“Glass Half Full”: Yangon’s new community arts space
ANEWLY formed The Smiths cover band Poe Het (“cockroach” in English) is having their debut gig at grandma’s house. In an old apartment complex – access to which was given to one of the organisers by her grandmother – Yangon residents Khin CM Maung, Mandy Moe Pwint Tu and Paul Chan have transformed a two-storey home into an intimate and informal community centre complete with a lending library, a community board, floor pillows and a small stage.
This week Poe Het, along with slam poet Than Toe Aung, musicians Lin Htet Paing and Marilynn Lynn, beat boxer Si Phyo Min, and more will perform at the opening night of Glass Half Full.
Just north of the Yaw Min Gyi cafés and boutique stores, the apartment located at 50 Bo Yar Nyunt Road will showcase Yangon’s diverse and young talent at this new art and community space.
The three organisers – who also edit and manage the online Yangon Literary Magazine which will debut print editions this December – are all young writers themselves and hope to make “50”, as they call it, a sharing space for artists and creatives.
“This is kind of a pop-up creative space. We have it until February so we’re trying to get as much out of it as possible,” said 21-year-old Khin CM Maung, a poet and writer who will continue her studies in Australia starting in February.
Unlike other events hosted by Khin CM Maung and her two cohorts – 20-year-old writer Mandy Moe Pwint Tu and 18-year-old Pre College Program senior Paul Chan – the trio hopes to create a space not just for artists but for socially and creatively engaged organisations throughout the city.
“We’re contacting a lot of groups like the Parami Institute which is just starting up. They’re run by young entrepreneurs. Also people from the Myanmar Women’s Self Defense Center … programs like that,” said Khin CM Maung. “If they want to do a fundraiser, they don’t have to go anywhere that’s going to charge them for the space and cut away from their profits.”
“This is more communal in a sense,” said Mandy Moe Pwint Tu, explaining that the events put on at 50 aim to break down the traditional divide between audience member and performer, between organiser and participant. At 50, everyone has something to share.
50’s opening night is just the beginning of what will hopefully become a sustained stream of artistry and workshops. Already, Khin CM Maung and Mandy Moe Pwint Tu envision future events on the horizon including a photography workshop, a queer meet-up called Queer Space, and collaborative workshops with the Yangon Feminist Book Club and the Rangoon Social Studies Club.
While galleries, bars, and parks have all become sites of exhibition and sharing for Yangon’s artists and activists, informal community spaces like 50 – both not-for-profit and intimately housed – are relatively rare.
Glass Half Full is an optimistically titled introduction to the alternative, creative and collaborative possibilities that await Yangon’s younger, underground art and activist scene.
The opening of Glass Half Full will run from 6-9pm on November 5, at No 50 Bo Yar Nyunt Road, Yaw Min Gyi ward, Dagon township