Wah Nu andTun Win Aung’s ‘The Name’ ongoing series (2008- )#Dr. Caroline Ha Thuc
March 11, 2021
Research-based art practice

Theartists at work, modifying and painting over archival photograph from thecolonial era.

Courtesyof the artist

“The Name” (2008 - ) byBurmese artists couple Wah Nu and Tun Win Aung is probably the firstresearch-based artwork from Myanmar. Based on modified archival photographs, thissound and image installation features 33 portraits of important Burmese figureswho lived between the first Anglo-Burmese War (1824-1826) and the independenceof the country (1948). Forthis series, Wah Nu & Aung delved into the colonial past of Myanmar,searching back all the “heroes” that fought against the British and whosememory has been either erased or sullied: against the British account ofhistory, and against the instrumentalization of these figures by the successiveauthoritative governments, the Burmese couple aims at emphasizing the acts ofresistance that constitute Myanmar collective memory.

So far, the series has beenexhibited three times, in Yangon (2015), Singapore (2016), and Hong Kong(2018).[1] In the installation, the human-sizeimages are projected in a loop and accompanied by a monotonous voice-overenumerating the names of about 700 Burmese people who fought against theBritish, for the independence of the country.

Since the artist do notexhibit their research findings, the work is far from being didactic and rathergenerates a sensuous and empirical knowledge: the sound installation, with theloud voice over, creates an almost mystical experience where the Burmese heroeslook like eternal ghosts.

Contextualframework and artists’ drive

Against the Britishhumiliation of Burma

The British colonization ofMyanmar (Burma at that time) lasted from 1824 to 1948, when the country becameindependent. It followed three successive stages and main conflicts thatcumulated in 1885 with the annexation of Upper Burma and the creation of Burmaas a Province of British India.  

During the colonizationprocess, and during the colonial rule, the country felt deeply humiliated.Burma was not even a colony on its own but a province of India: “rarely wasBurma viewed by its imperial masters as anything other than a marginal colonialpossession, and never did it wholly erase the stigma of the fateful decision tomake it an appendage of British India.”[2]In “The British Humiliation of Burma”, Terrence Blackburn notes that “at thetime, Burma was called “the Rice Bowl of Asia, so great was its production, andtrade in this staple was mostly in the hands of British merchants.”[3]Maurice Collis, who served in Burma as a British officer, concludes his memoirsby confessing that the British, including him, “had done two things, which weought not to have done. In spite of declarations to the contrary we have placedEnglish interests first, and we had treated the Burmans not as fellowcreatures, but as inferior beings.”[4]

This humiliation could beepitomized by the British relationship with the king. On 29 November 1885, whenthe British troops entered Mandalay, the royal capital of the Burmese empire,they sent the royal family in exile within the following 24 hours andtransformed the palace into a gentleman’s club, auctioning without any respectall the royal furniture, including the sacred throne.

“The Burmese Toad”: GeneralPrendergast shown kicking the reputedly drunken King Thibaw out of his kingdom.Another toad, symbolizing France, watches in the background. An engraving fromPunch, 31 October 1885 (courtesy of Noel F. Singer).

This engraving comes from aBritish comic magazine published shortly before the final invasion of Mandalay.It features king Thibaw, represented under the form of a toad, kicked out by anEnglish soldier. Under the hit, he is letting down a bottle of brandy and hisroyal sceptre.[5]Many European writers described him as a drinker, a fool or a cruel king.[6]

King Thibaw and the QueenSupayalat. Archival image from the Palace Museum, courtesy of the artist.

In contrast, in this above archivalphotograph, the king and the queen stand proudly in their royal palace, dressedin their coronation costume. The artists found it on a Burmese history book,but they told me they also saw it at the Palace Museum in Mandalay. From thesetwo opposite representations of the king it is easy to understand how biased animage can be, according to where it comes from and to whom it is addressed. Accordingto the artists, king Thibaw was not an alcoholic and only the Europeans likedto depict him this way.

