Greg Hamilton became fascinated by caneball or chinlonthe first time he saw and heard one in action: in a Toronto park, in 1981.
The connection was deep, and he began coming to Ne Win-era Burma with the idea of developing his skills and eventually, bringing a team on an international tour. The tour never took place — in the 1990s when he was trying to arrange it, it was difficult to get a passport — and so we benefit from his Plan B: the documentary Mystic Ball. Mystic Ball will be showing at Pansodan Scene on Saturday 15 March 2014 at 6.30 pm. Greg Hamilton will be there, to introduce the documentary and answer questions.

Greg Hamilton came to Pansodan Gallery for an interview on 4 March 2014. He explained that when he first came to Burma in 1986, chinlone was considered a low-prestige, village and dusty street sport, and people were amazed but delighted by his serious interest.

Pansodan: What footage was hardest to cut out of the documentary?

ImageWell, we had shot three hundred fifty hours, which was cut to eighty-three minutes. In a way, the hardest to cut was the playing. I could have had it all just the game. But there were other things that were hard to cut. Like when I played music for elephants in Mandalay Zoo.

Pansodan: What gave you the idea to do that?

I started playing music for zoo animals in the 1970. I was thinking about the animals as being in prison. People were coming, looking, pointing, and no one was sharing anything with the animals. So I started playing music for them. Birds are most responsive, of course.

This time, I was playing for these elephants in Mandalay, and one had killed two people in the last year. The cameraman kept asking me to move closer and closer. It was raining, the ground was very muddy. I was kind of scared. So anyway that was an interesting experience.

Pansodan: What about women playing?

I think that the number of women playing has increased slowly here because of the modesty factor. Women don’t want to be seen in shorts. When I first came here, a mini-skirt would have been unthinkable. A lot of the women, if they got married, their husbands would forbid them to playing chinloun, because they didn’t want people seeing their legs. But maybe now that more girls wear miniskirts, there will be more women playing.

Pansodan: From your point of view, how’s the development in the game itself here?

The game has been evolving. It might be a thousand or a thousand five hundred years old. It is changing here, too. When I first came here, for example, the balls used to be a little smaller and the cane used to be much better. They can’t get really good quality cane now for balls. I still have some of the original forty balls that I got in 1986… I’ve been meaning to bring one back here to show them here.

The moves have been changing too. There are about two hundred named moves now, more and more. It is more acrobatic now, but less elegant. The older players put more emphasis on the pose, similar to dance poses that you took as you kicked the ball with a certain move. Now it’s got more of this breakdance, kind of young feel.

Scene : Live Cartooning
20 February 2014, 13:48
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Live Cartooning at Pansodan Scene

This Saturday, 22 February 2014, at Pansodan Scene. Including Malte Jehmlich’s cartooning machine.

Public Memory : James Scott

Invitation to a lecture with Professor James C. Scott of Yale UniversityImage

The role of public memory in the transition from a closed, autocratic society to one increasingly linked to global flows of capital and information is just beginning to be explored by Burma scholars, specialists, and indeed the public. These discussions have the potential to animate and clarify the question of how publicly shared memories of the past are implicated in collective and individual acts of commemoration, resistance, and capitulation.

Professor James C. Scott of Yale University and author of influential texts on politics and anthropology in Southeast Asia, including The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, will give a lecture on the topic of public memory this week at Pansodan Scene.

We cordially invite you to join Professor Scott’s lecture and participate in the discussion by sharing your questions, views, experiences.

At Pansodan Scene, Wednesday, 19 February 2014, 5:00pm-7:00pm. Free & Open to the Public

Scene : Shwe Thein Solo Show
16 February 2014, 18:47
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Shwe Thein’s solo show at Pansodan Scene is particularly accomplished.

 Pansodan Scene Shwe Thein show

He has never forgotten his Rakhine boats, and other scenes of his home. The Yangon paintings have a creamy touch and careful colours. In this exhibition he has introduced a new series, of Rakhine wrestling, as well.

Open 10–6 every day until 21 February 2014.


