Artists Htein Lin, Sitt Nyein Aye and Zarganar have been using the medium of art to convey their angst against the injustice occurring in their country since August 8, 1988. Titled ‘ICU Jest’ — an anagram of the word ‘justice’ — the exhibition sees a coming together of various genres of art: Sitt’s poems, Zarganar’s jokes, and Htein Lin’s performances, along with drawings and photographs.
The exhibition is about the spirit and vitality of comic force against the formality of the courts of law. It is about how humour has an existential register and how those forms move easily between the political and the philosophical.
Zasha had been working with Htein Lin since 2008. She met him when he was protesting at Trafalgar Square in London through a performance in solidarity with the monks who were protesting in Burma against the government’s crackdown.
Zasha says, “The exhibition is the culmination of conversations, commissions, collected archives and translations since meeting first Htein Lin in his studio in 2007 and then, at his suggestion, the Mandalay artist Sitt Nyein Aye, a refugee then living in Delhi, and Zarganar in Yangon. The exhibition tells the story of how Sitt Nyein Aye taught law student Htein Lin to draw on the forest floor in an enclosed refugee camp in Manipur in 1988 after fleeing Burma during the 1988 Uprising. It also tells the story of the friendship between Htein Lin and the filmmaker Zarganar in Yangon that began at their university in the mid-1980s and has survived their multiple imprisonments and exiles. While at university they reinvigorated the ancient comedy and dance tradition, anyeint. For Zarganar, it took the form of stand-up comedy routines. Htein Lin used its recognisable structure of a princess and a comedian to create small acts in the streets, that in retrospect are among the first works of performance art in Burma.”