The Myanmar Ethnics Culture Fest is coming to the Kyaikkasan Sports Ground in Tamway Township, Yangon Region and will take place from 25 to 30 January. Mainly facilitated by the Myanmar Ethnic Entrepreneurs’ Association (MEEA), the culture fest aims to display the traditions, cultures and unity of all the ethnic brothers and sisters of Myanmar.
The culture fest will involve traditional dances from Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine and Shan ethnicities, in addition to displays of their culture, way of life, traditional accessories and items of everyday use, and booths selling local products, all in one location.
The following are interviews with MEEA members and booth owners at the culture fest.
Dr. Aung Tun Thet (MEEA Patron)
The MEEA was established because the new government administration is prioritizing peace, which has its basis in economy. From an economic perspective there is a cycle of instability leading to stunted development and vice versa. We requested the State Counsellor to permit us to conduct business for peace. Holding the 21st Century Panglong for peace talks is one matter, while on the other hand, we must consider how to drive economic development. The upcoming culture fest is a gathering of ethnic entrepreneurs. There are 135 main ethnicities in our country and we want them to conduct business in a uniform manner.
Each of the ethnic entrepreneurs – the Mon, Pa-O, and Wa for example – have their own special qualities and services. If they can penetrate the global market then economic development will follow suit. I am thankful for the existence of the Ministry of Ethnic Affairs in this government administration. We are mainly operating under that ministry. I’m also pleased to be holding the culture festival at Kyaikkasan Grounds since it was used to celebrate National Day.
There will be a manaw festival at this culture fest, and we will have lethwei matches and a Miss pageant. Another important element of the fest is the food. Each ethnic race has its own unique food. It’s one of aspirations for Myanmar’s ethnic cuisine to spread across the international community. Our ethnic races have unique food, textiles, and handicrafts. We must start from here to reach out onto the global stage.
I want our country to develop, succeed, and achieve peace. This culture fest is a peace festival in a way. I want to impart a word of warning though. I don’t want our efforts in organizing this ethnic culture fest to filibuster. Don’t stop your efforts at the festival. Continue the momentum. We have plans to invite foreign guests and emissaries. We will notify the embassies. The outside world only knows of the issues of Myanmar. They don’t normally see the peace. We want to show them things are not like what they imagine it to be. One of our main issues is occurring only in the western part of Rakhine. The rest of the State is peaceful. Kachin has conflicts too but there are many areas where it is peaceful. I hope the culture fest will also strengthen relations between our ethnic people.
U La Phai Kunsar (MEEA Vice Chairman 1)
Our MEEA is leading this ethnic culture fest. We aim to gather all our ethnic races in one place and showcase their businesses and culture and deepen bonds between them. This is the first event of its kind for ethnic entrepreneurs and businesses. It is in our association’s objectives to facilitate the emergence of more ethnic entrepreneurs. This is because when choosing whether to carry out peace or economic development first, it is in our objectives to do them both simultaneously. This applies to education too. Economic development will lead to better education, which in turn will lead to an increase in skills and capabilities of the national workforce.
We are leading with Kachin this year and we will be going through the ethnic races alphabetically. We don’t have a set month or season for holding future culture fests. We’ll plan according to a suitable time.
Daw Saw Khin Tint (Chairperson of Rakhine Literature and Culture Association)
I’m contributing to this culture fest on behalf of the Rakhine Entrepreneurs Association. We will be displaying attractive destinations for foreign tourists such as our special economic zone and Nay Pu Taung. There will be displays of prominent Rakhine Thingyan festivals including a never-before-seen display of Rakhine hair knots. There are 64 documented Rakhine style hair knots and Sayamagyi Daw Saw Mone Hnyin has recorded 33 styles. We will be displaying all 64 styles at the culture fest; a result of 20 years of research. We will also be displaying 40 baung daws (traditional headwear) from the Kingdom of Dhanyawadi to the Kingdom of MraukU. There will be Rakhine kyin (a traditional wrestling sport), displays of traditional clothing and designs, plus a Rakhine marriage setting in one of the houses. We used the ordinary khamauk (conical hat) in our decorations.
They only cost K2,000-2,500 each but they are very much a part of the everyday life of Rakhine people.
U Aung Gyi (Chairman of Sagaing Region Gems and Jewellery Entrepreneurs Association)
I’m in my sixties and this is the first I’ve seen an event of this nature. It will bring all the ethnic races together in one place and allow exchange of culture, friendship, and business. By coming to this culture fest, you will be able to witness the close relations our ethnic races have with each other. You will see the peace process and economic development we are working for are in tandem; one must be going well to support the other, and this applies to both sides.
Daw Kay Jar Nu (Entertainment Subcommittee)
We are in charge of the entertainment section of the culture fest. There will be artistic performances, musicals, traditional dances and songs. There’s also going to be a Miss Ethnic Myanmar 2019 pageant. We’ve picked 41 contestants for it, with at least three candidates from each ethnic race. The final will be held on the 29th. There’s a Kayin don yein dance on the 28th. There’s also a manaw dance. It’s appropriate because every ethnic national can participate in that dance. The entertainment programs will start from 6 pm every evening and continue to 11 pm. There’s no admission fee so please do come.
Mai Tun Kyaw (Yangon Ta’ang Youth Organization, Palaung Self-Administered Zone culture exhibit)
This exhibit has our traditional objects on display. We also have local products from our region. We’re going to show some travel destinations via a projector and give detailed explanations. You can purchase our regional products at our sales booth. We will also display our traditional dance and songs. This culture fest allows us to strengthen relations and discover more of each other’s way of life.
By Thi Thi Min
(Translated by Zaw Htet Oo)