If any country is a kaleidoscope of peoples, then that would be Myanmar. With more than 135 different ethnic groups, each defined by their distinct language and cultural traits, it is one of the most diverse countries in the world. It is also one that has experienced the longest conflict along ethnic lines.
Myanmar became increasingly secluded from the world following a military coup in 1962. The military, or the Tatmadaw, quickly consolidated its power over all State functions and suffocated any attempts towards meaningful economic and political development. In 2015 Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of the Major General that founded the Tatmadaw, rose to power in an landmark election on the promise of an increasingly democratic society. Yet, many would argue that the promise has remained largely unkept as the country’s complexities and numerous armed conflicts have come to light.
While it remains difficult to travel throughout the country due to restrictions, one can get a glimpse into the Myanmarese kaleidoscope by taking “The Circular” train in Yangon. It cuts through a number of smaller communities in and around the former capital. It is an artery for local commerce, economic, religious and social life - an overindulgence of smells, sounds and people… or perhaps just the iron scar of the ambition to survive.
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