A contest for cartoons satirising political and social issues was held at the National Theatre in Yangon on November 4, in conjunction with festivities marking the 75th anniversary of the Nagani Book Club.
The contest attracted 49 competitors, each of whom submitted two cartoons for consideration. The winners were chosen according to votes cast by those who attended the book club celebration.
The first prize of K100,000 went to Thiha (Sakhan Thit), while three second place prizes (K50,000) were handed out, to Thiha (Sakhan Thit), Maw Mee Kyiang and Maung Shwe Win. Thar Oo was awarded a K30,000 consolation prize.
Thiha (Sakhan Thit) told The Myanmar Times that his winning cartoon was aimed at “showing the decline of the justice pillar in Myanmar”.
“I drew a cartoon about the lawyers in our country. It’s the job of lawyers to turn big cases into smaller cases, and to make smaller cases disappear. One of the lawyers says in my sketch that if all the cases disappeared, they wouldn’t have anything to do,” he explained.
One of the event’s organisers, U Khin Hlaing (Zawtika), said satirical cartoons were a suitable way to illustrate public sentiments and feelings.
“Many people don’t have time to read a long article, but a cartoonist can clearly convey an idea with one sketch, which is why I chose to hold this contest as part of the book club celebration,” he said.
U Khin Hlaing (Zawtika) also used the occasion of the anniversary to announce the re-launch of the Nagani Book Club, which had been defunct since it closed in 1941. During its four-year existence, the club published 70 books, mostly on politics.
In a lecture delivered at the ceremony, Aw Pe Kye said cartoons have been published in Myanmar since U Ba Ka Lay started in 1915.
“Our country has just passed through a 50-year era of anarchy, so we are far behind in every sector, including cartoons. But we were not behind other countries at the beginning,” Aw Pe Kye told The Myanmar Times after the lecture.
He said the most important characteristic for cartoonists is the ability to see situations in-depth and as they really are.
“If cartoonists can’t see accurately, then whatever information they give to the public will be wrong. We are trying to reflect reality and to help responsible people to see the difference between right and wrong,” he said.
“A cartoonist will only become good when he can show the cancer inside, even though it looks fine from outside.”
Aw Pe Kye said one of the main challenges for cartoonists in Myanmar was getting accurate, transparent information from authorities.
“If they can get the true information in a transparent way from authorities, cartoonists in Myanmar will also dare to draw and take responsibility for their creations to directly reflect reality, like in other countries. But at the moment we still have no chance to do that,” he said.
“I understand that the government needs to keep some information secret for the safety of the country, but the public needs to know some information for our safety as well. But there is still no transparency, and we still can’t get correct information about our own country.”