Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Returning native soil to Burma

Tuesday, 18 September 2012 13:40 Mizzima News

(Feature) – The original of a widely known sculpture of Aung San Suu Kyi by American artist Jim McNalis will be displayed at the Suvannabhumi Burmese Art Gallery in Chiang Mai.

McNalis told Mizzima the sculpture would soon be taken to Rangoon to be presented to Suu Kyi, marking the “conclusion of the center of my involvement with Burma over the past two decades.”

Called “Nobility of the Human Spirit,” copies of the sculpture have been shown around the world and widely reproduced in photographs.

McNalis said he accidentally stumbled into a refugee camp on the Thai-Burma border in 1989, and soon became focused on the tragedy that was engulfing Burma, the plight of the Burmese people and their leader Suu Kyi.

“The energy from this experience and my eventual and repeated trips into Burma was channeled into the creation of my sculpture of Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said. “I was also inspired to mix Burmese soil into the clay used for this sculpture.”

Once completed, the sculpture took on a life of its own by constantly attracting the attention of the media. A copy of the sculpture was delivered to Suu Kyi’s family in England and another copy is on display at the headquarters of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma in Washington, D.C.

Over the years, the sculpture has stood in for Suu Kyi at events celebrating her many awards, her birthdays and at festivals where she was the honorary chairman such as the Brighton England Arts Festival, said MaNalis.

“The sculpture of Aung San Suu Kyi is one of my most successful works and certainly my most famous sculpture,” he said. “ My dream over the years was to one day present the sculpture to Daw Suu.”  But as time passed into decades of repression and sustained detention, such a presentation grew increasingly unlikely, he said.

“Many followers of my work made bids to purchase the sculpture and as time passed, the amount of these offers steadily increased.  I have always been able to fend off these potential buyers by declaring that I could not sell the piece since it did not belong to me.  It has always belonged to Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said.

McNalis visited with Suu Kyi in December 2011.

“I am relieved that the sculpture has arrived in Thailand after being hand carried all the way from Florida without incident or damage,” he said.

When the sculpture departs the art gallery in Chiang Mai and heads off to Burma “it will have come full circle, and I will truly be returning native soil to Burma,” said McNalis.

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