Thangyat is a traditional form of entertainment performed for the New Year Thingyan Water Festival in Burma / Myanmar which takes place this week. Thangyat was banned by the military government after the uprising in 1988 but was kept alive in exile before being allowed back last year. But corporate censorship is now comfortably stepping into the military’s shoes.
On 16 April 2013, Julia Farrington published an entry on Index on Censorship’s blog about what she learned from a recent trip to Burma where she met with performers from banned troupes. She wrote the following about Burma’s increasing artistic freedom of expression:
“That Thangyat will be part of the celebrations again after 25 years is a sign of the times. It reveals the opening up of space for freedom of expression in Burma. But the fact that the comeback is being so closely scrutinised by both political and corporate interests illustrates the power of Thangyat to hit where it hurts.
As government pre-censorship is to some extent loosening its grip on arts and entertainment in Burma, as it appears to be, it is interesting to see corporate censorship stepping comfortably into its shoes. And as corporate censorship is a global phenomenon, it is something that artists all over the world, not just here in Burma, are increasingly concerned about,” wrote Julia Farrington.
The first ever all-woman Thangyat ensemble is currently waiting to hear back from the censors whether they will be allowed to perform at the Thingyan Water Festival. Their performance is a passionate litany of biting satire that highlights the threats to Burmese culture, traditional life-style, and environment from business interests, with Chinese influence particularly targeted. The contentious Letpadaung Copper Mine, deforestation and the suspended Myetsone damn project were all targets. They are determined to perform their show as it is, whatever the censors say.
Index on Censorship’s blog – 16 April 2013:
Burma: Traditional satirical performance returns, but so does censorship
By Julia Farrington