(A tribute to the centennial celebration of the University of Yangon)
By Khin Swe Win
I was a first-year university student in 1976. Since 1975 after the U Thant Uprising, the academic years had got jammed, so it might be referred to as the 1975-76 academic year. It was only after eleven months after we had passed the matriculation that we had a chance to join the university. My specialization was Economics, and I joined the Institute of Economics. I got 100 marks in Mathematics in the matriculation, but I didn’t know I was eligible for applying for the Maths Scholarship. As a result, I missed the great opportunity of joining Rangoon Arts and Science University (University of Yangon). Though I missed a chance to specialize in one of the Arts and Science subjects, RASU (Rangoon Arts and Science University) had not been an unfamiliar site for me because I was very much interested with the Notice for the enrollment in Art Classes among other notices announced on the walls near the Arts hall, and in the Recreation Centre and before the canteen of the Institute of Economics, known as the Eco Canteen. So I made a search for the location of the Art Centre, and finally, found it. It was a one-storeyed building behind the Arts Hall. It was rather crowded, and feeling scared to mix with the crowd, I did not join the Art Classes. But in my second year in the university, I ventured to go there and enroll my name. And I found myself quite unable to leave this social circle founded in the RASU campus as if I had set out a journey of no return.
After the first year Art course was completed, the fifth Art Exhibition sponsored by the Arts Section of the University Art Association was held, and I was overjoyed to have my pencil drawings on display in the exhibition. My fear of mixing with the crowd and my unsociable nature subsided. The Art Centre opened at the week-ends only, but because I was informed that I could come and practise my skills in my free time, and because I had to take lectures in an AE (Art Extension) classroom, which is located beside the Art Centre, luck was on my side: just four or five steps, and there you are, at the Art Centre. Sometimes, reading the Billboard Writings of students displayed over there, I even forgot to resume taking lectures. But I had a hundred percent attendance on the students’ roll call because my trustworthy pals kindly did forging my signature on it. Thus, I continued to study the second year Art course, and was taught the Water Colour painting. I had a great opportunity to participate in the Sixth Art and Sculpture Exhibition of Rangoon Arts and Science University. I was then a very active member of the Art Association. No more fear of mixing with the crowd. But I never let myself be out of touch with my study. I love Mathematics and applied for Statistics specialization, so I had to say good bye to my pals I had made friends with in my first year. Because my new class had only a few students, I had to make regular attendance as best as I could. Even then, I bunked the class on the days of the Art Exhibition. Though there was no third year Art course, there I went again for another year since I wanted to place myself at the feet of the great artists Sayagyi U Thein Han and Sayagyi U Lun Gywe and studied Art as much as I could. I took the responsibility of the Finance Manager of the Art Association. Naturally, I visited the Art Center seven days a week! In those days, the Art Association had allotted no budget for the Art Exhibition. The fund of the Centre came from the members, who had to find ways and means for the support: drawing and selling postcards during the Exhibition, selling the catalogues, and approaching the Rector and the professors for the sale of the paintings, and what else. I was assigned the duty of Finance Manager in 1979. The Seventh Art and Sculpture Exhibition was a success, and I felt very much elated over making contributions to support the fund for the next academic year. Changing my roles of a student and a finance manager back and forth between the lecture room and the Art Centre, I managed to be graduated as a degree holder of B. Economics (Statistics) in 1979.
Students may come and students may go, but my blood ties with RASU have never been ended. In 1980, I attended the Full-time Diploma in French at the Institute of Foreign Languages (Yangon University of Foreign Languages), and this gave me a chance to visit the Art Center in the campus of RASU (University of Rangoon). I had never been away from the Art Centre from 1981 to 1987! While I expanded my horizon of studying Art under the great art masters, I shared my experiences with the new blood, filling the stock of drawing papers, drawing pencils, brushes and paints. I envied those seniors who have now become well-known artists of Myanmar. I also keep on learning Art from them. So the Art Centre of RASU has been a part of my life because, though a student specializing Economics at the Institute of Economics for four years, my life as a university student must have been spent at the Art Centre of RASU and its environs. Since I often got sick then, I even thought that, God forbid it! if I should die, my spirit would be visiting the Art Centre, feeling amused among the paintings and counting money so as to pay the cash for drawing papers!
I was glad that the Art Centre, which had remained dormant like Rip Van Winkle for some years, now came back to life once again in 2015. I was very grateful to those who made efforts to re-introduce the Art classes to the aspiring university students. The Art Exhibition has since then been held four times. So here I am back again to support the new budding artists. I feel that entering the Art Centre of the University of Yangon is like setting out a journey of no return. Long Live Art! Long Live our Alma Mater! (Translated by Dr Zaw Tun)