Ms. Chaw Ei, is a Burmese artist who came to New York at the beginning of this year. She struggles with her identity as a Burmese - what she can do, or must do, living away from home.
The Burmese artist, Chaw Ei Thein came to New York in February 2009 through the one-year fellowship support of Asian Cultural Council, a foundation supporting cultural exchange in the visual and performing arts between the United States and Asia. She currently lives in an apartment in Chelsea, New York, which was provided by the council.
As an artist, her career has expanded outside of Myanmar. On August 13th, 2007, the New York Times introduced an article about her, giving an important and necessary attention to the artist. However, the exposure she received as a rising artist from Myanmar has made it impossible for her to return to her home country. Though not an anti-governmentalist, she shows her sincere feelings towards the current Burmese policy through her art works. She does not mention any issues regarding the Myanmar government when giving an interview to journalists, but some of them include political issues in relation to her story. People have also put her pictures on their blogs or websites which can be regarded as against Myanmar policy. All of these things can be deliberately twisted so that she may be arrested by the Myanmar government once she goes back to her country.
Since the publication of the New York Times article, numerous articles, pictures, and videos about her has been on the internet. As a result, her successful carreer as an artist is preventing her from going back to her own country.
For a long time, Chaw Ei has not seen her parents. Although her parents miss her very much, they do not want to put her life at stake in Myanmar. Many of her Myanmar friends are in jail and their prison terms are terribly long. Chances are, she will not be able to see them ever again.
Sometimes she feels guilty of leaving her country, because many people continue to fight for democracy and human rights while still residing in Myanmar. However, her family and many others tell her not to come back. After finishing the one-year fellowship support of the Asian Cultural Council, she hopes to find a means to remain in the US.
Her nationality makes it very difficult for her to live abroad, but she is strongly determined to hold on to her Burmese nationality because that is what defines Chaw Ei.
She says there are times when she feels too distressed, wanting to just give up on everything and go back home to Myanmar. But at the same time, she believes that all these struggles will somehow lead her to figure out what she wants to be or what she wants to do in life.
When she feels too depressed, Aung San Suu Kyi gives her the energy to move on and reading Buddhism books makes her relax. She tries to cope with the pain, and enjoy them, so that when she expresses something through art, the work is something that only Chaw Ei Thein, the artist from Myanmar, can create.