Scarcity of local archivalmaterial

In fact, in Myanmar, most of the archivalmaterial and much of what has been written about the colonial period originatesin British sources, therefore was documented from the British perspective. In the colonizers’ records,in particular, most of the Burmese people who oppose the British rule werecalled thievesor “dacoit,” and were accused of banditry.[7]Many were jailed or hung for these reasons. At that time, there were no historicalaccounts from the Burmese side sincehistory has been taught for the first time under the British, with Englishtextbooks praising Britain as the mother of Burmese.[8]As far as photographic documents are concerned, only foreigners were takingphotographs,[9]and the country was either represented through stereotype exotic sceneries thatpleased foreigners, or through the images of the “dacoits” taken by theofficers fighting them.

From the 1920sonward, a nationalist movement developed, including strong critiques about theway the British were teaching history.[10]Burmese historians started to write their own accounts of the past, referringback to ancient chronicles of past glorious achievements.[11] However, thesehistorians were often favoring patriotism over historical accuracy.[12] Myanmar hasbeen ruled by the military since General Ne Win’s coup in 1962 and “has enduredrelative and even absolute decline” since then.[13]During thesedecades of military rule, the local representation of the colonial period hasbeen constantly nourishing nationalism and xenophobia, rather than being theobject of truly academic research.[14]Today, the country is thus only, and very slowly, recovering from 60 years ofdictatorship with a violent repression on freedom of speech and limited civilrights. In 2008, at the beginning of the project, it was very difficult toconduct scholarly research in the country.[15]Myanmar has slowly opened since 2011, but scholarly history books written byBurmese historians for Burmese people are still scarce. Most of the scholarsare still foreigners and either expatriate Burmese or Burmese who studiedabroad.[16]

Considering theongoing political instability and today’s difficult state of transition, it iseasy to understand that, for Burmese people, there has been little space tobuild a consistent post-colonial discourse and to achieve a post-independencenational identity, even if these questions have been at the core of manypolitical debates. It is in this context that Wah Nu and Aung wish now to reclaim the colonial pastfrom a Burmese viewpoint:

“Now it is the time forthose who have appeared in the pages of history books as thugs, thieves androbbers to be given back the true account of their lives. They were notdangerous people as claimed by the history books written by the victors, butrather they were the ones whose lives were endangered.”[17]

Theartists’ research

Working as “historians”

“The Name” started in 2008when the artists read Nehru’s book “The Discovery of India” (1946): Nehru wroteit when he was in jail, imagining and praising India as a sovereign nation, inhomage also to the Indian heroes who fought for its independence from theBritish. Thisreading pushed Wah Nu and Aung to go ahead with a similar process. They havealso been deeply influenced by Burmese historian Ni NiMyint’s 1983 book “Burma’s Struggle AgainstBritish Imperialism” (1885-1895),[18] which features the first detailed and local account of theBurmese resistance, especially during the final battles against the British in1885 and 1886.[19] Somehow, they extended the work of the Burmese scholar whoalready highlighted the strength of the resistant movements in the country, andthe constant humiliation felt by the Burmese people. Following Ni Ni Myint’s legacy, the artists point out how much the names of manyfighters were insulted, and their memory sullied throughout history. By modifying existing archival images – mostly oldreproductions from British history books – they aim at giving back dignity tothese figures and at rebuilding Burmese collective memory.

Based in Yangon, Myanmar,Wah Nu (b.1977)and Aung (b.1975) are both graduated from the YangonUniversity of Culture, Wah Nu in music and Aung in sculpture. Both have thendeveloped other artistic mediums including painting, video and performances,exploring in particular theissues of memory, history and the current socio-economic situation of theirnative country. It seems that the artists have not been influenced by anyonebefore engaging themselves in research, but it is notable that Wah Nu comesfrom a family of film directors and intellectuals. Aung is also teaching at theYangon University. For personal reasons, he is passionate about collectingbooks and magazines, a habit that he shares with other Burmese artists: underthe military rules, media used to be strictly controlled by the state and whilethe country was totally isolated from the rest of the world,[20] artists tried to catch upwith all possible alternative sources, collecting foreign magazines such asTime, Newsweek or Life Magazine. When they began the project, Aung started tocollect images from historical books, and soon realized that they were veryscarce in regard to the number of names that they found from British records.This is with this particular set of mind and personal taste that the artistsengaged deeply in their research process.

