Can art change life?

Studio Xang Maesot interviewed recently 5 migrant students who attend our art classes in the town of Maesot.

Studio Xang wanted to know how art affected children’s life, from children's point of view. We spoke to children and their families and requested their permission to share their story and opinions publicly, together with photographs. 

In Burmese, children’s names start with either Maung, meaning little brother, or Ma, meaning little sister. Parents name will be prefixed with Daw (Mrs) or U (Mr.).

The following is a discussion with Maung Thet Phyo Win who started attending Studio Xang art classes in September  2006. Thet Phyo Win is now a volunteer teacher at Studio Xang Maesot.

Thet Phoy Win at home doing his home work
SX       : Could you tell me your name, age and which grade you are in at school?
Phyo    : My name is Thet Phyo Win, I am 16 years old and I am studying in grade 6.

SX       : When did you start to attend art class in Studio Xang?
Phyo    :  in September  2006.

SX       : So you’ve attended art class since Studio Xang Maesot was established, haven’t you?
Phyo    : Yes, I have.

SX       : How did you feel when you started to come to art class?
Phyo    : I was very excited because I would be drawing pictures. I thought about what I would draw in class. Would it be difficult or easy? After the first class, the days when I go to art classes became happy and free days for me. Because I did many different activities, went on the truck, played with friends, ate snacks and I also made new friends in art class.

SX       : What did you learn form art class?
Phyo    : Many things such as drawing, painting, doing sculpture with clay, making handicrafts, making activities in groups and creating things using recycled materials.

SX       : Could you tell me which activity you like most and why?
Phyo    : Hmm, I liked them all. But I want to tell you about one activity that I liked most. It is a 3 dimensional bouquet made with wire and coloured hosiery material.  You need a lot of patience to shape the soft wire into petal shapes and then stretch over the hosiery material. It’s about patience, concentration and hand control.  When all petals are finished, you tie them all together with tape to a get a beautiful bouquet. While I was doing this activity, I thought about our environment and myself. To get a beautiful bouquet, we have to do it together. Each of person around us are like petals.  In the same way we have to concentrate to control our hands while creating the bouquet, as people we can be united in mind, through patience and concentration. If we work all together, our combined efforts will achieve something as successfully as that bouquet. That’s why I remember that activity and I like it the most. When I was doing this activity, I was really into it.

SX       : Do you feel something different in yourself after coming to the art class compared to before you started?
Phyo    : Before I came to art class, I was often angry with my friends. Now I thinking and reflect on what happened with my friends when I feel angry. I think I am more compassionate and patient than before. I also think I can communicate with other people better. When then volunteer team has something to do, I try to go with them. I think what has changed is my knowledge and abilities. Now I can do many kind of creative activities, and I also understand what activity is useful for whom and where. I can design activities and plan how I will teach children. I feel I am more self-confident.

SX       : Do you learn about art in your free time?
Phyo    : Yes, I attend art class in summer holiday at school. I usually attend art classes if I have any free time. 

SX       : Why do you attend art classes?
Phyo    : Because I like painting and drawing. I also like to see other’s pictures and their techniques. There are many kind of painting. So I want to learn all of them.

SX       : What do you want to be in your future?
Phyo    : I want to be a man who can speak and write many languages. And I also want to travel and discover around the world.

SX       : How come?
Phyo    : If I can read, write and speak many languages, I can learn other people’s cultures, habits, knowledge and what they do. If I can travel around the world, I can see by myself. When I know both how we do things and how other people do things, I will take the good points from them and share this knowledge with our community, and teach people to develop themselves. I want be a person who improves our society.

SX       : What do you think about Studio Xang’s teachers?
Phyo    : All of Studio Xang’s teachers are patient, good at teaching and good in dealing with children. They also understand each other. I think everything is fine.

SX       : Is there any activity that you find too difficult?
Phyo    : No. Before doing an art activity, the teachers demonstrate how to do it. While doing the activity, if we have some difficulties, they help us. So as for me there is nothing I can’t manage.

SX       : Do you like working in groups and how do you communicate with them?
Phyo    : In group, we share the tasks. If someone does something, I do another thing. If someone needs help, I help him/her. If someone asks me to do something, I am not angry and I try to do my best because we wants our project to work out the best. I like group activities. While we working, if we have some problems, someone else in group knows the way or has an idea how to solve the problem. Group activities make us feel closer to each other. That’s why I like them.

SX       : Could you use what you learned during art class in your everyday life?
Phyo    : I think what I learn is useful for me. Because I’m used to team work activities, it is easier now for me to communicate with people around me. I have new knowledge and skills from doing handicrafts, painting and making sculptures. No one can steal the skills and knowledge we have learnt. It remains within us. If I have chances to learn more about arts in the future, it will be easy to learn. I can also share my skills and knowledge with others who are interested in arts. 

