In Myanmar, Protestors Took Beatings and Bullets — and Responded with Paint and Poetry

Protestors in Myanmar are bringing a righteous form of beauty to the streets, defying the military regime that overthrew the country's civilian government in early February. Having faced beatings and bullets, demonstrators are responding with spray paint and poetry — vibrant expressions of a civil-disobedience movement not easily cowed by the notoriously brutal junta.

A ubiquitous symbol of resistance among protestors is the three-finger salute, borrowed from like-minded activists in Thailand who in turn adopted the gesture from The Hunger Games. The salute features prominently in the protest art of online collectives such as Art for Freedom, whose mission is to "share art for common use" which promotes the "will of the Myanmar people against the military coup in Myanmar."

Protest art published by Art for Freedom

Another anti-coup icon, designed by the illustrator known as Kuecool, is an image depicting a young woman dressed in a sarong, wielding a wok in one hand and a spatula in the other. As in much of the protest movement's art, the image's red background represents the party color of the National League for Democracy, whose leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is the deposed state counsellor of Myanmar. Suu Kyi was jailed by the military during the coup.

The face of Myanmar's resistance, as imagined by Kuecool.

References to the "Milk Tea Alliance" also feature in countless protest images and social-media posts. The name points to milky drinks popular in Thailand, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, where like-minded activists have launched demonstrations in solidarity with those in Myanmar. (India and Indonesia, too, are sometimes included among the Alliance.)

It's time to rise up protest art published by Art for Freedom.

It's all the visual manifestation of a massive popular uprising intent on resisting dictatorship and restoring democracy. On February 22, a nationwide general strike drew millions into the streets. The crowds included civil servants and doctors, cashiers and oil-rig operators — suggesting that a broad swath of the population is fed up with the junta's injustices. The strike came in the wake of a bloody weekend during which two unarmed demonstrators were shot dead by police, one of whom was 16 years old.

Despite the deaths, the detention of hundreds, and the military's ever-tightening grip on civil society, the movement remains "unbowed, unbent, unbroken."

#SaveMyanmar protest art published by Art for Freedom.
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