Artists’ references booksfor “The Name” in their studio. Courtesy of the artists.

Wah Nu and Aung do notclaim to work as historians but rather originally combine their artisticprocess with some methodologies of work of the historian. In order to givecredibility to their argument, they borrow their research tools from theacademic field of history, reconsidering facts, excavating archives andcomparing them. According to their findings, and against the dominant Britishaccount of Burmese colonial history, they propose a renewed vision of history.

From the beginning, theartists restricted their research to the colonial era, from 1824 to 1945, and definedvery clear criteria for the selection of the featured figures. These figures,man or woman from that time who opposed the British colonization, must havebeen under what the artists call “mudslinging”, that is whose names have beeninsulted throughout history. We have already seen the example of King Thibawand how the British denigrated his memory. Besides, the chosen figures shouldnot have been rewarded for their engagement into the resistance against theBritish nor use their experience to make politics. Most of them, if not killed,had a very ordinary life afterwards. This is why, as the artists explained tome, former Prime Minister U Nu from the first post-independence civiliangovernment is not included in the series: even though he fought on the side ofGeneral Aung San, his later political position worked as a reward for hiscommitment. Similarly, King Mindon, who preceded King Thibaw on the throne, isnot part of the selection either because “he could stand on his own in history: hecommunicated with the British as the king and was known internationally assuch.” Finally, there is a less defined idea about the moral quality of thesefigures, judged, in a way, as “good persons” from the artists’ point of view.

Identifying the “heroes”

For each figure, thestarting point of the research is usually an archival photograph found in ahistory book or in a magazine. Once they find a relevant image, the artists tryto identify all the persons involved, looking for their names but also for detailsof their biography. Then, they search for other sources to confirm theidentification.

“Siyin Chiefs,” fromCarey BertramSausmarez (1896) The Chin Hills: a history of our people, Rangoon,Printed by the superintendent,government printing , Burma.

This black and whiteillustration represents a group of six Siyin Chin people pausing in thecountryside, probably close to their village that can be seen afar. On theupper left, the artists believed having identified Bu Khai Kham, a Chin leaderwho led a rebellion against the British after they took the Chin Hillsterritory. Unsuccessfulin his revolt, hewas arrested and sentenced to a life imprisonment on the Andaman Islands in the IndianOcean, but returnedto the Chin region in 1910. The caption says ‘Siyin Chiefs’ (the Siyins arepart of the Chin ethnic group), and it has been taken shortly after theannexation of their territory. The original photo comes from “The Chin Hills”,a book published in 1896 in Yangon and written by a British officer, Bertram S.Carey.[21]It has also been reproduced later in Myint’s book “Burma’s Struggle AgainstBritish Imperialism,”[22]and this is where the artists probably discovered it. From this firstidentification, the artists searched additional sources where the Chin rebelwould be depicted or represented. They finally found an engraving that isstanding at the entrance of a village named after him. Erected in 1979, thisengraving says that Khai Kam fought in 1886 “for the liberty of his people andlove of his motherland” and he is represented standing and holding his rifle.

Khai Kam engraving at theentrance of the Khai Kam Village. Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Additional research helpsthem also to learn more about the figures, revealing some details about theirlife that can be added on the representation: type of weapon used, socialstatus, specific attributes such as hat or costume, occupation in the civillife etc. WahNu and Aung found his portrait on another Burmese history book, featuring theChin leader holding his long rifle and sword. While they might hesitate aboutthe authenticity of some sources, they find more certitude by crossing them andby comparing their content. The artists eventually combined all these differentimages to create their own representation of the rebel.

