Humble Beginnings

Burmese American Collective's story began almost 9 years ago at the very tail-end of 2009 when I had the luxury of time.  Time to think, time to create, and time to do.  I had just wrapped up an internship at the Smithsonian Institution and for the first time learned about their Folklife Festival, an annual event built around two to three pivotal themes.  Before leaving SI, I found out that one of the themes for the following year would be the "Asian American Experience."  As a verified Asian American, I perked up with great interest to learn that my life experience was going to be a topic of the next Festival.  I thought to myself, here is an amazing opportunity for Myanmar American communities to share the rich culture, history, and art of the diaspora with a national audience.  When I learned that Festival organizers weren't even aware of our local Myanmar American presence, I knew that we had to be part of the Festival, our voices had to be amplified, and our stories had to be told.  Convinced that it would be easier to get things done as an organization rather than as an individual, I created the Burmese American Collective.  After months of grass-roots community collaboration and preparation, our Myanmar American story became an integral chapter in the  2010 Smithsonian Institution's Folklife Festival, and we secured a place in national history!

By the end of 2010, I had finally scored a full-time permanent job and started my journey at National Geographic.  Once that 9-5 commitment weighed in on me, I could no longer devote all of my time to growing BAC and it simmered on low in the background of my life. Time though, has a funny thing of creeping up on you like a storm and eight years after BAC took its first steps, I became a mother and went into hibernation while BAC’s growth and development became eerily stagnant.  As motherhood finally begins to settle in, I find myself shaking off the cobwebs of hibernation and reemerging into the world.  Ready to breathe life back into Burmese American Collective and grow it into something that my son can be proud of, and perhaps even one day carry on. For at the core of it, by breathing life into BAC, it will breathe life back into me. 





American Alien

New episodes posted here on August 12th, September 9th, and September 29th.
American Alien, a project developed by Flux Factory Artist-in-Residence Ye Taik, is designed to increase awareness of the Burmese diaspora and to serve as a platform for the Burmese American voice. Through interviews published as podcasts on the Flux Factory website, American Alien will address topics related to Burmese innovation and hybridity.

Comprised of conversations with Burmese American intellectuals and prominent artists of Burmese descent, this project questions notions of individual identity and belonging in a country, which from its very beginning, has been inhabited by displaced people: immigrants, outsiders, refugees, third culture kids and third culture adults. In this light, America’s unifying characteristic is one of difference.

Ye Taik has written the following statement about this project:

As a post-nationalist who resides in Brooklyn, I am very interested in exploring the progressive definition of Home. Culture is an organism that expands and contracts, that breathes within the context of the relationships of people with all different skin colors, all different tones and accents, all different perspectives and all different emotional landscapes. As diverse as Americans are, many people of color are still culturally underrepresented.

The series of three episodes includes interviews with New York-based curator and artist, Tun Myaing; the Library of Congress Florence Tan Moeson Fellow and Burmese American Collective Director, Saw Sandi Tun; and Co-founder of Sulu DC, as well as “proud Burmese American Gypsy,” Simone Jacobson.

Contemporary Burmese Art: Ideas and Ideals

New York Open Center Inc
22 E 30th St, New York, NY 10016(212) 219-2527

February 6-9 2010

The New York Open Center announces a contemporary art exhibition focusing on the talent and creative motivations of the Burmese diaspora.  In a show organized and curated by the artists themselves, “Contemporary Burmese Art: Ideas and Ideals” will explore the modern landscape in which Burmese diaspora artists find themselves today.  The artwork, and their creators, will bridge the gap between tradition and creativity, between one homeland and another.  A roster of sixteen Burmese artists from across the United States have come together to jump-start a dialogue on creativity, censorship, tradition, modernity, “stranger-hood,” identity, and the irreverent boundary-shattering power of art.  “Contemporary Burmese Art: Ideas & Ideals” will delve into the complexity of the Burmese creative spirit while examining what it means to be a Burmese artist in the U.S.  Drawing from a rich and nostalgic tradition, how do these artists define their creative identities and as artists in limbo, between one homeland and another, what are their values and their inspirations?

One of the show’s artists, Chaw Ei Thein reveals that “Burmese artists used to do self-censorship on ourselves whenever we create our art while we were in Burma to show the public.  The question becomes, are we continuing this self-censorship once away from Burma?  Do we change, adapt, or remain the same.  During this exhibition, can an audience see or feel the sensitivity to this dilemma through our artwork?”

Join Burmese artists and the Open Center February 6th through February 9th 2010 as they take a view into this creative diaspora and contemplate the ideas and ideals that breathe life into Burmese contemporary art today.

Co-organised and exhibit catalogue copy written by Saw Sandi Tun