Expression and Exile in Burma

When 8 Jun 2011
6:30PM - 8:00PM
Where World Policy Institute
220 Fifth Ave 9/F
New York, NY 10001
United States
Enquiry 212.481.5005
A talk with artist Chaw Ei Thein
June 8th, 2011, 6:30pm

Press Release:

In one of the busiest street markets in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), Chaw Ei Thein and a friend, the artist Htein Lin, created a performance to comment on the inflated prices under the current Burmese government. They were arrested for the simple gesture of selling small items like candy and ribbons for miniscule amounts of money. For criticizing the government, Thein was exiled from her country. She now continues her work as a performance artist and painter in the United States, where she has applied for political asylum. Thein’s art expresses the pain and fear Burmese people deal with living under an oppressive government, as well as Thein’s own physical and emotional struggle as both a Burmese woman and as an activist-artist in a life of exile. Following a brief performance, Thein will discuss the limitations on civil rights and freedom of speech that drove her to seek asylum from Burma, where 2000 political prisoners are serving decades-long sentences for speaking out. She also will give perspectives on the challenges facing asylum seekers in the United States.


CHAW EI THEIN (b. 1969, Yangon, Myanmar) is a painter and performance artist currently based in New York. Chaw ei was selected for the New York Foundation for the Arts Mentoring Program for Immigrants Artists through a partnership with freeDimensional. Her work has been widely covered in the international arts press including Asian Art Now, Asian Art Achieve, Artforum, Art Asia Pacific, Yishu, C-Arts, The Strait Times and The New York Times. In addition to her work as an artist, she is also co-founder and Director of the Sunflower Art Gallery in Yangon. In this capacity she has developed several initiatives including the organizing of art exhibitions and fairs including special exhibitions for children’s art in Myanmar and Cambodia, and for psychiatric patients. She has been teaching art to children for more than 15 years and served as Editor for a youth magazine in Yangon. As an advocate for art, education, and creative expression, she has been a vocal critic of the restrictive curricula in Burma. Currently living in New York, she has exhibited new works at the Point B Gallery, Da Gallery, Fardom Gallery, Puffin Room, SoapBox Gallery, United Nations Plaza and the International Studio and Curatorial Programme (ISCP) Open Studios, Grace Exhibition Art Space in United States. Her website is


World Policy Institute Senior Fellow Todd Lester is the founder of freeDimensional (fD) and more recently the Creative Resistance Fund. Previously, he served as Communications Officer for Reporters sans frontières in New York City, and Information & Advocacy Manager for the International Rescue Committee in Khartoum, Sudan. Todd holds a Masters of Public Administration from Rutgers University and is a graduate of the Refugee Studies Centre’s Institute on Forced Migration at Oxford University. Todd received a Film Production Diploma from The New School for Social Research where he also serves as adjunct instructor in Media Studies. Todd is active as an advisor to several residencies, artist-led projects and networks – Res Artis, Sangam House, Pirogue Collective of Gorée Institute, Guapamacátaro Interdisciplinary Residency in Art and Ecology, HomeBase Project and the Flux Factory. In 2006, Todd received the Peace Corps Fund Award for his work starting freeDimensional and was named ‘Architect of the Future’ by the Waldzell Institute in 2008.

About the Sponsors:

freeDimensional‘s goal is to support culture in the service of free expression, justice and equality. It advances social justice by hosting activists in art spaces and using cultural resources to strengthen their work. freeDimensional aims to engage with and foster solidarity among marginalized groups, including LGBT communities, people experiencing economic oppression, people with disabilities, migrants, and young people. It is also committed to promoting long-term economic and environmental sustainability within its network of art spaces and human rights organizations.

The Asian American Writers’ Workshop is a nonprofit literary arts organization founded in 1991 to support of writers, literature and community. The Workshop also offers the annual Asian American Literary Awards and sponsors Page Turner: The Asian American Literary Festival

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