Portraits of Kai Kam fromthe Burmeseoriginal version of Myint Ni Ni, Burma’s Struggle Against BritishImperialism (1885-1895) (Rangoon: Universities Press, 1983). Courtesy of the artist.

The artists are workingfrom all possible sources, both scholar and non-scholar, in order to locatethese key figures and to learn about their stories. From the British records of that time,there are lists of names of those who were arrested, jailed and hung. This isan important source for the artists, but these lists usually bear no otherdetails. Wah Nu and Aung also buy books on e-Bay, collect oral stories, contactbooksellers and collectors. They found some interviews in magazines wherepeople remembered the pre-independence period, so they also combine microstories with macro-stories to try to get as close as possible to their subject.Until recently, it was difficult to find books in the country, especiallyforeign books. When the artists refer to Burmese sources, they actuallysometimes refer to British books translated or published in Myanmar: since,again, most of the original sources are British, the Burmese literature on thesubject comes from these primary sources. The images are then reproductions ofreproductions. Now the artists are also increasingly using Internet to comparetheir sources and conduct deeper investigations.

From the existing archivesand British records, Wah Nu and Aung managed so far to identify 33 key figuresfrom this period, whose portraits compose the work. They also found 700 othernames, enumerated in the voice-over of the installation: for these men andwomen, the artists are still searching images to create their portraits. Thereare actually thousands of people who gave their lives for the independence, butthere are no records about them, and they will probably never be remembered.

We do believe that thiswork will be an important resource of art to a certain extent in the history ofMyanmar. For this reason, we are taking a great care in analyzing theinformation. The chosen ones for this artwork did sacrifice themselves with alltheir efforts, both physically and mentally, in fighting for the country’sindependence. They gave their mighty lives for what they believed. In frank,they were in wars for the future peace but took no reward back for themselves.This fact is important. After independence, many got the rewards for the lossof blood and sweat in the colony era. We do not count them for our artwork. Mostof them in this work are the forgotten and ordinary ones, not the well-knowns.To them, this is a sincere tribute. As they were the people with difficulttrace, few images and facts, we have to keep the findings and materialsprivate. This means an attempt of saving their names in history from thepassing times.”[23]

No documentation on display

Wah Nu and Aung are veryprecise in their methodology of work, and they claim being very cautious whenit comes to trusting a source. However,and contrary to historians, they do not systematically document their processof research. When they started the project, they did not have yet a clear ideaof the scope of the work they wished to produce and did not engage in such adocumentation process. Therefore, it is not currently possible to access alltheir research materials, spread in their studio or perhaps lost.

Furthermore, Wah Nu andAung do notshare with the public their pieces of evidence and research findings. When theseries was exhibited at the Singapore Biennale in 2016, there was no text aboutthe featured figures, and the work was only accompanied by the artists’statement. The artists are now thinking of adding short biographies of the 33figures, in order to help the audience to know more about each person, but theywill not display their documentation as they do not wish to. In the above interviewthey said they request to “keepthe findings and materials private” in respect for the figures they are studying.Hence, theviewers are asked to trust the artists about their research process, and aboutwhat they assert to be true. This might be ambiguous because, obviously,history can always be approached from various perspectives. For instance, by wishing to find evidenceagainst the British’s point of view, and to empower the Burmese side, Wah Nu and Aung might disregard some of thesources that do not fit their goal, even unconsciously.

In history, even thoughthere is room for interpretation, there is still an idea of truth: from solidsources, one can say with confidence that the British entered Mandalay andpushed out King Thibaw from his palace on November 29, 1885. There is littlechance that this sort of facts will be questioned in the future, even thoughthe possibility remains open, as it is always with past events. However, it ishard to tell if the king was really an alcoholic or if some rebels like KhaiKam were really fighting for independence or were also thieves. Some rebelsmight have been both. Blackburn argues that “in the beginning their motiveswere indeed noble, but soon these roving bands found it more lucrative to roband commit the most gruesome atrocities on their own defenceless people.”[24] Collis, who was in Burma inthe 1920s, explains what could have later cause the confusion between thefighters for independence and bandits: on his account, encouraged by thegeneral chaos, some ex-convicts and other violent persons took this opportunityto commit acts of crime and banditry.[25]For his part, Thant Myint-U acknowledges that, in therebellions’ period, “there was brutality on both side.”[26]

What matters the most,thus, is probably not the accuracy of the artist’s research but the process ofresearch itself and the transformation of their findings into an artistic artform. The renewed vision of history they propose, and its credibility, areindeed not only based on their findings but also on their aesthetic choices,strongly supported by their references to traditional symbolism and localsystems of beliefs.  