Yangon Photo Festival comes to Pansodan
3 February 2014, 14:06
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International Photography

What happens when internationally known photographers spend a week with seven photographers from Bangladesh, ten from Norway, and six from Myanmar? Nobody knows yet, but you can find out on 12 February. Photojournalist Philip Blenkinsop with support from Gareth Bright, Munem Wasif, Per Anders Rosenkvist, Dr Kaung Htet and Minzeyar will work with these students to hone their reportage skills, and the pubic can see the results 7:00–9:00 pm, at Pansodan Scene. Find out more at Myanmar Deitta

Melissa Finkenbiner: Last Compositions
22 January 2014, 18:23
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Melissa Finkenbiner: Man

Melissa Finkenbiner: Man

Many of Melissa Finkenbiner’s oil paintings are about the touch of the profound to the mundane. Striving to bring out how ones identity can be gained or lost in a moment and wanting to make the subjects of her paintings universal, she realised that not only clothing, but even hair identified people as being from a particular time and place. Since then she has frequently painted people without hair. Two years ago she arrived in Yangon, where she realised that this concept had already been put into effect for many centuries.

She has explored more deeply in this direction while living in Yangon by letting the sights, ideas, mythology and visual language influence her work. Some works, like the monk in Sleeping and Dying, draw closely and clearly on her observations. In this work, the awkward position of the monk lying not far from a reclining Buddha makes the viewer unsure whether he is sleeping or dead. This leads the thoughts to the life of a monk, who has given up the possessions and family which loom so large in most lives. In fact, Melissa points out, when we die, all that remains are our acts and deeds. The monks are living that out now, but it is true for us all once we are dead. Other works are homages to works of old masters such as Parmigianino and Caravaggio. Her painting ‘The Chinthei and his Son’, for example, draws on Caravaggio’s ‘The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist’ but reading the mistaken killing of the chinthe by his son through the famous painting of the wrongful execution of St John. Ideas of transformation — from ignorance to knowledge, from working to creating, from rage to peace, from life to death — predominate in many of the paintings.  Melissa Finkenbiner came to Pansodan Gallery on 21 January 2014 to talk about her work and her upcoming exhibition at Pansodan Scene.

What are your main artistic influences?

Caravaggio Beheading of St John the Baptist

Caravaggio Beheading of St John the Baptist

Finkenbiner Chinthei

Finkenbiner The Chinthei and his Son

Artemisia Gentileschi, Tomasz Rut, Caravaggio, and Michael Buesking are the core ones I always come back to. My style reminds some people of mannerists, and the end of the Baroque period. Even though I love art from every movement, that’s a movement that I go back to because it has this art that is partly based on what you see in reality, but also on an ideal. For me, I don’t see the point of painting exactly what’s in a photograph. Why is seeing somebody sleeping in a monastery interesting? My art is about taking what you can’t see in a photograph and changing the balance, the colours, bringing out the ideas. It’s about making something mundane seem monumental, getting those thoughts across.

What impact do you hope this exhibition might have on the Burmese art community?

Melissa Finkenbiner: Sleeping and Dying

Melissa Finkenbiner: Sleeping and Dying

Melissa Finkenbiner: Sleeping and DyingI was a bit worried about that at first. [Founder of Nawaday Thalar Gallery] Pyay Way said he had never seen a monk painted sleeping, though is how you always see the monks. It is closer to reality than a painting of monks walking into the sunset.  It is unique but still grounded in what is Myanmar. When people look at my pieces they can tell exactly where I painted them.  These are Myanmar.

How does your interest in mythology shape your artistic ambitions?

Sometimes I think mythological stories tell more truth than other narratives. Mythology tells the stories of how people react to the situations they are in and reflect universal truths about human nature.  However, mythological stories also contain characteristics and themes that are unique to the cultures from which they are derived.   The myth of the Chinthe was a beautiful story and one that is very much a part of Myanmar. However, you could compare the myth of the Chinthe to Western mythology and find many of the same story elements. It is a beautiful thing.

Melissa Finkenbiner studied art at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, USA. She has been living in Yangon for two years. Her exhibition Last Compositions, can be seen 25 January – 2 February at Pansodan Scene, 144 Pansodan, Second Floor, Middle Block, Kyauktada, Yangon. Her website is

Interview by Nance Cunningham and Kirt Mausert


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