PanSuriya Art Post


Yangon Echoes at Pansodan Scene

There Might Be a Good Story Behind This Building

An interview with Virginia Henderson and Tim Webster by Nance CunninghamWebster Yangon Echoes Virginia Henderson and Tim Webster’s book, Yangon Echoes, does not highlight the grandest, best preserved examples of Yangon’s heritage buildings. Nor the humblest, most fragile ones. Nor the mixed and smudged range from Strand Hotel to dangerous heap. While architectural heritage is the theme of their book, the people are its centre. That said, the photographs of the buildings as well as the people are fascinating as well. To make the book, they crept down hallways, peered around corners, knocked on the doors of strangers. Virginia: A few people thought we were developers at first. Some people didn’t want to talk, but most did, and even the ones who didn’t would usually invite us in for tea.

U Khin Sein in the second floor lounge with his protégé, Aung San. The former tailor has lived here six decades

U Khin Sein in the second floor lounge with his protégé, Aung San. The former tailor has lived here six decades. Photo by TJ Webster

We live downtown, and that was key. We cycle around, people see us in their streets. Some people were cautious about sharing their stories. We respect that. We visited everyone in the book multiple times, we got to know them all. Some of them we still see. It was about letting people have their say. Tim: Speaking to old people, because of the paucity of research, was invaluable. All that knowledge is in people’s heads. It’s subjective, but the information is there.

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Image from Introduction to YANGON ECHOES: The construction of the flyover at Shwe Gon Daing, August 2013. Photo by TJ Webster

V: The older people who have the memories were really pleased when they realised what we were up to. People keep getting diverted by the buildings — they want to put a plaque on something — but the intangible is important. They were pleased to share their knowledge, they knew it was valuable for the people. T: Sometimes you get a really different view of history. Rather than hering again about Aung San being shot, we heard the story of a girl who was at school nearby, who heard the shots. We heard about her being taken by the hand and walking all the way home, through the grounds of the Shwe Dagon.

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Ground Zero: Daw Shwe Yin keeps track of family memories in 50th Street. Photo by TJ Webster

Tim and Virginia will give a talk about the making of their book, including showing images that could not fit in the book, at 15:00 on Sunday 24 May 2015, at Pansodan Scene. Pansodan Scene, 144 Pansodan, second floor (at the corner of Maha Bandula and Pansodan, entrance to the staircase is opposite the entrance to the temple). All photos courtesy of Timothy J Webster

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From Cambodia to Burma
11 October 2012, 17:03
Filed under: exhibit | Tags: , , , , , , ,

David Richards started this project painting archtectural heritage in South-east Asia several years ago in Cambodia for an exhibition which celebrated the architectural heritage of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The success of that show gave him the interest in continuing in other countries. Although the buildings of the colonial period are fast being pulled down in Yangon, there is at least some effort to save it, where in the other countries there is little interest in the well-designed, lovely, and practical old buildings. While it is not at all sure that the atmosphere of the neighbourhoods where they remain will be rescued, at least there is some hope and interest. The architecture is an integral part of the urban landscape, and it is important to save it from destruction.

“Usually it is a building’s look of having been around for a long time that attracts me at first. I hope to raise the awareness of the value of these buildings, so it will spread through the society, and help preserve them. I focus on the buildings that look like they are being neglected.” The first one that he was attracted to in April was the Secretariat, which had broken windows, loose roofing, and so many different aspects from different angles. He sought out a photograph of the building before the earthquake of 1931, and painted it with the dome and spires that had been removed because of quake damage.

Richards appreciates buildings with human touch. “Modern buildings are all sharp and angular and box-like. The old ones are more like curved shapes you find in nature.” One aspect of Yangon he particularly appreciates is the varied backgrounds of the buildings. Along with buildings designed by Burmans and British, which you would expect to find, there is Islamic architecture, Indian-style design, Chinese buildings.

I am hoping that when people look at these paintings, I think they will first notice the beauty of it. But I hope it will inspire them to get involved in keeping these buildings in use. Maybe others will be inspired to do entirely different projects, depending on what their interest is, but I hope it will lead to good results in any field.

Read more about him here.

The exhibition runs from 16-20 October, at Pansodan Gallery, open from 10-6 daily.

286 Pansodan, first floor (upper block)
Kyauktada, Yangon.

Mobile: 0951 30846



featuring pansodan

A segment of AlJazeera’s 101 East includes an interview with Aung Soe Min, along with a lot of other interesting material.

A few articles included Pansodan Gallery owner Aung Soe Min as a source. Here is one about the recent Once Upon a Time at Pansodan II exhibition, published in the Myanmar Times.

Another, widely published in newspapers, is about the value of good architecture, and the question of whether Yangon will become another ugly Asian city lacking in architectural personality.

And Air Mandalay’s magazine suggested that you buy paintings by ‘enthusiastic artists willing to take a few risks’ you see at Pansodan’s reasonable prices ‘before these youngsters become the art stars of tomorrow.’ Pansodan Gallery is open from 10 to 6 every day, so do try.