Artistictransformations of the research findings

Modifying the archives

“The Name” can be perceivedas a palimpsest with interwoven layers and meanings: Wah Nu and Aung interpret,re-appropriate, decontextualize and reconstruct the images from the past,driven by their desire to give back dignity to these forgotten or mistreatedheroes. To do so, they draw on traditional and local iconographic and symbolicelements of the Burmese culture, transforming the original archival images intopotential mythological representations.

Every image is treatedaccording to a similar process of work. The archival found image is firstmodified on computer before being printed on a A4 format. The artists paint onthis layer and photograph the outcome in a very high resolution so that thefinal image could be printed or projected on a human size format.

“Bo Cho, the robber and histwo sons,” in WhiteThirkel H., A Civil Servant in Burma (London: Edward Arnold, 1913)

This archival image belongsto an illustrated English-languagebook written by a civil servant, Thirkel White, who worked in Burma for aboutthirty years from 1878 and who wrote his personal memoirs. It features Bo Choand his two sons before their hanging by the British. The three men are representedbare-chested in white sarongs, sitting in the middle of the image and fetteredwith foot cuffs. Their gaze is fierce and stern as they stare at thephotographer. Two armed Indian guards surround them. The author relates that BoCho was said to command seven hundred men, “a leader of a formidable gang”, anddepicts how he was finally arrested as he went back to the jungle, with his twosons.[27]

In contrast, in Wah Nu andAung’s artistic portrait below, we contemplate a village chief looking at uswith dignity and pride, a position he held for some time. For the artists, BoCho is not a robber but an honourable revolutionary. From the archival image,they only kept his face and imagined how he would have been dressed in hischief village costume.

Bo Cho, from “The Name”(2008 - ) by Wah Nu and Aung. Courtesy of the artists

In fact, the 33human-size figures are all represented standing, usually looking straight intothe eyes of the public with pride. The whole series is also very consistent in terms ofcolour and lighting: the black and white tones from the original archivalimages are still visible, as the artists painted on the top on them with onlypale colours, so that the images still look like ancient photographs. Thefigures are very bright as if they were radiating from the inside. The backgroundis usually very simple, slightly blurry, only filled with painted plants orclouds encircling the head and the body of the figure. Furthermore, the artistsincluded small fittings and details that refer to the specific life of thedepicted men and women. At the back of their representation of King Thibaw, forexample, one can see the Royal Palace and both the moon and the sun as symbolsof his royalty. Other accessories allow to identify chief villages from farmersor villagers. Some of these additional references are not easy to catch fornon-Burmese people unfamiliar with the local culture. For instance, Garuda (Galone in Burmeselanguage) is drawn at the back of U Chit Pu, one of the fighters who servedunder the army of Thu Panaka Galone Saya San, which led a famous rebellion inthe 1930s. A Hindu and Buddhist deity, and a figure linked to royal authority,it is a mighty mythological bird very popular in Myanmar. There are also moresubtle references that might be harder to decipher for the general public, suchas the presence of a turtle on the side of Thakinma Ma Thein Tin. In Burmeselanguage, and according to the artist, the term ‘shell’ is very close to theterm ‘tax’, and this lady led a revolt against the British, encouraging peopleto refuse to pay tax. There is thus a pun that can be understood only peoplefamiliar with her biography.

