Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar

Open History: Arts for Peace

© Helvetas Myanmar

Myanmar is one of the ethnically most diverse countries in the world. Since independence, the country has experienced a complex set of conflicts. These represent a significant challenge on the way towards peace, development and democracy: The political space is still very limited and mistrust is widespread.

  • Project Name
    Open History - Arts for Peace
  • Project Phase
    2019 to 2021
  • Funding
    This project is financed by ifa/Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office during 2019 and by own funds/other donations.
  • Thematic focus
    Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

This project was completed in 2021.

Our project 'Open History – Arts for Peace' organises community-based 'Open History Exhibitions' in different regions and states of the country.

Together with our partner organization, the 'Pansodan Gallery', we provide space for dialogue with the aim to strengthen identity and foster peaceful co-existence. Through this, women, men and youth from different ethnic and social backgrounds exchange about their history, reflect about how to construct a peaceful future for Myanmar and thus, support peace building from the ground. The different actors learn about the good practices and attitudes of various social and ethnic groups on how to peacefully coexist, and recognize the power of arts for conflict transformation and social cohesion.

Pansodan Gallery curates 2-3 photo exhibitions per year with historic pictures that the local population has contributed. Additionally, Pansodan organises photo and video contests to engage the youth in the project. The documentation material from the exhibitions is made publicly accessible in a 'Virtual Museum', so that everybody can learn about the history and similarities of the different ethnic groups.

Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar
The installation of exhibition photos is done by youth volunteers with the guidance of local curators. © Helvetas Myanmar
Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar
Young visitors of the exhibition in Dawei leave their impressions and feedback on postcards. © Helvetas Myanmar
Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar
Local schools were invited to the exhibition. Students and teachers were explained and guided by the curator. © Helvetas Myanmar
© Helvetas / Julia Thienhaus
Aung Soe Min is a renowned artist and co-owner of the Pansodan Gallery. This project is based on his idea. © Helvetas / Julia Thienhaus
Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar
Those visitors, leaving their messages on a postcard, could take one postcard with them. Their feedbacks were displayed on the board to inspire others. © Helvetas Myanmar
Open History Hpa-an exhibition | © Helvetas Myanmar
A local volunteer from Hpa-An university is leading a guided tour program for school children at the exhibition in Hpa-An. © Helvetas Myanmar
Open History Exhibition Dawei | © Helvetas Myanmar
The exhibition in Dawei in November 2019 took place at the park. © Helvetas Myanmar
© Helvetas Myanmar
Young people from the villages are enthusiastic about participating in the Open History project... © Helvetas Myanmar
Open History Collecting Pictures | © Helvetas Myanmar
... and learn about the history from the elders. © Helvetas Myanmar
© Helvetas Myanmar
At the biannual exhibitions the photos and stories are shared with the enthusiastic audience. © Helvetas Myanmar

The project is financed by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) on behalf of the German Federal Foreign Office as well as by own funds. After a successful first phase of the Open History project in 2019, Helvetas received follow-up funding from ifa / the Federal Foreign Office for the implementation of a second phase from 2020 until 2021.

Already in 2019, a total of around 4,000 people visited the exhibitions in the two South-Eastern cities Hpa-An and Dawei. Side events of the exhibitions included poetry and literature reading, panel discussions, guided tours for general visitors and students, and performance of traditional music and dance.

In the second run of the project until 2021, based on the experiences and lessons learned of the first phase of the project, a total of four more exhibitions, accompanied by photo and video contests will take place in the cities of Hakha, Pahtein, Meikhtila, Myitkyina. In Yangon, Myanmar’s capital, two additional exhibitions will be held, for example on the occasion of the 100th birthday of the Yangon University.

Through regional exchange and training on dialogue facilitation, the project furthermore aims to strengthen the local artist network and facilitate the artists to become actors of change and thus contribute to peacebuilding.

Further information about ifa can be found here. Additional information on the Open History Exhibition in Hpa An, the Open History Facebook Page and the Helvetas Myanmar Facebook Page is also available.

1st Virtual Exhibition on 14th - 18th of October 2020:

Pansodan Pathein Facebook Page OR Pansodan Youtube Channel

- Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the planned exhibition in Pathein was reorganized to take place in a virtual format. The videos were produced for the same target group that would have visited the actual exhibition on site (videos with original audio without translation to English) - 

The exhibition was published in different sessions. It featured old photos from Pathein and its famous people, Thanakha Festival videos, Poem Recitation and it will show the pictures and videos of the photo as well as documentary contest winners and much more!

Video 1 is about how to protect each other from the spread of the virus by following government's instructions, washing hands, keeping surfaces clean, proper cleaning at home and trying not to be a silent carrier of the virus. The key message is: Protect yourself to protect others!

Video 2 gives further concrete examples on how to change one's behaviour to contain the virus and its consequences: In public, care should be taken not to spit out betel nut and cover the mouth when coughing to protect others. Household materials should not be shared and the telephone should not be lent because of the resistance of the virus on surfaces (up to 3 days on metal and plastic). The video encourages to be sensitive to not disdriminate others due to their diverse backgrounds and delivers the key message: Act together rather than against each other!

Video 3 is about the mitigation measures for the potential conflict between the host community and returning migrants. It makes it clear that fears are often the trigger for discrimination and that it is therefore crucial to maintain rationality and to meet the returning migrants with empathy, patience and openness. At the same time, returnees they must also follow the instructions of the government and cooperate with the host community.

Video 4 focuses on fostering mutual respect and understanding during the pandemic. Good motive and goodwill of Myanmar people would be affected by the fear of COVID 19. Sometimes, fears are born out of unreliable information and rumours. It leads to accusing others, which is not good and healthy. So, be mindful and cautious with the information. Coordinated and collaborated response is the best way to overcome this crisis.

Video of the Open History Exhibition in Magwe

Learn more about our work 

How Helvetas Supports People in Myanmar

Learn how the rural communities in Myanmar improve their income and strengthen civil society in its new role.

Voice, Inclusion & Cohesion

In many countries where we work, men and women are unable to claim their rights and participate actively in decision-making processes.