San Zaw Htway
Winner of the Artraker Award, 2014
CONFLICT AREA / COUNTRY OF REFERENCE: MYANMAR
San Zaw Htway,
Blue Moon on the Highway
- Recycling Myanmar's Dignity
Coffee-Mix Bags, Shopping Bags.
© Artraker CIC 2014
San Zaw Htway was born in 1974 in Ye Township, Mon State, Burma. He moved to Yangon in 1985. While studying at the University in Yangon, he was arrested for involvement in efforts to re-establish the All Burma Federation of Students Union (ABFSU). In 1999, at the age of 24, he was sentenced to 36 years' imprisonment by the military government. San Zaw Htway began to create collage art to cope with his solitary confinement and poor living conditions in Taungyi Prison. He created the collage artworks from old food wrappers and plastic packaging. On 13th January 2012, after 12 years of prison life, he was released following a presidential amnesty. He is currently completing studies and working at the Association for former Political Prisoners. He continues to learn, paint and create art. He also teaches recycled collage art to children affected by poverty and conflicts.
I began creating artwork while being held as a political prisoner in Burma from September 1999 to January 2012. I created collages using materials from the prison's garbage, and exchanged food rations with guards to obtain prohibited items like scissors and glue.
My work is a reflection of my experiences in prison and my desire for self-expression in the face of extreme deprivation. I want to raise awareness about the lives of political prisoners in Burma, and to prove that torture, violence and oppression can break a person's body but cannot take away the spirit within.
Standing up to political oppression has played a pivotal role in the evolution of my creativity, and is a central theme in my work. People in Burma still struggle to attain the most basic freedoms. I have travelled around the country to teach children and other people affected by poverty, war and ethnic discrimination how to create art as a means of reclaiming their right to express themselves.
As a trained counsellor, I help people to use art to release hardships, open up to dreams, and visualise peace. By using recycled products, I promote environmental sustainability and access to art for all.