King Thibaw, from “TheName” (2008 - ) by Wah Nu and Aung. Courtesy of the artists

Re-interpreting the past:the language of art

This re-contextualizationallows the artists to offer up a new way to understand the past, revealing whathas been hitherto concealed or forgotten. This renewed vision of history isstrengthened by strong artistic choices: each portrait is highly aesthetic and beautiful.The small and vivid brushstrokes of paint impart an enigmatic atmosphere to thework, while giving a sense of dynamics to the composition. The figures lookalive, borne by this vibrant background and bright staging. Both brushstrokesand pixels from the photographs are visible and sometimes overlap: time seemsto be frozen, and the figures look eternal. From this perspective, the artistsare freely creative, and the research does not seem to interfere with theirchoices. Theyrather use the art language to empower their subjects. In their representationof Khai Kam, for instance, the Chin leader, known as being as strong as fivemen, is surrounded by long white strokes of light, tearing vertically the skyapart, just like a super heroes.[28]Somefighters are alsoshown with their weapons hung behind them, as if they were in the middle of ablazon. As for General Aung San, he is represented surrounded by a white cloud,which, according to the artists, stands as a metaphor for power and forstruggle.

Khai Kam from “The Name” (2008 - )by Wah Nu and Aung. Original version on a A4 format. Courtesy of the artists

Khai Kam from “The Name” (2008 - )by Wah Nu and Aung. Human-size projection. Courtesy of the artists

The presence of this largeand white cloud in many portraits might suggest that “The Name” is more a workof devotion than a work of mere representation. This pictorial element does notproduce any specific knowledge per se about who these people were, but ratherembodies the aura that the artists try to re-establish.

General Aung San from “The Name” (2008 - )by Wah Nu and Aung. Courtesy of the artists

In every culture, clouds are associatedwith celestial spheres: they connect the earth with the sky and represent thefusion of elements, water and air, earth and heaven. Clouds are also directly hinting atthe Buddhist pictorial and traditional representation of gods. In Ranard’s book Burmese Painting, there is an illustration ofa celestial figure painted in Abeyadana Temple in Pagan in the late 11thcentury, showing a woman flying on a cloud, or springing from the clouds whosepattern is similar to the pattern used by the artists.[29] Pagan was the formercapital of the first Burmese empire, and the temples of Pagan have continuouslyinspired artists over time, including contemporary ones.[30] In Buddhism iconographythere are often flying apsaras or Bosatsu on clouds, and these analogies invitethe viewer to draw a comparison between the portrayed figures and gods. For some of the figures,this deification is already part of their history: the King, of course, who wasregarded as“an incipient Buddha”[31],Saya San who proclaimed himself King and even “Setkya-Min, the Burmeseequivalent of the chakkavatti or universal emperor” (Adas, 1979),[32] and even General Aung San, considered as a“larger-than-life hero.”[33]Suzanne Prager demonstrated that his political actions fit the career of animminent so-called ‘future king’ (minlaung) in the Burmese beliefs.[34]

Reactivating collectivemythologies

The dramatization of “TheName” is finally strengthened by the voice-over, which works like anincantation.The names of the 700 Burmese who fought against the Britishand who have been identified by the artists are indeed enumerated by amasculine voice in a loop, in a very formal and ceremonial way. Originally, theartists added a piece of music but changed their mind in order not to distractthe focus of the viewer. This monotonous voice pervades the space and surroundsin turn the figures with its own sacred dimension, adding to the aura of thesepeople.

The staging of the 33figures reminds us indeed of the painted portraits of leaders from the past asthey can be contemplated on the walls of palaces or temples. Everything seemsto have been activated by the artists in order to represent them as heroes:their use of symbols, aesthetic, and the dramatic staging of their body cannotbe perceived as realistic and objective. The exact truth about who they weredoes not seem to matter anymore, as they become the subjects of a kind ofdevotion. Furthermore, during the projection, the figures are classifiedaccording to alphabetic order, and there is no chronology. This strengthens theidea that they are all part of the same body, which is a symbolic and apolitical body. As such, the artists seem to create aspiritual and eternal body that would personify the power of resistanceand that would constitute the foundations of a Burmese collective memory. Therefore,and paradoxically, the knowledge generated by the series does not so much stemfrom the research conducted by the artists about each figure but from the powerfuland emotional aura that pervades the installation as a whole. Here, we leavethe realm of reality to enter the realm of rituals, constructed collectivememory and commemorations.  


