Military violence is taking a psychological toll on Myanmar’s anti-coup resistance. New spaces, like a pop-up art therapy centre, are creating opportunities for activists and journalists to discuss their mental health and stay primed for the revolution.
I had seen photographs of the Myanmar Cartoonists’ Association protesting on the streets of Yangon soon after the coup. They were holding up placards with their cartoon characters giving the three-finger salute. I thought that the best way to show solidarity and support to our colleagues was to draw a selfie giving the same salute so I asked members of the Professional Cartoonists’ Organisation to contribute to a #threefingers social media campaign. This brought us to the attention of the Raise Three Fingers team and we have been in collaboration since then.
South Korean artists were among the first to join the cause. "Four decades ago, the citizens of Gwangju staged a protest against the military. The photo of a soldier clubbing a protester to death. A young child holding the family tight for protection. It was the sight of Gwangju at that time; it is the sight in Myanmar now" said Im Ah-Yong, an employee of the Gwangju Youth Creative Hub. The group in April launched the Peace Hand Gesture/Three-Fingers Salute workshop to support and express solidarity with the citizens of Myanmar.
“That morning, I cried,” he remembers. “I felt lost. Some memories of my childhood came back vividly to me. I remember having to pay respect to the generals who came to our school without knowing why I had to. I remember my childhood spent in darkness and fear. Then I immediately thought of my niece and nephew. Will they have a childhood similar to mine? Will they now have to live under the same darkness and fear under the dictatorship? I don’t want that for them.”
Two weeks after the military in Myanmar took power in a coup, a meme began circulating inside the country that riffed off a once-famous Batman and Robin meme.
Since the 1 February coup in Myanmar, dozens of artists—filmmakers, cartoonists, painters, poets and more—have been detained by the military.