SX       : How about your education? Do you mange at school?
Phyo    : Yes, now I am studying in Grade 6. Last school year, I won the second prize in Grade 5. At present, I am doing very well.

SX       : How about your artworks?
Phyo    : Last June  2011, I won the second prize in painting at “Save the environment day’s” competition. I won the third prize for Martyr’s Day competition held at the Best Friend Library. 

SX       : What do is most important for you in about Studio Xang?
Phyo    : Everything is important for me. Two things motivate me to join the art class. I think they are the most important things for me: freedom and interest.

SX       : Why do you say this?
Phyo    : Whenever I make something in art class, my artwork does not need to be exactly what our teacher said. We don’t need to compare with each other.  So I can do them freely according to my own ideas. I think it is a chance that I can express  my own ideas. There is no one who watches my artwork and say it is wrong and not beautiful. I could assess what I make myself and see how to improve it next time. The whole time when I am attending art class, the activities have always been different. So before I go to art class, I am very excited wondering what I will learn today. That’s why I am afraid to miss my art class. It is good for me. It makes me to recognize every step of the process that I chose and makes me eager to learn. So I could teach and share with others.

SX       : Did you benefit from attending the art classes?
Phyo    : I learnt different opinions, how to be self confident and coordinate with people and improve my imagination and creative thinking because at Studio Xang I get new information and learn many skills. When I show my artworks to my parents, they are pleased and impressed. When I saw the smile on their face and how pleased they are, it makes me happy. 

SX       : What do in the future?
Phyo    : I want to continue my education until the end of high school. I will attend art classes, computer classes and language classes if I have the chance. I will still work as a volunteer and help children develop themselves in art classes when I have free time.
Thet Phyo Win's home in Maesot

Discussion with Thet Phyo Win’s Mum, Daw Aye
SX                   : Excuse me, could you tell me your names?
P’s mother       : My name is Daw Aye and I’m 53. My husband’s name is U Kyaw Win and he is 64.

SX                   : How many siblings does Thet Phyo Win have?
 P’s mother      : I have 9 children, 6 boys and 3 girls. 5 of my children are already married. Thet Phyo Win is the seventh child of the family. He has one younger sister and one younger brother.

SX                   : Oh! Do all children stay together with you?
P’s mother       : No, I, my husband, Thet Phyo Win and Thet Phyo Win’s younger sister and brother stay together. The married daughters and sons stay outside with their family. One elder son stays at his work.

SX                   : Thet Phyo Win’s younger sister and brother still study at school, don’t they?
P’s mother       : yes, they do because one of my sons works at mushroom farm and sends money to me to pay for their school.

SX                   : What did you do before?
P’s mother       : My husband worked as a captain. Now, he is old and he can’t do anything. I have been a house wife until now. I take care of my children and do the housework.

SX                   : A Captain, that’s a very skilled job. Did any of your sons follow in his father’s steps?
P’s mother       : No. No one did. They all had to stop their education at elementary school. I think Thet Phyo Win will be brilliant because he win first to third prizes every grade. He isn’t lazy to study. He is also good at painting and crafts. My two younger children got prizes before. But this year they didn’t get any prize because they are lazy to study. I always encourage them to study. 

SX                   : Do you know Thet Phyo Win is a volunteer at Studio Xang?
P’s mother       : Yes, he told me that Studio Xang invited him to do become a volunteer. I know he goes to the art class regularly and he likes art. I told him to decide himself because old enough. I also think it will help him improve his future after school. 

SX                   : Oh it is interesting that you said it will help him improve his future. Could you tell me why you think like this?
P’s mother       : Whenever he comes back from art class, he takes his artwork and shows me. He also tells me how he did it. So I am very glad for him. I also think he is very good at communicating because he can explain his artwork very well. I can draw only. I think I am not able to talk about my pictures or how I learned. He also tells me how he learned to make them and how he got the ideas to create them. I am satisfied with this art class and I feel he’s been improving. Before, he was lazy to help about house even though he is not lazy to study his school lessons. Now, I don’t need to tell him to help me. He notices what needs done and does it by himself.

SX                   : What do you want him to be in future?
P’s mother       : Every parent wants their children to be educated. Now, we are getting old and we can’t earn our living. We worry about how he will finish his education. We don’t need to worry about for school fees (migrant school are free) but we worry about our living (eating and rent). We depend on one of my son’s salaries. Thet Phyo Win is clever and he is eager to study. We will try to manage until he finishes school. It is not our desire what he wants to be. It is his desire. Our duty is to fulfill his wish as much as we can.

SX                   : Don’t worry about him. We will support him as much as we can. Someone is waiting to help the person who really tries hard.
P’s mother       : I thank to Studio Xang for giving him the chance to be a volunteer and take care him. Because of Studio Xang, he helps at home on his own accord, he evaluates what is wrong and what is right and he learn many things and skills.
SX                   : Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.
Thet Phyo Win's family

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