With “The Name,” Wah Nu andAung are contesting the colonial interpretation of history and the Burmeseofficial knowledge framework as it has been inherited from the British. They also compensated for the scarcity of scholarly workson the subject caused by the recent decades of repression and violence thatleft very few opportunities for historical research. Against the domination ofBritish accounts of the colonial period, and against the general political socio-historicalproduction of narratives, created to satisfy political agenda, the artists’research process seeks to fill gaps in local knowledge and to renew thefoundations of the Burmese collective memory. Wah Nu and Aung use research as astrategy to counter this vision of history and to propose their own, based ontheir research findings. While they do not claim to be historians, theyemphasize the research dimension of their practice in order to give credibilityto their project. At the same time, they do not display their archival recordsand found documents: the stress is put on the artists’ process of work thatseems to suffice to justify their claim. In fact, this apparent contradictionembodies the strength and originality of the work.  “The Name” is at thesame time grounded in the real, generated by a rational apparatus, and rootedin beliefs thus exposed to any intuitive and personal responses. This openapproach adds to its credibility as it opposes the authoritative system ofknowledge production and allows for a trust-based relationship to emergebetween the public and the artists. Confronted to the artwork and its aestheticand immersive experience, the viewer remains indeed active in his personal(re)connection to this proposed collective memory, which remains far from anyinstitution and freed from any political propaganda.

For anin-depth analysis of the series, see Ha Thuc Caroline “Research as Strategy:reactivating mythologies and building a collective memory in Wah Nu and Tun WinAung’s The Name,” Journal of Burma Studies Vol.23, No1, 2019.

[1]BuildingHistories, a group exhibition curated by Iola Lenzi at the Goethe Institut,Feb.-March 2015; Singapore Biennale 2016, An Atlas of Mirrors,Oct.2016-Feb.2017; Documenting Myanmar, a group exhibition I curated atCharbon Art Space March 2018.

[2]Holliday Ian, BurmaRedux (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2011), 26.

[3] Blackburn R.Terrence, The British Humiliation of Burma (Bangkok: Orchid Press,2000), 140.

[4]CollisMaurice, Trials in Burma (London: Faber Finds, 1938), 216.

[5] The detailed of theengraving is “The Burmese Toad”: General Prendergast shown kicking thereputedly drunken King Thibaw out of his kingdom. Another toad,symbolizing France, watches in the background. An engraving from Punch, 31October 1885 (courtesy of Noel F. Singer) The image has been reproduced on thecover of the book “The British Humiliation of Burma” by Terence R. Blackburn(2000) Orchid Press Bangkok.

[6] See Aung, Htin. TheStricken Peacock: Anglo-Burmese Relations 1752–1948, (The Hague: M. Nijoff,1965); Webb, George. “Kipling’s Burma, an Address to the Royal Society forAsian Affairs.” The Kipling Society, June 16, 1983. http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/rg_webb_burma.htm.

[7] See, for example,the 1931 British report on rebellion (East India Burma rebellion 1931: 349).

[8]Salem-Gervaisand Metro, “A Textbook Case of Nation-Building: The Evolution of HistoryCurricula in Myanmar,” The Journal of Burma Studies 15, no. 1 (2012):31.

[9] Interview with LukasBirk, archivist and curator of the exhibition Burmese Photographers,organized at the Goethe Institute in Yangon Feb. 18 to March 11 2018.

[10]Salem-Gervais Nicolas, “École et construction nationaledans l’Union de Myanmar” (Schooling and Nation-building in the Union ofMyanmar)” (PhD diss., INALCO Paris, 2013), 68-69.

[11] Sarkisyanz,Emmanuel. “MessianicFolk-Buddhism as Ideology of Peasant Revolts in Nineteenth and Early TwentiethCentury Burma.” Review of Religious Research 10, no. 1 (1968): 32-38.

[12] See Aung-ThwinMaitrii, “Structuring Revolt: Communities of Interpretation in theHistoriography of the Saya San Rebellion,” Journal of Southeast AsianStudies 39, no. 2 (2008): 303; Salem-Gervais and Metro, “ATextbook Case of Nation-Building: The Evolution of History Curricula inMyanmar,”Ibid., 33; Geertz Clifford, TheInterpretation of Culture (New York: Basic Books, [1973] 2017), 305.

[13]HollidayIan, Burma Redux, Hong Kong University Press, 2001:1

[14]Jacques Leider, head of the Bangkok-based Ecole Françaisede l’Extrême-Orient (EFEO) and a well-known advisor to the Myanmarmilitary’s Armed Forces Historical Museum in Naypyidaw, emailinterview with the author. March 2018

[15] Gravers Mikael,“Spiritual Politics, Political Religion, and Religious Freedom in Burma.” TheReview of Faith & International Affairs 11, no. 2 (2013): 47.

[16]Maitrii Aung-Thwin did his PhD in the United States and lives in Singapore;Thant Myint-U was born in New York city and educated at Harvard and CambridgeUniversities; Dr. Maung Maung was educated abroad; Htin Aung was educated atOxford and Cambridge…

[17] Artists’statement, SingaporeBiennale 2016 An Atlas of Mirrors.

[18] Myint Ni Ni Burma’sStruggle Against British Imperialism (1885-1895) (Rangoon: UniversitiesPress, 1983).

[19] In the preface ofthe book, Emmanuel Sarkisyanz notes that “Daw Ni Ni Myint’s work is practicallythe first detailed, documented monograph about the Burmese resistance to theBritish conquest of 1885-1886 in Upper Burma and the very first presentation ofthe ensuing guerrilla warfare in Lower Burma.” Sarkisyanz Emmanuel,“Preface,” in Burma’s Struggle against British Imperialism (1885–1895),ed. Ni Ni Myint (Rangoon: Universities Press, 1983), i-vi.

[20] See Kean Thomas,“Public Discourse” in Routledge Handbook of Contemporary Myanmar, editedby Adam Simpson, et al., (London: Routledge, 2017).

[21]CareyBertram Sausmarez, The Chin Hills: A History of Our People. (Rangoon:Superintendent Government Printing, 1896).

[22]Myint NiNi, Burma’s Struggle Against British Imperialism (1885-1895) (Rangoon:Universities Press, 1983),152.

[23]Wah Nu andAung, unpublished interview by Chu Yuan from the Singapore Art Museum at theoccasion of the Singapore Biennale 2016 An Atlas of Mirrors (courtesyof the artists)

[24] BlackburnR. Terrence, The British Humiliation of Burma (Bangkok: Orchid Press,2000), 111.

[25] CollisMaurice, Trials in Burma (London: Faber Finds, 1938), 214.

[26]Myint-U,TheRiver of Lost Footsteps, (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux,[2006] 2008), 29.

[27]WhiteThirkel H., A Civil Servant in Burma (London: Edward Arnold, 1913), 260.

[28] CareyBertram Sausmarez, The Chin Hills: A History of Our People. (Rangoon:Superintendent Government Printing, 1896).

[29]RanardAndrew, Burmese Painting (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2009), 2.

[30] For example, seeHtein Linn and the motif of the dancers that comes from a mural of one of thetemples in Pagan

[31]LeachEdmund, “Frontiersof Burma,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 3, no. 1 (1960): 57.

[32]AdasMichael, Prophets of Rebellion: Millenarian Protest Movements against theEuropean Colonial Order (Chapel Hill: The University of North CarolinaPress, 1979).

[33]NawAngelene, Aung San and the Struggle for Burmese Independence (ChiangMai: Silkworm, 2001).

[34]Prager Susanne,“The Coming of the ‘Future King’” The Journal of Burma Studies 8 (2003):1–32.

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